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The Subaru Outback is essentially a station wagon version of the midsize Subaru Legacy sedan. The Outback suspension is raised slightly for better ground clearance. Their kinship is evident at the front end, despite different grilles and other distinguishing details.
The Outback has an alert, bold look, with long, hawk-eye headlamps mounted higher than the upright grille. Functional side cladding and rocker panels are a reminder this Subaru is intended to be at home on gravel roads. (And, indeed, it is.) At the rear, compound tail lamps blend into a broad rear hatch with a large rear window, integrating the design and helping to define the high beltline that keeps the Outback from being visually top-heavy.
A roof rack is standard. The rack's crossbars are stowed in the roof rails for reduced wind noise, and can be swung into position when needed. The rack, which is designed to fit Subaru's line of roof-rack accessories, adds about two inches of height to the Outback. The optional Power Moonroof subtracts about two inches of front headroom.
Outback 3.6R models are visually identified by 17-inch wheels and larger, 225/60R17 tires, although four-cylinder Outbacks can be upgraded with the same wheel/tire combination by selecting Limited or Premium trim.
Outback offers generous headroom, making it a good choice for tall drivers. Despite its obvious kinship with the Legacy, the Outback stands 4.6 inches taller, not counting the roof rack, and this translates into an extra half-inch of headroom in front and nearly 2 more inches in the rear. If that doesn't seem like as much of a difference as it should be, remember that much of the Outback's extra height is taken up by ground clearance. Otherwise the passenger-carrying dimensions of the two vehicles are absolutely identical, which is to say generous. Both surrender the same 2-plus inches of front seat headroom to the optional moonroof.
The Outback models we drove had Premium trim and the better, 10-way driver's seat. The standard seats might not be as adjustable, but they are well designed and the cabin feels roomy, even after a long day of driving. There is a standard cargo tray, under floor storage, and grocery bag hooks behind the rear seats.
The dash and cockpit are built around a sporty, four-dial instrument panel and a contemporary upswept center stack. The instrument panel includes a multi-information display that indicates outside temperature, fuel consumption, time, and warning functions for seatbelts and passenger air bags. The transmission gear readout is digital. The steering wheel, a three-spoke design, has four large buttons to control the audio system and cruise control. When equipped with an automatic transmission, paddle shifters are located behind the wheel. Taken as a whole, the interior is clean and contemporary, without being excessively ornate.
The parking brake is controlled electronically via a button to the left of the steering wheel, and has a Hill Hold feature.
The new Navigation option for Limited, which integrates with the harman/kardon stereo, includes an 8-in. wide-format display screen, voice command, rear vision camera, and Homelink transceiver. Outbacks with the moonroof also come with a rear-vision camera and Homelink.
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