Full 2014 Subaru Outback Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Subaru Outback gets minor changes to its trim levels and equipment. Notably, 2.5i Premium models now have standard heated seats, while the base 3.6R trim level has been discontinued.
For many years, shoppers wanting a wagon with some outdoor capability have turned to the Subaru Outback. Since its introduction almost 20 years ago, it has been the great SUV alternative. Outbacks are known for their cargo space and dexterity in the dirt, but they've always been held in equal regard for their excellent manners on paved roads. The 2014 Subaru Outback is much larger than the original Outback and competes directly with midsize crossovers aimed at families. Although it might not hold the same appeal for the granola crowd as its smaller predecessors did, this Subaru is still a strong choice for anyone who craves a little adventure.
Since every Subaru Outback comes standard with all-wheel drive and boasts a generous 8.7 inches of ground clearance, it's one of the most capable crossovers off-road. You won't be able to follow a caravan of Jeeps up the Rubicon Trail, but dirt trails, snowy mountain passes or muddy country roads won't stop this Subaru wagon.
Equally important, the Outback has an impressive 71 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity for your camping and outdoor sports gear. And when you opt for the four-cylinder engine, this crossover wagon is capable of hitting 30 mpg on the highway. If you're looking to tow a small trailer, the available six-cylinder engine enables the Outback to pull up to 3,000 pounds. Also standard is a roof rack with built-in cross rails that conveniently fold out of the way when you're not using them.
There aren't too many options if you're looking for a midsize wagon or crossover with some off-road capability. The Toyota Venza is a bit more carlike behind the wheel and has less cabin noise and nicer interior materials, but it won't go all the places the Outback can. On the higher end, the Audi Allroad and Volvo XC70 share the Outback's rugged aesthetic (and some of its capability), but they cost significantly more. Another option is a true SUV like the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which offers even more off-highway capability, though it, too, tends to cost more. Of course, you could also look at mainstream crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, which offer similar interior room but aren't really hardy enough to go too far off the beaten path. Ultimately, the 2014 Subaru Outback is a pretty unique vehicle and if you have an adventurous spirit, we recommend it highly.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Subaru Outback is a five-passenger wagon offered in four trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited. The numbers refer to engine displacement.
The base 2.5i comes with 16-inch steel wheels; roof rack rails with fold-out crossbars; full power accessories; cruise control; air-conditioning; a height-adjustable driver seat; a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seats; Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity; and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack. An option package allows you to upgrade the base Outback (CVT models only) with 17-inch alloy wheels and foglights.
The 2.5i Premium model has all the base car's equipment, along with 17-inch wheels, foglights, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, a cargo cover and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.
If your 2.5i Premium has the continuously variable transmission (CVT), you can opt for the Power Moonroof package, which adds a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a rearview camera. Available as part of an upgraded Power Moonroof package is Subaru's EyeSight driver assist system, which includes adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system and a collision warning/mitigation system with brake intervention. Also available is a package that combines the moonroof with a navigation system that features a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, smartphone app integration and a rearview camera.
Stepping up to the 2.5i Limited adds dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, wood trim, a four-way power passenger seat, an upgraded gauge cluster and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with HD radio. Options for the Limited are similar to the 2.5i Premium, but now the EyeSight system can be purchased in combination with the navigation system. In addition, there's a Special Appearance package that bundles the moonroof, EyeSight and nav system with unique exterior styling details, keyless ignition/entry, driver seat memory functions and perforated leather upholstery.
The 3.6R Limited comes with a six-cylinder engine, but otherwise its standard and optional equipment is identical to that of the 2.5i Limited.
Powertrains and Performance
The all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback is offered with two different engines. The 2.5i models use a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ("boxer") four-cylinder that produces 173 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It comes paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. The CVT provides the functionality of an automatic transmission.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the four-cylinder with the CVT are 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. Models with the six-speed manual return 22/29/24. Both results are pretty good for an all-wheel-drive four-cylinder crossover.
The 2014 Outback 3.6R Limited comes with a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic with shift paddles is the only transmission offered. In Edmunds performance testing, the 3.6R accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, a strong time for a six-cylinder-powered crossover or wagon. However, EPA fuel economy is below average at 17/25/20.
Every 2014 Subaru Outback comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags that cover both rows.
A rearview camera is available starting on CVT-equipped Premium and Limited models. Subaru's optional EyeSight system includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning functionality (it will also warn you if you're swaying within your lane during highway travel). The EyeSight system uses two cameras mounted inside the upper edge of the windshield, which Subaru says reduces the potential for damage compared to conventional radar systems mounted in the front bumper. EyeSight can also detect pedestrians and is capable of braking the Outback if the driver takes no evasive action.
In Edmunds brake testing, the 3.6R came to a stop from 60 mph in 126 feet, a bit longer than average for this type of vehicle.
In government crash tests, the Subaru Outback earned a five-star overall rating, along with five-star ratings for its performance in front- and side-impact crash protection. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's testing, the Outback received the highest Top Safety Pick+ accolade after earning a Good rating (the highest possible) in the moderate-overlap front-offset crash test, as well as the side-impact and roof strength tests. It also earned an Acceptable rating (second highest) in the new small-overlap frontal-offset crash test.
Interior Design and Special Features
With its redesign a few years ago, the Subaru Outback traded its traditionally smaller footprint for more family-friendly dimensions. That extra room is immediately evident when you get inside, where even rear seat passengers now enjoy excellent headroom and legroom. The rear seatbacks also recline for greater comfort.
Behind those rear seats you'll find 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding them down yields 71.3 cubic feet, which is on par with the Venza and CR-V. For anything that doesn't fit inside, the Outback features built-in roof rack cross rails that swing inward when needed to attach bikes, snowboards and kayaks. Loading up recreational gear is also made easier by the Outback's reasonable overall height, as it's shorter than most other crossover SUVs.
Practical as it is, the 2014 Subaru Outback's cabin has a lot of hard plastic, which is tolerable on base models but feels a bit too down-market once you get to the Limited trim level. Most buyers will find it worth the leap to the 2.5i Premium trim level, as the base 2.5i model's standard four-speaker stereo sounds tinny and flat. The touchscreen interface in navigation-equipped Outbacks can be frustrating at times, as the menus are complicated and the on-screen buttons are not always responsive to touch.
The Outback's last growth spurt opened up plenty of interior room, but it lost the previous generation's quick handling in the process. On the other hand, the current Outback has a very forgiving ride that makes it a natural for road trips. Subaru says it stiffened the wagon's structure and retuned the suspension to reduce body roll and improve handling for 2013. We have yet to test an Outback that incorporates these changes, but when we do, we'll update this review.
Meanwhile, the 2014 Subaru Outback's standard all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance make it a natural for light off-roading. Of course, the Subaru is not meant to keep up with rock-crawling Jeeps, but ferrying kayaks and mountain bikes to campsites and trailheads is a cinch.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivers adequate performance and respectable fuel economy with either the six-speed manual or the CVT. It's a good choice if your primary concern is fuel economy. But if you live in the mountains or frequently haul full loads of passengers or cargo in your Outback, you'll be better served by the six-cylinder.