- 8.7-inches of Ground Clearance = High Cd
- Automatic steals lots of power/FE
- Drive-Shaft Tunnel limits interior room
Introduction: You can?t picture the Subaru Outback without remembering the commercials with Crocodile Dundee proclaiming that he could go anywhere ?in my Subaru Outback, mate?. Subaru figured in the late 90?s that the term ?Wagon? carried an old-fashioned disposition that required a different designation. With SUVs selling like hotcakes, they needed something to compete: enter the Outback series.
The Legacy Wagon has had a cult-following over the years, especially with those in snowy climates. Using that success, Subaru banked that SUV buyers would go for the Outback model as it boasted more ground clearance than SUV Model ?X?, but we all know what happened. The vast majority of the market didn?t buy SUVs for off-road capability, so sales weren?t stellar. Yet, they remain to hang-on to what I think is a good alternative to truck-based varieties, when you need that AWD and extra clearance.
Here?s the deal: the Outback is just a taller version of the manufacturer?s regular model lineup. That?s it: added ground clearance. Here?s a rundown of the Outback lineup and their standard-height counterparts:
Outback Sport (Impreza Wagon ? available as a WRX)
Outback Sedan (Legacy)
Outback Wagon (Legacy Wagon)
Keep this in mind throughout the review. A whole model is based on a taller suspension setup.
On the Outside: Yep, the neighbors yelled, ?nice wagon!?. They?re actually good friends of ours, so I didn?t have the heart to mention that their Mitsubishi Outlander is basically a tall Lancer Wagon.
As you can see, it sports the classic wagon look, although with an edge of performance and a taller stance. Over the last model refresh, the look and feel has become more ?near-luxury? than standard fare. The Impreza is reserved for entry-level buyers (except WRX or STI-buyers looking for performance), with the Legacy lineup being the higher-end offering. The B9 Tribeca is their quirky, newer SUV model.
Large wheels and sporty accents are added. A turbo-4 and 6-cylinder model are each available to add to the experience. More on those later. The first thing I would get rid of is the roof rack (unless you used it daily).
I?m afraid the combination of extra height, large wheels, automatic, and AWD stole the 30 mpg mark away from the tester. I?m pretty certain that the standard Legacy wagon would average 30, with the Impreza variant even more lightweight and efficient.
It all comes down to your needs. The dizzying array of models and increasing price can confuse a buyer. Ask yourself the following questions (score 1 for ?Yes?, 0 for ?No?)
Do I routinely drive in adverse road conditions (gravel or muddy roads, snow, mild-to-moderate off-road activity)? Yes/No
Is extra ground clearance routinely needed? (with heavy snow, large ruts in the roadway, or climbing/descending hilly terrain with the above conditions). Yes/No
I get stuck with front-wheel drive all the time. Yes/No
I don?t want an SUV. Yes/No
If you scored at least a 3, congrats! You?ve found the car for you!
For everyone else, consider the standard Legacy Wagon. I have a huge respect for Subaru and their efforts in sponsoring Rally Racing in the U.S., Canada, and Worldwide, but for FE purposes, the driveline takes a percentage away from the bottom line. I would really like to see the H-4 engine and its thermal efficiency in a small, 2WD vehicle. But the company has really established itself on all-wheel drive, so that?s not likely.
But for other vehicles in its class, it remains the most efficient offering. Of course, you have to ask yourself if you need that much room, or go for something smaller like a Fit or Matrix.
On the Inside: Subaru has classed it up a bit over the years. The Legacy in basic trim is rather stylish, although it?s tough to get comfortable. The rear driveline tunnel gives the driver a triangular foot well and a convenient e-brake handle to rest the right knee on long trips . Otherwise, optional heated seats and on tubro modesls, an optional intelligent turbo-boost give the driver control over comfort and FE.
The optional ?SI? system on turbo models can switch the turbo into 2 lower-boost modes, but has been reported to reduce the user?s normal power, and is rarely used by the average driver. For the hypermiler, this is perfect: power when you need it and FE when you don?t. The manufacturer reports a 10% increase in FE with this feature. In the hands of a skilled hypermiler, a 5-speed manual-equipped, non-turbo model can provide do the trick, and with the built-in boost controller, the 2.5XT Turbo can be adjusted to the requirements of performance vs. FE.
Beware: the H-6 model is a bit of a conundrum. It offers only 2 more HP and nearly 40 lb-ft less torque than the turbo-4 model ? in addition it adds considerable weight and expense. Options are similar between 4 and 6-bangers: standard, mid-line optioned, and L.L. Bean Edition (fully loaded: leather, etc.). I?ve seen a few of the H-6?s around, but why??? 2 more cylinders with virtually no benefit? It pays to be an informed consumer. The Turbo-4 is more efficient (especially with the factory boost controller) and offers more speed/power. Simply, it?s a gimmick: ?Yeah, it?s got a V-6?. H-6 is too complicated for most buyers, so we?ll let it go. Probably, with the cult following of the Subaru Wagon, ?Gimme the fully loaded model? translates to prestige and a $30,000+ price-tag. Frankly, I?ll take the normally aspirated H-4, 5-speed wagon any day.
