October 14, 2012

Review: 2013 Subaru Outback

I did a double-take on the school parking lot the other day. It was one of those "My, you've grown!" moments. Except I wasn't staring at a child. I had to look at the label on the back of the car to confirm that yes, it was indeed a Subaru Outback.

"Another two weeks, you'll be as big as your mom!" This usually elicits a smile from the mom, and a bewildered look on the child. In the case of the Outback, I'd say, "Another two years, you'll be as big as a GMC Yukon!"

This car played a trick on the CAFE requirements on cars' fuel efficiency: it grew taller in the body, acquired a higher ground clearance, and a few other features associated with trucks, and now falls in the category of light trucks. Thereby cleverly circumventing the stricter emissions requirements imposed on regular passenger cars.

Even so, the Outback on the school parking lot had the chutzpah to sport a "PZEV" label. It stands for "Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle", an emission bracket invented by some California clean air board who are more earnest about CO2 emissions reductions than about math, and you can get the certification for $300 when you order the car. I think one shouldn't spread around mathematical nonsense. Not even on the back of a car.

In the old days, the Outback (and before that the Subaru Wagon) was known as a "station wagon". It was beloved of countless families. It wasn't pretentious. It was long and low, and had very decent fuel economy for its time. It was a real family mover; it was capable of moving immense amounts of stuff, kids, dogs, cellos, furniture and such, and had the reputation of being indestructible.

But it has left all that behind. It has acquired high heels, sorry high wheels, and now calls itself a crossover. It sports the aggressive smirk worn by a lot of other cars in the current crop. Puts a whole new spin on that book title, "Farewell my Subaru".

The higher clearance actually comes in handy now that the nation's road infrastructure is crumbling, potholes and debris are thick on the ground, and road surfaces resemble the surface of the Australian wilderness after which the Outback was named.

In the US, it comes with a choice of a 2.5L, 4-cylinder boxer engine (173 HP) that does 21 / 28 mpg with manual transmission and better, 24 / 30 mpg, with the clever CVT automatic transmission. Or the 256 HP, 3.6L, 6-cylinder boxer hunk getting 18 / 25 mpg. That was about how well the Subaru Wagon did, back in 1985 when CelloMom was young.

You can get it with the usual features: overstuffed (heavy) power-adjustable seats, and the non-optional air condition unit, plus the full spectrum of distractive technologies built into the price, whether or not you choose them.

In the Japanese home market, Subaru offers the Legacy Outback exactly the same way (except, of course, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car), with the same engines.

In Europe the choice is different: Responding to pressure from EU fuel efficiency requirements, Subaru UK does not offer the Outback with the 3.6L engine. Rather it has added a 2.0L diesel engine to the lineup, which does 33 / 45 (cty /hwy) with a combined fuel economy of 47.8 mpg. Just kidding: that's per imperial gallon, and comes to 40 mpg_US.

The diesel still packs a torque of 258 lbs-ft, more than 247 lbs-ft delivered by the 3.6L gasoline engine available in the US and in Japan. Still can reach 120 mph. The 2.0D with manual transmission costs the same as the 2.5i with automatic transmission, but has about 40% better fuel economy.

In 2013, a car like this really should not do worse than 30mpg.


Outback (UK) Outback (UK)
Type 2.5i S Gasoline 2.0D S Diesel
Year 2013 2013
Emissions rating  
MSRP £ 28,875
$ 46,418
£ 28,870
$ 46,410
CelloMom Rating    
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 24 / 30 mpg_US 33 / 45 mpg_US
Avg. quoted   40 mpg_US
Avg. actual 28 mpg  

2.5L 4-cyl

2.0L 4-cyl
Power 164 HP 148 HP
Torque 169 lb-ft
@ 1800-2400 rpm
258 lb-ft
@ 4000 rpm

LinearTronic Auto

6-spd manual
Fuel Unleaded gasoline Diesel
Length, mm(in) 189 in  
Width, mm(in) 71.7 in  
Height, mm(in) 65.8 in  
Weight, kg(lbs) 1573 kg 1534 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft)    
Turning radius, m(ft) 11m 11m
Top speed, kph(mph) 120 mph 120 mph


1 comment:

  1. When I purchased my 2006 Outback, it was perfect size for my 1 and 3 year old boys. Now I have the 2013, which is really only a few inches larger than the old one and I think it actually weighs a bit less, although I admit it does look bigger. Since the kids are bigger (and still growing) I'm happy to have the added room that the new model offers. I do wish we could have gotten a diesel engine here in the States though.


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