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Published: 10/17/2001 - by Erin Riches, Deputy Editor
Do you fit the profile of an SUV buyer? That is, do you seek the security of four driven wheels and the convenience of a rear cargo bay? Do you like to sit high when you drive? Do you have a weakness for truck-like styling? For the greener among us, answering yes seems a rather guilty pleasure. And it is to us that Subaru targets its Outback wagons.
The Impreza Outback Sport is the smallest and most affordable member of the Outback line it's priced to compete with compact wagons and mini SUVs. But let's be honest: The completely redesigned 2002 Outback Sport is also a rally car of sorts. If you can't afford the mid-20s sticker price or the insurance rates of the WRX, a lesser Impreza replete with the Legacy's 2.5-liter boxer four is not a bad idea. You get the same suspension underpinnings, the same scathing aesthetics, and in the case of the Outback Sport, a bonus two-tone paint job for the SUV admirer in all of us.
Although all Imprezas are equipped to leave the pavement by virtue of their all-wheel drive, the Outback is equipped to tackle slightly rougher terrain. Indeed, it has the same fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts front and rear, but the spring rates and suspension travel have been increased to accommodate more serious off-road excursions. The Outback stands a bit taller, as well 6.3 inches of ground clearance compared with the 2.5 TS Sport Wagon's 5.9.
The base price of the 2002 Outback Sport is $530 more than the 2001 model, but you get quite a bit more for your money, not the least of which is a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that produces 165 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 166 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. While these numbers can't match the juicy measurements of the WRX, consider that the previous Impreza Outback had just 142 horsepower and 149 lb-ft on tap.
Further, body rigidity has been increased significantly, resulting in improved crashworthiness, handling and ride quality. Additions to the standard features list include a seat-height adjuster for the driver, colossal foglights and 16-inch wheels mounted with V-rated 205/55R16 Bridgestone Potenza RE92 tires. This may sound like a rather aggressive tire for an all-purpose wagon, but the RE92 model is designed to provide agile handling as well as year-round traction, even in light snow.
Our Aspen White/Graystone Metallic test vehicle arrived at our offices in September, which, unfortunately, is merely another parched month of Mediterranean summer in Southern California. As such, we cannot comment substantively on the Outback Sport's handling abilities in rain or snow, but will instead entreat you to read our previous Subaru road tests with their glowing accounts of snow-worthiness. Lacking precipitation, we put the Impreza through everything else urban commutes, two-lane switchbacks, mountain roads and light off-roading.
The test car came equipped with the four-speed automatic transmission, which made the 2.5-liter boxer engine feel more sluggish than we had anticipated. This sentiment was borne out in track testing, as the Outback Sport needed 10.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, leisurely completing the quarter-mile in 17.7 seconds at 76.8 mph. This quarter-mile time was achieved in the first run, and our test driver, Neil Chirico, was unable to duplicate those numbers in five successive runs. He speculated that the engine had gotten heat-soaked and possibly just didn't work as well when it was hot.
Numbers aside, we found the engine to have adequate low-end torque for easy city driving. Further, this transmission comes with a power mode that automatically engages with rapid use of the accelerator pedal. And our author had a wonderful time, as she prodded the throttle on the freeway and on two-lane roads, keeping the tach above 3,000 rpm. The only instance in which the Outback Sport really felt underpowered was during an afternoon on the winding Angeles Crest Highway in the San Gabriel Mountains. We attempted to use a passing lane to overtake a slower-moving Toyota T100, but found that we simply couldn't build up enough speed to pass the pickup before the lane ended (as it happened, the other driver kindly made use of the next turnout).
Overall, the automatic transmission did a commendable job with gear selection; we never observed it hunting around, though one editor felt that it was slow, even unwilling, to downshift. Steep downhill descents on the freeway were no problem. Take the automatic transmission out of overdrive, and engine braking keeps speed in check. An overdrive on/off button is not part of the package, but the shifter has gates for all three lower gears. Subaru thoughtfully included a gear readout in the instrument cluster, and this eliminated the need to look down at the shifter when we changed gears a simple feature, but one that is often omitted, even from more expensive vehicles.
We do expect that the Outback Sport would be a lot more fun with the five-speed manual, but often, it just makes more sense to buy a vehicle with an automatic. While our test car didn't fully satisfy WRX-crazed journalists, it should be adequate for most people. After all, owners of heavier Legacies and Foresters get on quite well with this powertrain.
