2012 Subaru Outback Review
2012 Subaru Outback Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Spacious interior
- excellent visibility
- comfortable and composed ride
- strong crash scores
- commendable off-road performance for a wagon
- simple controls on lower trims.
- Lacks agility
- poor base stereo
- fussy controls on upper trims.
The 2012 Subaru Outback's Premium trim level gets a new standard sound system with an iPod interface and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming capability. A new nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system is now part of the Premium model's options list.
The 2012 Subaru Outback is an appealing alternative to conventional wagons and crossovers.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6M) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.11 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$172/mo for Outback 2.5i
Avg. Midsize SUV
Like most all-wheel-drive crossovers, the chances are pretty slim that many 2012 Subaru Outbacks will ever traverse places as wild and remote as its Australian namesake. That reality does nothing to diminish this rugged wagon's appeal, however.
Key to the Outback's allure are its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and surprisingly capable all-wheel-drive system. While it's not designed for serious off-roading, this midsize wagon will let you explore graded fire roads and snow-clogged streets with confidence. The fact that this capability is balanced with civilized ride and handling means the Outback is one of the more well-rounded family movers out there. Its strengths are completed by a pair of horizontally opposed engines — a fuel-efficient four-cylinder and a gutsy flat-6.
The Outback's attractive and spacious interior is another plus. There's plenty of head- and legroom even in the rear seat, while a generous cargo hold and a clever roof rack with fold-out crossbars make the Outback a practical alternative to larger crossovers. As if this weren't enough, strong crash test scores add a healthy dose of peace of mind.
If you're looking for a traditional wagon, there are surprisingly few alternatives. The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is similarly priced, but considerably smaller. The Volvo XC70 is similarly sized, but considerably more expensive. Inevitably, the Outback will likely be cross-shopped against other popular crossovers, including the Chevrolet Equinox, Dodge Journey, Honda CR-V and Nissan Murano. We think the 2012 Subaru Outback makes a strong case for itself against these, offering a great balance of utility, capability and refinement.
Performance & mpg
The all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback is offered with one of two different engines. Under the hood of 2.5i models is a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ("boxer") four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and a CVT. EPA fuel economy estimates for this engine are 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with the CVT and 19/27/22 with the manual -- on par for all-wheel-drive crossovers. In Edmunds performance testing, the 2.5i with the automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds, which is average for a four-cylinder crossover. Sticking with the manual knocks that time down to 9.4 seconds.
Outback 3.6R versions come with a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic with shift paddles is the only transmission offered here. In Edmunds performance testing, the 3.6R hit 60 mph in 7.3 seconds -- a strong time for a six-cylinder-powered crossover or wagon. EPA fuel economy estimates for this powertrain are 18/25/20 -- also average.
The 2012 Subaru Outback comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags that cover both rows. In brake testing, a base 2.5i model came to a stop from 60 mph in a longer-than-average 130 feet. The 3.6R and its larger brakes managed a better 126 feet.
In government crash testing, the Outback earned an overall rating of four stars out of a possible five, with four stars for overall frontal crash protection and four stars for overall side crash protection. It also achieved the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
While the Outback's last big growth spurt paid dividends in terms of interior room, the previous generation's nimble handling was largely lost in the transformation. Handling is hampered by significant body roll and vague steering feel, and we can't say it's much better than its compact crossover competitors. Still, the Outback feels more carlike when behind the wheel, and scores high in terms of offering a comfortable ride and a quiet cabin.
All-wheel drive is standard, and with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, light off-roading is possible. This, in addition to the Subaru's rigid structure and well-insulated steering, makes it easy to traverse narrow, deeply rutted trails from which crossovers like the Nissan Murano would cower. A rock-crawler the 2012 Subaru Outback is not, but delivering kayaks and mountain bikes off the beaten path is a cinch.
As far as choosing between the two available engines, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers both adequate performance and decent fuel economy with either the six-speed manual or the excellent CVT automatic. That said, the 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine still makes sense for folks who regularly travel hilly country or frequently haul full loads of passengers, cargo or both.
