It’s Subaru’s rocket wagon!

Give the Outback 3.6R’s throttle a smash, and it sails away from where it was with an instant helping of torque, strong pull through the rev-range, and a pleasing and tastefully-restrained growl.

The 256 hp from the big flat six seems a bit modest on paper, though the performance is pleasing. Add in the hair-trigger throttle and surprisingly responsive manual shifts via the steering-wheel mounted paddles, and you’ve got an effective invitation to some entertaining motoring.

Another effect of the big boxer’s low-end grunt is a sense of effortlessness during gentle operation. Just off idle, power is available in abundance, and the Outback 3.6R happily oozes through traffic with the lightest touch on the throttle, barely breaking 1,800 rpm. Expert tuning of the CVT transmission leaves it feeling so much like a conventional automatic that your writer thought it was, for the first few days of his test drive. Power is kept coming in a steady wave when requested, and cruising revs are very low. This is about as good as CVT transmissions get.

No manual is available with the big engine here, though various four-cylinder Outback models can be had with a stick, making it one of the only AWD/manual vehicles left in the utility world today, not to mention one of the only wagons left from a non-luxury brand, period. Most of these sell their wagons in a fairly fully-loaded guise to make it worth their while to take one off the shelf.

Taking a Legacy 3.6R Limited with Tech package off the shelf at your Subaru dealer will see owners parting with the better part of $40,200, though comfortable and spacious seating for four adults (five in a pinch), a handy, wide, square and easily accessed cargo hold, and some 2,075 L of cargo space are some of the rewards.

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