New 3.0 litre six cylinder ‘boxer’ engine adds power, refinement
For 2001, the Subaru Outback Wagon (but not the Outback sedan) is available with a new, optional 212 horsepower 3.0 litre six cylinder engine. This is not the same engine used in the old SVX sports car – it’s an all-new, smaller, lighter six cylinder powerplant. The new engine has 30% more horsepower and torque than the current 2.5 litre four cylinder engine which is still the standard engine in the Outback and Legacy.
Like all Subaru engines, the new ‘H6’ engine has horizontally-opposed ‘boxer’ cylinders rather than the more traditional ‘V’ arrangement or ‘inline’ layout. Subaru claims its ‘boxer’ engines offers numerous advantages, including a lower centre of gravity, more even weight distribution, and less noise and vibrations.
While Subaru enthusiasts may appreciate these technical advantages, I’m not sure if the typical Outback buyer cares too much about the cylinder layout – my guess is that they’re more concerned with the number of cylinders. Two more cylinders means more power, refinement – and prestige.
The new 3.0 litre H6 engine offers 212 horsepower at 6000 rpm, up from 165 horsepower @ 5600 rpm in the 2.5 litre four cylinder powerplant. Torque is now 210 ft-lb. at 4400 rpm compared to 166 ft-lb. at 4000 rpm in the four cylinder engine.
The H6 engine features twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, and a new variable controlled intake manifold and variable controlled exhaust system to improve torque. Premium fuel is recommended, but the H6 will run on Regular fuel with a loss of about four or five horsepower.
Sophisticated AWD, anti-skid, & traction control
As before, Outbacks have a full-time four-wheel-drive system. This system sends about 70% of the torque to the front wheels and 30% to the back wheels, but under acceleration, it reverts to a 50/50 split for greater stability and traction. The Outback H6 3.0 also includes a standard viscous limited slip rear differential which directs power to the rear wheels with the most traction.
Outback H6 3.0 VDC models have a more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system which includes a new automatic transmission with a Variable Torque Distribution transfer clutch (VTD) that splits power 45/55 front to rear in most conditions, but can vary torque split depending on which wheels have the most traction.
In addition, H6 3.0 VDC models include a new Vehicle Dynamic Control system (VDC). VDC is an anti-skid system that automatically corrects understeer (front-end ploughing) and oversteer (rear-end swing) in slippery driving conditions. The sophisticated VDC system uses sensors which measure yaw, lateral G’s, wheel speed, steering angle, torque, and gear selection. When oversteering, the VDC system automatically brakes the outside rear wheel to prevent the car from spinning out. When understeering, the VDC system brakes the inside rear wheel to bring the car back in the right direction.
As well, all-speed traction control limits wheelspin by momentarily applying the brakes and retarding the throttle. In the Outback, traction control is used as a last resort if the other systems fail to increase traction.
Other new features
In addition to the new engine, automatic transmission, VTD, and VDC systems, the 2001 Outback H6 3.0 includes new alloy wheels and larger four-wheel disc brakes, new dual stage driver and passenger airbags, a new optional McIntosh AM/FM/cassette/single CD audio system with seven speakers, a new automatic climate control system with outside temperature display, a leather-wrapped Momo steering wheel with mahogany wood inserts, rear centre armrest, net pockets on the front seatbacks, and rear window wiper/washer with intermittent setting.
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I drove an Outback H6 3.0 VDC model for about a week in typical urban and suburban driving. The first thing I noticed was how much quieter and more refined it is than the standard four cylinder Outback. Decibel levels under acceleration are way down, and at highway speeds, the Outback H6 glides along smoothly and quietly. Engine revs at 100 km/h in fourth gear are just 2250 rpm. There is a low-pitched growl under hard acceleration, but it’s not intrusive. I would say that the H6 is now on par with the VW Passat 4Motion in terms of refinement, a worthy compliment in this class.
Still, as the Outback H6 weighs a rather hefty 1694 kg (3735 lb.), its 0 to 100 km/h times are not outstanding. I recorded a best time of 9.5 seconds, which seems slow considering it has over 200 horsepower. However, off the line, and from 20 to 50 km/h, the Outback H6 has considerably more pep – and that’s where most of us use it most of the time. The engine develops about 75% of its maximum torque at 2200 rpm, so it feels responsive at lower speeds.
The new 4-speed automatic transmission is extremely smooth, matching the overall refinement of this car’s drivetrain. The standard all-wheel-drive system is basically transparent to the driver on dry roads, and works automatically to add traction and stability on snow, ice and wet roads.
The new VDC system, which is designed to save the car from going out of control if a driver enters a corner too fast, or brakes too late into a corner, works well. I tried it out on a test-track, and it brought the car under control in situations where it normally would have gone out of control.
This will undoubtedly improve safety on snow, ice, slush, and wet roads.
The downside to the VDC system is that it is expensive. It’s only available on the H6 3.0 VDC model, and comes combined with the VTD, traction control and premium stereo which adds $4000 to the price of the standard Outback H6 3.0.
Though the Outback is advertised as a ‘sport-utility wagon’, it performs more like a car than a truck. The handling and ride are more balanced and more comfortable than any SUV – a relatively low centre of gravity and four wheel independent suspension help here. Despite having 7.3 inches of ground clearance, it doesn’t feel ‘tipsy’ in the corners, and step-in height is low. It performs surprisingly well off-pavement, but it can’t handle really tough situations like bogs, boulders or logs. And without a Low Range gear, it won’t handle really steep inclines and declines. But for most gravel and dirt roads, it’s quite capable, and a lot more comfortable than a pickup or SUV.
Prices and features
The base price of the Outback H6 3.0 wagon is $39,995. Standard equipment is extensive, including leather upholstery, mahogony wood trim, dual moonroofs with sunshades, automatic climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat, dual temperature heated front seats, leather-wrapped Momo steering wheel, and 225/60R-16 inch tires and alloy wheels.
Standard safety features include dual stage front airbags, front side airbags, five three-point seatbelts (pretensioners on front seatbelts), and rear child locks and child seat tether anchors.
The Outback H6 3.0 VDC model ($43,995) adds the VDC system, VTD, traction control, and premium McIntosh stereo.
When you consider that a fully-loaded Outback Limited Wagon with the 2.5 litre four cylinder engine is $36,995, the price of adding the six cylinder engine is about $3000. With VDC it’s $7000 more! $44,000 seems like a lot of money to pay for a Subaru – but I have to admit, Subaru is now a long way from the Brat, Justy, and GL sedans. They’re gradually creeping upscale, heading into territory currently occupied by upscale Volkswagens, Audi’s, and Volvo’s.
All Outback’s and Legacy’s sold in Canada are built in a joint Subaru-Isuzu plant in Lafayette, Indiana.
|2001 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 VDC|
|Price as tested||$43,995|
|Type||4-door, 5 passenger mid-sized wagon|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive|
|Engine||3.0 litre HO 6 cylinder, SOHC|
|Horsepower||212@ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||210 ft-lb. @ 4400 rpm|
|Curb weight||1694 kg (3735 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2650 mm (104.3 in.)|
|Length||4760 mm (187.4 in.)|
|Width||1745 mm (68.7 in.)|
|Ground clearance||185 mm (7.3 in.)|
|Cargo space||795 litres (28.1 cu. ft.) seats up|
|1942 litres (68.6 cu. ft.) seats down|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|