Raves, Rants, and Reviews #2: 2005 Subaru Outback
2005 Subaru Outback 3.0R Wagon shown above
After a two-month hiatus, this reviewer got some seat time in another vehicle. The victim this time was Irvine Subaru’s loaner 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5i wagon with about 7,400 miles on the clock (odometer for those who are less automotively-inclined). It was too nice to beat on, or trash, it like I would’ve loved to have done with a Chevrolet Cavalier/Aveo/Cobalt, Dodge Neon, Nissan Sentra, or any Kia/Hyundai. For those who have seen Days of Thunder, just think back to the scene where Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) and Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker), after having just been released from the hospital for a big accident they were involved in at Daytona International Speedway a few weeks before, take two rental cars (Chevrolet Lumina and Ford Taurus) and drive them into the ground (picture vehicles banged up and steaming/smoking when they’re parked) on their way to the restaurant to meet up with their owners. If I had gotten any of those highly desirable rental cars, I think I may have tried to seek out a dirt road to have some fun in. Since I received a fairly nice loaner vehicle (upon my initial impression), I figured I might as well take care of it.
After taking delivery of the loaner, I left Irvine Subaru (www.irvinesubaru.com – 23663 Rockfield Boulevard, Lake Forest, CA 949-837-3500) to head to church. The vehicle’s powertrain consisted of a 2.5 liter normally-aspirated flat-4 “boxer” engine with 168 hp and 168 lb-ft of torque and a 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission with sportshift. From a dead standstill, the Outback felt a little torquier than my 2.0 liter turbocharged WRX, which was nice and made life a little easier. That feel didn’t last for long though, as the sheer weight of the vehicle and the transmission’s gearing soon nullified the effect. Passing power was lacking to say the least. While cruising on the freeway at 70 mph, I would have to stomp on the throttle forcing the vehicle to downshift and wait for what seemed like a while for the vehicle to accelerate to complete a pass. With my (lightly-modified) Impreza WRX, I can stay in 5th gear and accelerate from 70 mph without any major delay to execute normal freeway passes. I played with the manual-shifting sportshift mode for a little bit. The shifts up and down were so slow that I didn’t even want to bother with it the rest of the day. I put the shift lever back in the regular drive mode the rest of the time I had the vehicle.
Having been the first wagon I’ve ever driven, I was extremely impressed with the visibility it offered. Blind spots to my 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock were virtually non-existant because of the thin D-pillar design and the surrounding rear windows. The ride was compliant and comfortable without being boring. The Outback rode on P225/60R16 90H all-season Bridgestone Potenza RE92 tires mounted to 16″ x 6″ alloy wheels. For those who aren’t familiar with the Impreza or WRX such as the one I drive, the stock tires on the Rex are P205/55R16 89V (slightly lower profile and different speed and weight rating compared to the Outback’s shoes/tires). These tires won’t stick to the road like a cheap suit, but get the job done fairly well for all-season tires provided you aren’t trying to defy God’s laws of physics. My sole handling evaluator was the banked ramp going from the 57 North to the 60 West at a steady 70 mph or slightly more. I remember the days driving my family’s 1997 Oldsmobile Ciera SL and 1993 Oldsmobile Achieva S with their (cheap) front tires protesting my decision to take the turn at that rate of speed. The Impreza on stock tires can handle it like a surgeon with his or her scalpel. Going through the same turn, the Outback went through with a hint of tire squeal but was otherwise well-planted throughout the “exercise.”
Like many things in life, all good things must come to an end (except a life in Christ that is!). Exiting the 60 West Fairway Drive offramp allowed me to do some moderate braking. The light remained green while I barreled down the offramp. Being unfamiliar with the vehicle’s increased weight, I realized I hadn’t slowed down the vehicle as much as I should have to turn left in a comfortable manner. This realization came as I was pretty much at the end of the offramp, so I figured, “Oh well.” So I “blasted” through the dip at the end of the offramp probably going 25-30 mph and turned left in a hurried manner. With 8.4 inches of ground clearance front and back and plenty of suspension travel, that dip had another thing coming to it! Outback – 1, freeway offramp – 0. For stopping power, the 3,355-lb. (2.5i wagon with automatic transmission curb weight) relies on 11.5″ ventilated brake discs with twin-piston calipers in the front and 10.6″ solid brake discs with single-piston calipers in the rear. Compare this to what I’m used to with a 3,085-lb. vehicle with 11.4″ ventilated brake discs with twin-piston calipers in the front and 10.3″ sold brake discs with single-piston calipers in the rear (stock). My vehicle in its current state is actually on 11.4″ (294mm to be exact) ventilated brake discs with four-piston calipers in the front and 11.4″ (290mm) ventilated brake discs with twin-piston calipers in the rear.
