All New Subaru Outback

Subaru Tests Next Outback Against Audi Allroad

WHAT: The first fully redesigned Outback since model-year 2009. Subaru will continue to march to its own beat, fashioning the next-gen Outback in the guise of a tall station wagon while giving it all the room and more of the capability than in most rival midsize crossovers. Still, as seen here, the new Outback will have a sleeker, less bulky shape, with a more steeply raked windshield, streamlined projector headlamps, downsized taillamps, and side mirrors relocated to the doors from the roof pillars. Subaru’s sophisticated all-wheel drive hardware will again be standard. And expect this five-seater to remain an off-road overachiever with nearly 9 inches of ground clearance. Horizontally opposed engines will return under the new hood’s strong character lines. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder of around 180 horsepower will almost certainly remain the base powerplant. However, the current flat six (256 horsepower, 247 pound-feet of torque) could well be accompanied – or replaced – by the more efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged four (250 horsepower, 258 pound-feet) from Subaru’s recently redesigned Forster compact crossover.

WHEN: Look for the next Outback in showrooms in third-quarter 2014 as a 2015 model.

WHY: This is Subaru’s most popular vehicle and its sales increased an impressive 10 percent during 2013, despite being among the older crossovers in the midsize-SUV class. That speaks to Outback’s terrific engineering and packaging, but also to the loyalty of Subaru buyers. The Japanese automaker needs to protect that allegiance by guarding Outback’s sensible-shoes design while projecting a forward-thinking image. That means measured advances in styling, technology, and fuel economy. The mix is likely to include a tiptoe into more luxury, as well. Subaru buyers typically can afford more expensive vehicles, and it’s telling that this camouflaged Outback was caught testing against an Audi allroad, which has a base-price range of around $40,500-$50,000.

HOW MUCH: Outback isn’t apt to creep into the premium-crossover class, so starting prices should remain under $25,000 for the base trim. But with additional upscale features expected, the top-line 2015 Outback could well top the $33,000 – before options — Subaru charges for the flagship six-cylinder 2014 Outback.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]