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.