2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R
2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R
2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2010 Subaru Outback

Ottawa, Ontario – “That’s not a knife; this is a knife!”

Just as Paul Hogan’s Mick “Crocodile” Dundee movie character was eager to show a New York City thug that a Bowie knife is a much more capable weapon than a weenie switchblade, Subaru appears ready to show the auto industry that it intends for its Outback – one of the oldest names in the crossover sector, first introduced in 1996 – to remain competitive in the face of newer, larger competition.

While the Outback, and the Legacy that it was based on, grew only nominally through its first three generations, this 2010 model is significantly larger. Wheelbase and length increase by 70 mm (2.7 in.) and 50 mm (about 2 in.) wider. The new model is actually 20 mm shorter overall, which is surprising, given that it looks much more substantial than the outgoing 2009 version. Attribute this to the 2010 model’s extra height: it stands a significant 105 mm (four inches) taller.

In my view, bigger isn’t always better, but in the new Outback’s case, it translates directly into a badly-needed boost in interior space. Where the old Outback’s rear seat was tight even compared to a compact crossover, the new digs are far more accommodating, with generous head- and legroom. I wasn’t impressed with the cushions, though; they’re comfortable enough, but the backrest in particular felt quite flat, and would probably result in a sore lower back after an hour’s ride. The seatback does recline, though.

2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R
2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R
2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R
2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R. Click image to enlarge

Front seat space and comfort are very good. All Outbacks get a 10-way power driver’s seat, including lumbar; a four-way power passenger seat was included in my 3.6R tester (it’s standard in 2.5i Limited models and up).

The new dash is functional, but not as slick-looking as that in the Tribeca, or even the Impreza. The placement of the Bluetooth interface, prominent in the centre stack, is strange, given that these controls typically live in the steering wheel in most cars; also, why doesn’t the backlighting for these controls dim with the rest of the dash lights? Also curious is the placement of the microphone, on top of the steering column, complete with a wire that runs back into the dash. Altogether, the system seems like an afterthought; the $20,000 Kia I drove a couple of weeks prior had a much better-integrated Bluetooth interface.

The radio controls are fine, but the new volume and tuning knobs are too small; thankfully, all Outback models get steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The climate controls are simple enough to use, but I expected an automatic function in my $35,695 tester; as it is, only the Limited models (2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited) get this. Outback pricing starts at $28,995 for the base PZEV model, and ranges to $40,795 for the 3.6R Limited with the Multimedia Package. For comparison’s sake, the five-seater Tribeca starts at $39,995.

Basic Outbacks use the 2.5-litre, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder found in the Legacy, Impreza and Forester. It’s a fine engine, but my tester wore uplevel 3.6R trim, the basis of which is the 3.6-litre, flat-six shared with Subaru’s larger, more expensive Tribeca.

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