Most folks complain that the rear seat room is small for 3 adults. If you?re driving 5 adults around regularly, it probably isn?t daily and can be tolerated. The wagon can accommodate a large capacity of cargo, especially with the seats folded. IMHO, it?s a great alternative to an SUV. The interior is thoughtfully laid-out, with extras like a trip-computer, AUX input for the stereo, and multiple power driver?s set adjustment. Cargo capacity is quite notable.
Safety: With its side-curtain airbags, and thoughtfully-designed cabin-intrusion dynamics, the vehicle has earned ?5-Stars? in both frontal and side-impact ratings. AWD and ABS is standard on all Legacy models. This is a very strong-point for this lineup.
Efficiency: I?m not sure what to report here. At nearly 30 mpg, the Outback Wagon performed very well at an average speed of 63 mph. I can only estimate that the standard-height model would offer a better drag coefficient. Still, it?s only competition is the Volvo XC70, which is way more expensive, offers fewer features, and sucks down the fuel.
There was a strange glitch, though. The Tire Pressure Monitoring System began to indicate a ?significantly low? tire pressure after about 45-minutes of high-speed operation. After stopping to fill the tires 3 TIMES, the light would not go away. Consultation of the manual only confirmed that a sensor probably was shot. Over nearly 300 miles at night, it became irritating to see that orange light blink.
With that said, the tires probably ended up with 50-60 psi for about 250 miles. This may have skewed the FE into a higher bracket. It did improve the handling response.
The Drive: At around 175 hp, you would expect a decent amount of punch. The actual feel was rather linear from idle to redline. From a standing start, the automatic and AWD completely sapped the juice from the powerful engine and often tripped up in a bit of hesitation. Once up to 2500 rpm, the power was smooth and even. The auto-trans offered a slap-shift gate with some extra control. (There are a few Subaru-only quirks that I noticed). Pull the lever over to ?Manu-Matic? and the transmission engaged the ?Sport? mode as indicated on the dash (only if the cruise-control wasn?t on). This translated to a high-RPM gear hold and aggressive shift pattern. Blipping the shifter resulted in near full-control with an LCD readout of the gear number and arrows of up/downshift availability, which displayed in the gauge cluster. It was fun to play around with, but the power was quickly available at nearly any RPM in ?D? with throttle input. To hold a gear in corners, the feature worked well.
And corners are where this car shined brightly. I have to respect a vehicle for exceptional handling, especially a tall wagon. With the tires inflated properly, corners and off-ramps could be taken with verve. The result was minimal understeer, a near 50/50 handling response on throttle-lift, and AWD power-to-ground performance out of corners. It was a pleasant surprise to toss the car into a corner, lift the throttle and get a 4-wheel slide -- even with the added height. I can only imagine the sport version! The difference between SUV-like vehicles and the Legacy became obvious. On the straights, considerable suspension travel translated to a smooth ride. In the bends, the damping was properly proportioned to keep it fun. Bravo.
Reliability has improved over the years, but parts and repairs are expected to be more costly than average.
Model: 2007 Subaru Legacy Outback Wagon
Class Size: Mid-Size Wagon, AWD
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic with LUTC
Engine: 2.5L Horizontally-Opposed 4 cylinder (H-4) rated at 175 HP and 169 ft-lbs of torque
Drivetrain: AWD, with 50% Front/Rear torque distribution
Curb Weight: 3375 lb.
EPA (Old Estimate Calcs): 22/28/25
GasSavers Tested Mileage: 27.8 MPG (ScanGauge Verified)
Fuel Consumed: 9.3 gallons
Speed Avg: 63 MPH
Time of Operation: 4.1 hours
Distance Driven: 259 Miles
Ambient Outside Temp: 65-85F (New) RPM at 60 MPH: ~2500
FE Conclusion: Unless you need the ground clearance, the regular Legacy Wagon is a good choice. If you don?t need AWD, don?t bother with either (other, smaller, more efficient wagons are available)
For the Hypermiler: During EOC, the headlights switch off (a bypass could be wired-up). I have a big concern with coasting along with the AWD/Auto Transmission system with a lack of ATF pressure. Gear whine and driveline noise honestly made me nervous on power-down. The 5-speed non-turbo, standard Legacy Wagon model would be the best FE-choice, and may offer a better bump-start situation. You just have to decide if you need AWD or not. If not, go for a smaller, non-AWD wagon.
My parents have an 01 Legacy automatic 2.5 L 4cyl. They average 21-22 with it, but can get 29 on the highway. The gear ratios are terrible for FEon the highway...I remember looking down at the tach and seeing something rediculous, over 2500 at 55.