Though the interior of the 2012 Subaru Outback is attractive enough, especially on upper trim levels, the use of hard plastics detracts from the overall effect. It's nicer than Subaru's similarly priced Forester, however. Audio and climate controls on lower trim levels are straightforward and intuitive, but the controls on models equipped with the optional navigation system are less so. Most buyers will likely find it's worth springing for the 2.5i Premium trim level -- or especially the optional Harman Kardon audio system -- as the sound quality of the base 2.5i model's standard four-speaker stereo is poor.
Like most Americans, the Subaru Outback has grown in size in recent years. That means more room for people inside, especially in the backseat where headroom and legroom are both excellent. The seatbacks also recline for greater comfort. There are 34.3 cubic feet of cargo room behind those rear seats and 71.3 cubic feet with them folded down, numbers on par with the biggest "compact" crossovers like the Honda CR-V and actually more spacious than midsizers like the Ford Edge.
2012 Subaru Outback models
The 2012 Subaru Outback is a five-passenger wagon that's offered in six trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R, 3.6 Premium and 3.6R Limited. The numbers refer to engine displacement.
The entry-level 2.5i's list of standard equipment includes 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, roof rack rails with fold-out crossbars, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seats, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. Options here include an Alloy Wheel package that includes 16-inch alloy wheels and foglights, and an All Weather package that adds heated front seats, heated mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.
The 2.5i Premium model gets you a number of desirable extras, including 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, body-color mirrors, rear privacy glass, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a cargo cover, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming capability and a six-speaker sound system with an iPod/USB audio interface. Available options include the All-Weather package and a Power Moonroof package that includes (beyond the obvious) a rearview camera. Models with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) can also be had with a nine-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system with a 4.3-inch LCD screen, satellite radio and HD radio.
Step up to the 2.5i Limited and you get the CVT automatic standard, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery and wood trim, a four-way power passenger seat, the contents of the All-Weather package and the above-mentioned Harman Kardon audio system. The options list here is short, consisting of the Power Moonroof package and a navigation system with an 8-inch display, voice controls and a rearview camera.
The standard and optional equipment for the 3.6R models are very similar to those of the corresponding 2.5i trim levels. There are a few exceptions, though, as all 3.6R models get a six-cylinder engine, larger brakes and a five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The base 3.6R also differs from the base 2.5i by adding 17-inch alloy wheels, a cargo cover and rear privacy glass.
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
1 out of 5 stars
Head Gasket Blew at 69,000 miles
Working Mom, 02/04/2017
2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6M)
I bought this car new off the lot in December 2011. I was thrilled with the fact that I could get such a nice car with a 6 speed manual transmission. It was perfect for me and my family - easy to park, utilitarian and good to drive. However, that changed last month when every light on my dash started flashing just before getting home, and the coolant overflowing in my driveway. Thank … God I have AAA to tow it to the dealer. Three weeks later, my dealer tells me that it was the head gasket and that they replaced all the seals as well as the timing belt. Since I have the extended warrantee, it didn't cost me any more than my deductible ($100). Now I'm wondering how long it's going to be before the head gasket fails again. I love this car but now I question its reliability. Update: After waiting over 5 weeks to get my car back I picked up my car and found it had a strange grinding noise coming from the left front wheel - the mechanic told me it was the brake rotor and turned it. Okay- I left the dealership only to have the car break down in rush hour traffic on a very busy stretch of road. It was a harrowing experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Once the car was returned to the dealer it was clear to see that the mechanic wasn’t exactly sure what the problem was- though he was trying to figure it out. I ended up getting rid of the car. I asked the manager why they only replaced the lower half (short block) and didn’t replace the heads - he said Subaru corporate won’t allow that under the extended warranty. My brand new Subaru Outback’s felt cheaper than my old one (the doors sound tinny when they shut) and the tech is glitchy / even the outside temp thermometer wouldn’t register the correct outside temperature) - so I didn’t want to trade mine in on a new Subaru. I really liked my Subaru when it ran but I couldn’t get past the fact that 3 times it totally quit without warning despite diligent servicing. I can’t recommend Subaru to anyone. I went with another manufacturer- hopefully will have better luck with this vehicle.
