by Tony West and Sommer Thornton
Subaru has one of the most advanced all-wheel drive systems in a crossover SUV. For the 2013/2014 Outback, designers reimagined the exterior raising it higher and making the cabin roomier. Now the Subaru Outback has a small SUV look with stylish character and anything goes all-wheel drive. As the Arctic freeze continuously pounded foot after foot of snow in the Midwest, the Subaru proved to have one of the most beastly traction systems out.
Progressive Design for the Former Wagon
The design of the 2014 Outback is a welcome improvement from previous models that looked more like a stationwagon. The stationwagon design is almost obsolete, thus Subaru takes full advantage raising the Outback to an 8.7 inch ground clearance and giving it more sophisticated all-wheel drive. The 2014 Outback is available in two performance levels; the 2.5 and the 3.6R, and three trim lines; the base model “i”, the Premium, and the Limited. With a ton of add-ons, optional packages, and tech features the new Outback is officially cool.
Fully loaded, the 2014 Outback 3.6R Limited was a perfect warrior in the Arctic Chicago blizzard. The roomier Outback sits on 17 inch wheels with foldable roof rails, keyless entry, and push button start. The leather-trimmed cabin features a 10-way power driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats, dual zone climate control, moonroof, rear camera, and a 7 inch LCD display with 9 speaker Harmon Kardon sound system.
Big-Body Power and Handling
The 3.6R Outback Limited we tested features a 3.6 liter DOHC H6 engine with 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. A Variable Torque Distribution all-wheel drive system enhances agility by sending more torque to the rear wheels. The 6 cylinder is mated to a 5 speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Even in two feet of snow and ice the Outback never slid because of its fantastic symmetrical all-wheel drive system. The 2014 Outback offers three types of symmetrical all-wheel drive. The 3.6R continuously adjusts torque distribution to respond to terrain changes. Torque distribution is managed by a planetary center differential and electronically controlled continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch. So there was no slipping or sliding for the Outback in rain, black ice, even blizzard weather. The combination of kickass all-wheel drive, independent suspension, and the on-point brakes made me fearless. The stealthy Outback has an EPA of 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined. Manually shifting was seamless but a little heavy.
Safety and Infotainment Technology a Major Plus
Technology in the 2014 Subaru Outback is great The Eyesight Driver Assistance system uses stereo camera technology with Pre Collision Braking, the Lane Departure warning systems, and even the Adaptive Cruise Control. The Eyesight System creates a wide POV to detect vehicles and pedestrians in its path. At 19 mph or less, the Eyesight system can apply the brakes to help stop a collision. Eyesight also prevents collisions by maintaining a safe following distance with Adaptive Cruise Control at speeds up to 87 mph. Eyesight also can cut the throttle if the driver continues to accelerate in an impending forward collision. The Lane Departure and Sway Warning help prevent the Outback from swaying in and out of lanes. Vehicle Dynamics Control enhances traction control and stability. And the Outback features 4-wheel independent suspension. The ABS System integrates Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist.
Driving the 2014 Outback 3.6R wasn’t just thrilling and ego boosting. It was relaxing and comfortable thanks to a tech savvy interior. Along with navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio, the fully loaded Outback 3.6R features NavTraffic, Bluetooth, USB ports, voice command, and smartphone integration. Steering wheel controls for the radio and phone were useful, but there should’ve been a “mode” button on the dash for changing audio. Storage was also good in the Outback, but the child restraint hatch was difficult to maneuver. And the A/C fan was obnoxious and loud at any setting over low. Yet the roominess of the 2014 Outback compensates with a max capacity of 71.3 cubic feet and 65:35 fold down rear seats. The best part, the symmetrical all-wheel drive and Eyesight system helped the Outback nab a 5-start safety rating from NHTSA.
The 2014 Outback is a great buy for $23,495 that’s now safe and stylish in any weather and all terrains. It will compete well in the crossover segment.