The interior and its ergonomics were easily the biggest shortcoming on this vehicle. Usually when I’m in other vehicles, all I really care about are their driving characteristics and dynamics. There were some things going on in this interior that made it pretty much impossible not to observe and notice them. The cloth seats were comfortable and supportive–great to sit in the entire time. The steering wheel was a three-spoke design with a dark blue Subaru six-star emblem in the middle, but the wheel rim was plastic. It simply did not convey a feel of a true “driver’s” steering wheel. Subaru’s current slogan is “Think. Feel. Drive.” but the steering wheel itself already detracted from at least the “Feel” part of the slogan and also carried over into the “Drive” portion. After all, steering wheel feel is very important for how the vehicle communicates the road’s condition and the vehicle’s ongoing relationship with it. I was unable to locate a telescopic function on the steering wheel. Worse yet, I couldn’t find a way to adjust its tilt either. The former wasn’t too surprising because my Impreza doesn’t have it, nor do many other vehicles today (even though there is no good reason for omitting telescopic ability on modern vehicles). Not having a tilt function on the steering wheel was a huge surprise! I felt all around the steering column looking for a release lever or button to tilt the wheel to my liking. Since the steering wheel’s angle wasn’t too far from what’s comfortable and natural for me, I just dealt with it the way it is and considered in a minor issue. The radio and HVAC controls were simple and easy to use. Maybe not for all people, but since I was already familiar with some Subaru controls, it wasn’t really an issue at all. The on-board computer on the center dash was a neat feature I enjoyed playing with a few times. Its display could be toggled between elapsed time the vehicle has been running, current mpg, average mpg, approximate miles remaining until you need fuel, and outside temperature. Another low in the interior was the fake wood trim pieces that were used in a few pieces. On most vehicles, fake wood trim still looks almost like the real thing. This particular application of fake wood trim was not a good idea by Subaru. Regarding the climate control, the A/C worked extremely well when I had it on going from church back to the dealership. The air it blew was nice and cool almost right from the start. I found myself going from blower setting “4” to “3” to “2” the longer I drove. To be honest, I did not spend any time checking out the rear seats or the cargo area.
For a vehicle priced at $26,185 ($24,445 Base MSRP + $575 destination fee + $1,000 for automatic transmission + $165 for auto-dimming mirror with compass), it is difficult for me to strongly recommend the Subaru Outback 2.5i Wagon. Depending on your needs, it may be a great fit for you. If you would like more bang for your buck, I would recommend the Subaru Outback 2.5 XT with its 2.5 liter 250 hp turbocharged flat-4 and the Outback 3.0R with its 3.0 liter 250 hp flat-6. They both have the adequate power and friendly interiors to haul you, your friends, and your stuff around in an all-around excellent package that has performance, comfort, and style. The Subaru Outback, Legacy, and B9 Tribeca vehicles are all manufactured at Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.’s (SIA – http://www.subaru-sia.com/slide/main_menu.html) plant here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Bear in mind that Subaru also was the most reliable manufacturer for the 2004 model year in the April 2005 issue. The Subaru Outback is also one of their “Recommended Buy” vehicles in its segment.
-Subaru reliability, safety, and build quality
-Excellent amount of standard features
-Off-road prowess (personally unverified – but vouched for by many others)
-Offers the practicality of a wagon and ruggedness that exceeds most SUVs
-Base model needs more power
Standard on all Outback 2.5i
2.5L 4cylinder boxer engine, 168hp
Standard on all Outback 2.5i
Trip Computer (economy, outside temp, etc)
|Driver||Passenger||Front Seat||Rear Seat||2 wheel drive||4 wheel drive|
|2005 Subaru Outback 4-DR w/SAB (SUV)||Not Tested|
For more information, you can check out Joe Spitz of Carter Subaru’s personal web site at: http://www.cars101.com/subaru/outback/outback2005.html
If only writing so many other things in life were this fun… If you know anyone that works in the automotive publishing industry, I’d love to meet him or her and maybe get my foot in the door!
For you true “drivers” (one who simply enjoys driving) out there, which do you prefer? Please let me know!
1) Driving with the window down and/or sunroof open if applicable, wind blowing around/in your face, and hearing your vehicle’s melodious exhaust note
2) Driving with the A/C on, listening to your favorite music/radio station