As in previous years, braking is provided by a ventilated front disc/rear drum setup, and ABS is standard. For 2002, the front discs have a diameter of 10.7 inches, about half an inch larger than they were in 2001. Drivers reported that brake action was progressive and abidingly competent. Still, we couldn't help wondering how a more expensive rear disc setup would feel and in the $20,000 price range, this wouldn't be entirely out of place (Volkswagen's Jetta Wagon comes with four-wheel discs, though of course it doesn't have AWD).
At the track, the Outback Sport managed a 60-to-0-mph braking distance of 127 feet, which is excellent for an economy-oriented car with rear drums particularly one that weighs 3,105 pounds. (Sure, the Impreza WRX we tested needed 12 fewer feet to come to a halt, but it's a little easier with larger rotors up front and solid rear discs.) Our road test coordinator observed moderate nose dive (largely attributable to the raised suspension) but reported that stability (that is, the maintenance of a straight course under maximum braking) was good. ABS noise was noticeable but not excessive, and brake fade was not an issue.
Although the Outback Sport comes prepped for the dirt, on-road handling is one of its greatest strengths and if you like to drive, you will have a lot of fun with it. Here again, if you're comparing it to the WRX, there's no point in talking. But as our senior editor wrote after driving the Outback, "Steering, brakes and suspension all work in complete harmony, and it's easy to see why the hot-rodded WRX is so good on these fronts it has a solid foundation from which to build." Further, this wagon rides comfortably enough to be a daily driver.
The suspension mostly provides a smooth ride during highway travel, though the harshness of broken pavement and expansion joints tends to invade the cabin try the larger Legacy-based Outback if you require added refinement. The firm underpinnings paid off when we reached the narrow blacktops that mar the scenic canyons of the Angeles and Los Padres National Forests: Here the communicative suspension and steering entertained to no end, and we were encouraged to drive the Subaru with increasing gusto. The taller suspension did lead to a certain amount of body roll around curves but not enough to diminish our enthusiasm. We enjoyed the weighting of the steering as we rounded the sharper turns, and the wheel's thick rim allowed for a pleasant grip.
Of course, the wagon's all-wheel-drive system had much to do with our confidence in the canyons. Impreza Outbacks equipped with a manual gearbox get a more traditional system that uses a bevel-gear center differential and a limited-slip viscous coupling that splits engine power 50/50 between the front and rear axles in normal conditions. Models like ours with the four-speed automatic get Active All-Wheel Drive, which employs an electronically managed continuously variable clutch housed in the transmission tailshaft. This system uses several input sensors to determine how weight transfer will affect available traction. During acceleration, for instance, power is instantly routed to the rear wheels to compensate for weight transfer to the rear just the opposite during deceleration. Under ideal traction conditions, the power split is 90 percent front/10 percent rear.
After entertaining us on the two-lanes, the Outback didn't perform quite as well as we had hoped in the slalom at our test track; its top speed through the cones was 60 mph. Chirico surmised that the tires were the primary cause, as they weren't very progressive in their loss of traction. "One minute grip was there, and then all of a sudden, it was gone, and then the tail would start to slide," he wrote. Also, keep in mind that the Outback Sport's raised suspension does result in somewhat slower reactions to steering input relative to other Imprezas.
Even with its heavy-duty suspension and taller stature, the Outback Sport is a light-duty off-road vehicle, as significantly more ground clearance and a low-range transfer case would be necessary to deal with steep, boulder-strewn terrain. Understanding this, we took our test vehicle to the well-tended Clearwater Canyon fire roads near Santa Clarita, Calif., having previously used this course to test mini SUVs. Off-roading with a Subaru requires no special preparation no need to shift a lever or push a button, because the AWD system is always working.
The Impreza easily handled the course, and we were duly amused by its playful tail wagging in deeper sand drifts. Additionally, there was enough slack in the steering wheel to make it easy to keep the vehicle straight on rockier stretches. The car's small size was an advantage when we encountered a small group of motorcyclists heading in the opposite direction; pulling to the edge of the trail left them ample room to pass. More ground clearance would have been desirable, however we were careful, but the wagon still bottomed out a couple of times. At the same time, we wouldn't want to part with on-road agility to get an extra inch or two of clearance, so we'll just say that those who regularly venture into the wild would be better served by a true SUV. As we drove, interior components rattled incessantly. While our test vehicle emerged from the trail fully intact, we doubt that it would feel new for long if one did this regularly.