1 out of 5 stars
Engine Blew at 107,000
Jody Miller, 12/24/2015
2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
3/12/2018: Update 2012 Subaru Outback Ordeal with Subaru of America 2012 Outback Subaru loaded, 1st new car brought ever. Took exceptional care of my car, kept up on all maintenance and care schedules. (Kept my last 2 cars, 2001 Toyota Highlander to 250,000 miles, and 240 Volvo 350,000 miles +. 2012 Outback head gaskets blew while driving at 50mph, owned 3 years (mainly highway … driving, 140 miles to work and Back 4 days a week), Subaru of America paid for half cost of repairs, as said in good faith, $2,250. 2018, 141,000 car staling out , shaking, transmission (staled out in rush hour traffic, highway as car slowed, very dangerous), there turn out to be problem with the transmission that was not fixed as recall, only if your car has a problem, very dangerous, should be a recall, if you do not drive your car a lot, this chance of having the transmission fixed for free, as it should be ends 7/31/2018. 4 weeks later, driving beautifully, engine seized while driving , VERY DANGEROUS! My oil level was fine, my coolant level was fine, the dealership stated they could not know the reason unless they take the engine apart, probably something in the block. Need a new engine. Subaru will not help, they stated they already help me out in good faith. Granted my car has 141,000 miles on it, but how many cars that are taken care, regular maintenance, follows Subaru maintenance plan should go through 2 engines and transmission! Here I spent $30,000 on my 1st new car ever, in my 60s, loved the car when it ran properly, handle great, gas mile great, all the bells and whistles. But to have your car die after 5 years when it was well maintained and having no $0.00 value for trade in is not right. Obviously, I have a problem car, a lemon that these kinds of repairs should not have happen once, never mine twice! Never mind how costly an engine is. Being able to have no reasonable recourse. Although I am trying, at least should get bluebook value for the worth my car if it did not have engine issues which is between $6,998-$7,667. Never mind the dangerous situations I was put in, that thank goodness the car did not caused any serious accident, Shame on Subaru customer service for putting hardship on their customers that are only looking for a fair outcome!
5 out of 5 stars
My 2012 Subaru Outback Review!
2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
I have owned my 2012 Subaru Outback for approximately three months, and I am very impressed and satisfied with my Subie! I drive many miles each day from and to work, and I needed a comfortable car! I researched into many different automotive manufactures, and a lot of people recommended the Subaru Outback. To make a long story short, the Subaru Outback AWD, and CVT Transmission does … wonders on long distance drives on the highway and city with rain, ice, snow, and heat all thrown at my Outback, with excellent results. Currently, I am averaging 31 mpg on the highway, using Shell 87 octane gas, and Mobil-1 5W30 Synthetic Motor Oil.
4.25 out of 5 stars
Love my new Outback
2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
I love the versatility of my new outback. It is comfortable, quiet and great for long road trips. I am impressed with the fuel economy I consistently get 27-28 mpg in the city and 29-31 on the road. The seats are comfortable, visability is great and the layout of instrumentation is driver friendly. Have had a minor warranty problem with fault in emission control system. Dashboard lights … went on and cruise control was on longer operational. Took it to a dealer and they found and fixed a cramped emission hose. Be sure to lock down gas cap after filling or you will get the same effect.
2012 Outback Highlights
|Combined MPG||22 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$172/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||all wheel drive|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|
NHTSA Overall Rating4 out of 5 stars
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall4 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall4 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat4 / 5
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover17.4%
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
- Small Overlap Front Driver-Side TestNot Tested
- Small Overlap Front Passenger-Side TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – OriginalGood
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Side Impact Test – OriginalGood
- Side Impact Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood