It’s one of those vehicles automotive journalists love to prattle on and on about, mumbling about its efficiency and all-wheel drive system, drooling over its no-nonsense package and outdoorsy vibe.
Yes. We all like the Outback. But we’d never buy one because it is unfortunately and tragically a flawed vehicle, for all its goodness: too small inside, too heavy for its four-cylinder powertrain, too expensive in its class. Even now, with a nicely scrubbed-up redesign, the Outback still falls short no matter how you slice it: too big to compete with small crossovers that cater to the army of efficiency-minded shoppers out there, and too small to attract those who need more room. Sadly for Subaru, those who desire plenty of ground clearance and all-wheel drive are now getting bombarded with more cars than ever before. Aye, it seems that everyone has an all-wheel drive system, and even though few if any are as good as Subaru’s…well does it really matter for anyone outside of the Northern Lands?
At almost 30 grand, our Outback tester was expensive for a four-cylinder, no matter how refined. I found that while the engine lost significant fuel-efficiency under acceleration, it was surprisingly capable under duress. The transmission smoothly transitioned gears, and the PZEV engine offered more than capable power. The interior offered an extra-large sunroof that’s worth a hefty upgrade, plenty of soft touch spots and nicely-wrapped areas. That’s good, because you touch a lot of stuff inside the cramped interior. The cockpit is too narrow and the backseat too small, all in all. That’s too bad, very sad, and it makes me want to shed a tear for a vehicle that’s better than most of the competition, yet lacking in so many small but significant ways.