2015 Subaru Outback

What's new for 2015? Redesigned for 2015, the Subaru Outback packs more interior space, higher fuel efficiency, a nicer interior and more intuitive controls than before.

The lines have become increasingly blurred between station wagons and crossover SUVs. Give the former a bump in ground clearance and all-wheel drive, and it essentially becomes the latter. Whatever you want to call it, the redesigned 2015 Subaru Outback represents the latest version of the company's popular family truckster. It retains its core competencies of abundant cargo space, standard all-wheel drive, impressive ground clearance and an affordable price tag. But Subaru has stepped up the Outback's game with even more space, better fuel economy, nicer cabin materials and some tech upgrades.

Despite adding less than an inch in both overall length and width, the newest Outback somehow picks up nearly 3 cubic feet in added interior space. There's a bit more room for rear-seat passengers along with a 2-cubic-foot increase in cargo capacity. Not quite a compact, not quite a midsize, the 2015 Outback is about the same size as a Volvo XC70, but about 10 inches longer than a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4.

All Subaru Outback models now come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while engine choices still consist of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter six-cylinder. Thanks to the revised CVT, active grille shutters (which reduce wind drag) and the adoption of electric-assist power steering, the Outback's fuel economy gets a boost. Whichever engine you choose, there's a 2-mpg increase in the EPA's combined fuel economy estimate from last year.

Exterior Highlights
Five-passenger crossover wagon available in 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited trim levels. The numbers refer to engine displacement

The 2015 Subaru Outback is a five-passenger crossover wagon offered in four trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited. The numbers refer to engine displacement.

The base 2.5i comes with 17-inch steel wheels, roof rack rails with fold-out crossbars, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.2-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera and a four-speaker sound system with smartphone integration, HD radio, a CD player and an iPod/USB audio interface.

The 2.5i Premium model has all of the base car's equipment, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded gauge cluster, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, a cargo cover and an upgraded six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and a 7-inch touchscreen interface.

Stepping up to the 2.5i Limited adds 18-inch alloy wheels, active foglights (these turn with the front wheels), a front skid plate, a power liftgate, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, leather upholstery, driver memory settings, a four-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, wood trim and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

The 3.6R Limited comes with a six-cylinder engine and all of the features of the 2.5i Limited, as well as xenon headlights.

Some of the upper trims' features are available on the lower trims as options. Other available features, depending on trim level, include a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a navigation system, keyless entry and ignition and Subaru's EyeSight driver assist system (includes the blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert systems, adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system and a collision-warning and -mitigation system with brake intervention).

Straightforward interior design, optional touchscreen navigation system, excellent outward visibility, supportive front seats, comfrotable ride

For 2015 the Outback received a number of notable interior refinements. The base model now features a 6.2-inch touchscreen interface for audio and entertainment functions, while a 7-inch touchscreen comes standard on Premium and Limited trims. If the car is equipped with navigation, that screen allows one to use the now-intuitive pinch-and-expand finger movements to zoom in or out. The cabin vibe also goes uptown as the dash and upper door panels are covered in soft-touch materials, while the various faux metallic and wood-tone accents look surprisingly convincing. The large center stack features easy-to-use controls. The climate control system is a mix of intuitive buttons and knobs, and there's a handy cell phone slot on the center console.

The front seats are generously padded and provide excellent all-day comfort. And you needn't spring for leather, as we are quite enamored of the soft, grippy cloth seats in the 2.5i Premium, not to mention the ultra-plush armrests. There's plenty of room for the driver and the front passenger to spread out.

Although the Outback is more of a station wagon than it is a tall and airy SUV, slim roof pillars give it superb outward visibility. Cargo capacity is also a strong point, as there are 35.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, which grows to 73.3 with the seatbacks dropped. This year also brings the added convenience of rear-seat fold-down levers in the cargo area.

Every 2015 Subaru Outback comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and new seat cushion airbags (to hold occupants in place in a frontal collision, instead of the traditional knee airbags). Also standard across the board is a rearview camera, while higher trims also include blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems.

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