During highway travel, we noted a significant amount of wind and road noise, but we did not find it excessive given the wagon's boxy shape, raised suspension and relatively low sticker price. Visibility was excellent, particularly with the large rear window and narrow D-pillars. The rear glass includes extra heating coils for the rear wiper so that it isn't rendered useless when temperatures are below freezing.
Cabin dimensions are about the same as the previous generation's, but Subaru has tried to make the Outback Sport's interior more inviting by improving ergonomics, adding a height adjuster for the driver seat and increasing the steering wheel's range of tilt adjustment. Though most editors were able to find a comfortable driving position with a decent level of support, Senior Editor Christian Wardlaw advised us that he would need an additional inch of seat-track travel to deem the wagon hospitable, while Road Test Editor John DiPietro wanted more lumbar support. And after an 80-mile stint in the thinly padded driver seat, the author felt rather fatigued (with a sore back and hindquarters). There was no right-hand armrest for the driver in our test car an armrest extender for the center console is available as an option and the Outback Sport's headrests do not articulate. We were, however, pleased to find height-adjustable seatbelts for the driver, front passenger and both rear outboard passengers.
The seats were covered in a tweed-like upholstery that reminded some of us of a college professor's blazer. The material wasn't especially stylish and it certainly had a budget feel to it but it did seem capable of providing warmth on the cold winter days Subaru owners will face.
As this is a compact wagon, the rear seat is most suitable for kids, but two adults would find the rear quarters livable for short trips. Legroom is scarce, but the front seatbacks are carved out and cushioned for the benefit of protruding knees. Further, the rear bench has sufficient height and depth to accommodate an adult, and the headrests for all three seating positions are adjustable. Editors had few problems getting in and out of the Outback Sport it's a bit more difficult for rear passengers due to the small rear footwells, but the bench height helps. Plus, there's a grab handle above every door.
The backseat includes the requisite upper and lower child seat anchor points; the latter are identified by child badges sewn into the upholstery. We were able to install a rear-facing baby seat securely (it doesn't have tethers), but depending on the height of the driver or front passenger, it could be a tight fit. If you have children who ride in child seats, bring both along for your test drive.
The cargo area has a capacity of 27.9 cubic feet, which is 2.4 more cubic feet than the previous model offered (the seats-down capacity is about the same). A sturdy rubber cargo mat with a lip around the edge protects the carpet from leaking milk jugs. Lifting up the mat allows you to access the space-saver spare and three shallow, covered storage wells, one of which is large enough to hold an umbrella the other two will hold flashlights, ice scrapers, flares or small tools. A retractable vinyl cargo cover and a 12-volt power point are also standard. During her test drive, the author purchased a cabinet (roughly 3.5 feet by 3 feet by 1.5 feet). She had no difficulty folding the 60/40-split rear bench to create a flat-load surface. And the generous hatch opening made it easy to slide the heavy article inside (carrying the blasted thing up the stairs was another matter). An interior handle allows you to close the liftgate without getting slushy gunk on your hands (as the case may be).
The Outback Sport's controls are arranged in a logical, unpretentious manner. We especially liked the straightforward analog gauge cluster with its large speedometer and tachometer (with a clearly marked redline) and outside temperature display. The standard three-stalk arrangement is used for the headlights, front and rear wipers and cruise control, though the foglights and the cruise power button are displaced to the far left side of the dash we generally prefer to have everything related to cruise control in one location. Power windows (including one-touch down for the driver), door locks and mirrors are all standard.
The climate control system is a simple collection of large dials with a slide switch for selecting fresh air or recirculation mode. The standard four-speaker 80-watt stereo with CD player uses a single-DIN head unit, which means there are a lot of small buttons. In spite of the cluttered faceplate, it's a solid stock system, according to our stereo expert, and there's a large slot above the head unit (apparently for audio upgrades) for CD case storage. A single power point is available at the bottom of the center stack.
Besides the glovebox, storage space consists of a small, unlined center console; small door pockets for the driver and front passenger; a shallow well for pens or a cell phone behind the shifter; a small drawer for tokens to the left of the steering wheel; and a strap for notes on the driver's sunvisor not great but passable if you travel relatively light. The cupholder situation does need improvement, however, given the Outback Sport's appeal to small families. The center stack contains a drawer-type holder, but you risk having liquid drip on the stereo head unit. A second cupholder of fixed size is embedded in the center console while it neatly accommodated the author's square-shaped 12-ounce bottle of freshly squeezed juice, not all Subaru drivers will be frequenting natural foods stores. And there are no cupholders for the kids in the back.
It was evident to us that Subaru took care in selecting the interior materials for the Outback Sport while some of them appeared to be inexpensive (the cloth upholstery, for example), we were left with the impression that most things would withstand the rigors of day-to-day use. The aluminum-look accents on the center stack and around the shifter were particularly well executed. We also liked the soft-touch dash. After a couple hundred miles in the cockpit, though, we still wanted a higher-quality plastic on the steering wheel (we have soft hands) and perhaps a less cardboard-like headliner.
Build quality was above average for the economy wagon/mini-SUV segment. Gap tolerances were tight and screw heads well concealed throughout the cabin our only complaint was a wiggly center console. On the exterior, we noted a slightly misaligned liftgate, front bumper and headlight assemblies. And we didn't like the exposed screws on the antenna's anchor plate. But none of these issues would deter us from recommending the Outback Sport as a dependable source of transportation.
After a week in the Outback Sport, we that is to say, the author wanted one. Behind the wagon's stoned gaze and modest 2.5-liter boxer four she saw the raw reflexes of a sports car. But is this the car for you? The first question to ask yourself is whether you need all-wheel drive. If the answer is yes, make sure that you consider all of your options in this price range: The redesigned Honda CR-V won't be as fun to drive, but it offers superior cabin space and comfort along with a 160-horsepower i-VTEC four. If you don't need AWD, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't at least test-drive the more luxurious Volkswagen Jetta Wagon with the potent 180-horse 1.8T powerplant. And if you love to drive and have a little flex room in the budget shouldn't you be looking at the WRX Sport Wagon?
System Score: 7.0
Components: Horizontally opposed cylinders connected to all-wheel-drive components in the fun little Outback Sport show that a complex system has its benefits, but the stock stereo system proves simple can be good, too. A full-range 6.5-inch speaker in each front door and a pair of 4-inch speakers in the back door panels are all you get, but they do the job (Subaru also offers optional upgrade speakers and a stealth subwoofer that hides under the front passenger seat). The 80-watt single-CD head unit is mounted very low and its buttons are tiny and super-stiff, but the "indiglo" display and familiar control layout make it easy to use.
Performance: The speakers up front are responsible for most of the low-end output this Sube has to offer, and it's pretty good for a stock system. While even the Lexus SC 430 suffers from bass-induced door rattles, the Outback is able to produce strong and tight tones without the shakes. Unfortunately, the same speakers get tripped up a bit when high notes are pumping out at the same time (the upgrade speakers should do a better job in this department). The speakers in the rear door panels do a better job with the highs, producing male vocals that are dead-on, and female vocals that only crack at high volumes. Even with the conventional low-mounted speakers, the sound imaging is surprisingly good, with few noticeable dead spots and a lively soundstage that isn't stuck to the floor.
Best Feature: Bright display.
Worst Feature: Tiny buttons (isn't that a Don Ho song?).
Conclusion: Oy! A good stock stereo and that's no croc. (Sorry about slipping the weak Aussie joke in, but what does Subaru expect when they hire Paul "Crocodile Dundee III" Hogan as a spokesman?)
Road Test Editor John DiPietro says:
Taking a gander at this wagon, I concluded that this was a rare case of a wagon being better looking than its sedan counterpart. Although I'm still not crazy about the bug-eyed Impreza's quirky styling, at least the better-proportioned wagon doesn't have the strange trunk lid and taillights or the silly fender blisters of the sedan. I did notice that the otherwise attractive two-tone scheme of the Outback lacked a pinstripe to separate the two colors, which made it seem a bit unfinished.
Inside the cabin, the seat fabric and some plastic trim looked a bit downmarket, though general assembly quality was excellent. The Impreza's short, 99-inch wheelbase became evident when, even with my 5-foot 5-inch frame, getting into the back seat wasn't easy (due mainly to the small rear footwells). And while I'm griping, there could be more lumbar support for the front seats.
Dynamically, the Outback Sport mostly left me apathetic. Around town, the big-displacement (2.5 liters, while most cars in this class are under or at 2 liters) flat four was peppy. But when asked to skedaddle at higher speeds, such as when merging into fast-moving freeway traffic, it got winded and didn't feel as potent as its 165-horse rating would suggest. The automatic gearbox delivered mostly smooth gear changes up or down, but was sometimes hesitant to downshift when a quick burst of acceleration was called for via a stab to the throttle.
When the road got twisty, the Outback Sport's responsive steering provided pleasing weighting and decent feedback. In terms of performance, handling was the car's strongest area, almost making up for the powertrain's lack of zip at higher speeds or when ascending mountain roads.
Although I wouldn't steer someone away from this Impreza if they had their heart set on it, I would have a few other recommendations, depending on their vehicular requirements. If driving excitement in a small wagon is what they're after (and Subaru's own stellar Impreza WRX wagon is out of reach), then they should also look at the Mazda Protegé5. And if they must have all-wheel drive but want more passenger and cargo room than this Subie, a visit to a Honda dealer to check out the much roomier 2002 CR-V would be in order.
Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed says:
It's easy to overlook what's special about this sporty little wagon. At first it seems pretty much like any other car in its class. But there is a very important difference that makes it a bargain at about $20,000 all-wheel drive.
If you live where the snow falls and ice turns roads into skating rinks, this fundamental difference could make this the car for you. That is, unless you can afford a pricier Audi or one of the VW Passat 4MOTION models. If you live in Southern California and don't go off-roading, the all-wheel drive would go all but unnoticed. So, besides the all-wheel-drive, what does this car offer? An overnight stint in this sport wagon left this editor with mixed impressions.
Initially, the acceleration seemed impressive, to be expected from Subaru's 165-horsepower horizontally opposed "Boxer" engine. But all the get-up-and-go is down low; higher up on the power band it dies like a long shot in the stretch it's given everything too early and has nothing in reserve. This is exacerbated by a four-speed automatic transmission that doesn't believe in downshifting. The bigger-than-average engine for a car in this class seems mishandled by the unresponsive transmission.
Despite the disappointing engine performance, there's still a lot of fun to be had driving this Impreza. The stiff suspension allows little body roll, and there is excellent road-feel communicated through the precise steering. It likes to be pushed in tight corners. Naturally, expansion joints and rough sections in the road aren't softened much by the Subaru's ride. That isn't a criticism in this case, since a cushy ride wouldn't make it much of an off-road vehicle.
The tweed-looking seats reminded this editor of a college professor's blazer but were comfortable and provided solid lateral back support. The plastics on the dash were visually pleasing but had a cheap, insubstantial feel. The sunvisors had a ridge left from the molding process and were small and squishy. However, a third visor, behind the rearview mirror was a nice touch and could improve visibility when driving into the sunset.
These criticisms probably wouldn't and shouldn't deter loyal Subaru fans. But to those buyers on the fence about which sport wagon to buy, let your off-road needs help you make the choice. If you need the all-wheel drive, and are on a budget, this is definitely the car for you.
Senior Editor Christian Wardlaw says:
I've been a fan of Subarus since driving them through brutal Colorado snowfalls. They have loads of character, are assembled with care, and, if you believe Consumer Reports, are likely to run forever with proper maintenance. So I was anxious to spend some time in the all-new Impreza Outback Sport to see if the company had improved on an already competent package.
Starting with exterior styling, the 2002 looks better to my eye less like an AMC Pacer with a taped-on two-tone paint job and more like a stout little mini-ute. Even in refrigerator white, as our test car was painted, it looked good if the pseudo-SUV look appeals to you. And though the Impreza's current styling could never be called attractive, the look works better for the wagon than the sedan.
Inside, ergonomics are improved and high-quality if inexpensive-looking parts are used to construct the drum-tight cabin. If the driver seat offered even an inch more seat travel, I could call the IOS comfortable. Instead, I feel wedged in without much room to move around, which is unfortunate. It's unfortunate because other than the comfort issue, I have nothing to complain about except the truly awful stereo sound quality.
Sure, the 165-horse flat four could use more spunk, but had our test car been equipped with the manual transmission, I'm certain it would have been more than adequate. Steering, brakes and suspension all work in complete harmony, and it's easy to see why the hot-rodded WRX is so good on these fronts it has a solid foundation from which to build. I found the Outback Sport to be extremely entertaining to drive, despite the automatic transmission.
I used our Subie for commuting and errand running, as most owners likely will. It satisfied in all respects except for the aforementioned comfort and sound-quality issues. Also, when I loaded my golf clubs into the cargo area, I found it necessary to fold half of the rear seat to get them in. But later, another set of clubs was placed entirely within the cargo area, so perhaps I didn't spend enough time trying to figure out how to make them fit.
Would I buy one? Well, for my current needs, something larger fits the bill. But snowbelt dwellers who don't need gobs of space and utility but occasionally find it necessary to haul something that won't fit in a conventional trunk will be interested in driving this car.
"I have a 2002 Outback Sport and traded in my 2000 OBS for it. The 2002 [is] definitely better than the 2000
. I have the automatic, did have the manual. Although it's true that you can't get the boost in the lower end like a manual, if you floor it, the auto does shift down to pick up more
. I also added a Ganzflow cold air intake which gives more power at wide-open throttle. That means when I do floor it (wide open throttle), the intake adds extra zip
. [The Outback Sport] does have so many extras that you would be paying much more than the price of a new OBS to add all these to a TS Sport Wagon." celeste2, "Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (Station Wagons & SUVs Boards)," #998 of 1125, Aug. 26, 2001
"After quietly lurking around here for a couple of weeks, I finally did it I convinced the wife that it wasn't a 'Station Wagon' but a 'Sport Wagon.' She was dead set on an SUV, and I had always admired the Subaru wagons. I drove a 1980 Corolla wagon into the ground and really missed the extra cargo space when I sold it to a neighbor for $100. It was a good first car for me It was a good first car for my neighbor's kid. Anyway, my wife couldn't get past the land-barge woody station wagon image, until I brought her to look at the 2002 Impreza Outback Sport. We were surprised to see that there was more passenger room in the OBS then in the Xterra (the next runner-up). Then she drove it slam dunk! And for $5K less then a comparably equipped Xterra (4WD). Bonus gas mileage and awesome handling. Maybe I'm still drunk with excitement, but I love this thing." aajoslin, "Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (Station Wagons & SUVs Boards)," #1017 of 1125, Sept. 4, 2001
"I am very pleased with my '02 OBS [with the manual transmission]. At first, I admit I was a little disappointed with throttle response, but that may have been due to driver incompetence/babying for the break-in. Now I think although it's not 'fast,' it is rather peppy (especially when I shift correctly) and it's always a pleasure to drive." brekke, "Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (Station Wagons & SUVs Boards)," #1002 of 1125, Aug. 27, 2001
"General Impressions: I'm very happy with the car so far. It really is a pleasure to drive. I'll jump straight into some specifics: Handling The suspension is a little harder than I'd like. The car doesn't float over bumps in the road you'll feel them and hear them. Cornering Yes! This car takes corners better than I remember it taking corners when I test-drove it. My only reference is my old '93 Nissan Sentra, and there's no comparison. Now I can continue through most corners without letting up on the gas or braking, and I'm even comfortable accelerating through some corners. The car gives no indication that it wants to go skidding off the road. Acceleration I have been pretty easy on the gas pedal thus far. I can tell that it doesn't have the accelerating power of a real sports car (keep in mind that this is an automatic) . Power: Since I'm still breaking in the car, I'm keeping the RPMs below 4,000. I've only had to approach that limit on one occasion when I was passing a car at 70 on a two-lane country road. It doesn't have the passing power of a good V6, but it felt better than the average four-banger. Braking the brakes are kinda soft, but they're fine. Sometimes there's a small forward surge as I'm braking . Interior I find the seats to be very comfortable. The interior material is very rugged and neutral-colored, leading me to believe that it will last a long time. The upper cupholder is entirely useless if you ask me. It might be a place to store an unopened drink on a cool day, but that's about it. The A/C works well, and all the controls for heating/cooling are easy and well-placed. There's a nice open space above the CD player that slants downwards, so you can store things in there without the risk of them falling out as you accelerate or go around a corner. The dashboard displays are clear and easy to read, and very attractive. However, there is no indication of cruise control's status. The 'CRUISE' button lights up when you enable cruise control, but there is no indication that it's engaged. That is a real annoyance to me. Even my Sentra had a light for this! Blind spot: There had been some discussion here about the OBS's blind spots . I removed the headrests from the back seats, and the rear visibility is even better. Backing into parking spaces, etc. hasn't been a problem. Of all the cars standard and optional practical features, my favorites so far are the cargo net, the rear cargo tray, the premium sound package (yeah!), keyless entry, armrest extender. I suggest those options to everyone!" action303, "Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (Station Wagons & SUVs Boards)," #764 of 1125, June 20, 2001
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