2012 Subaru Outback Review

Pros & Cons

  • 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.
List Price Range
$7,130 - $13,995

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2012 Subaru Outback is an appealing alternative to conventional wagons and crossovers.

Vehicle overview

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.

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.

2012 Highlights

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.

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.

Safety

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.

Driving

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.

Interior

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.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2012 Subaru Outback.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

My 2012 Subaru Outback Review!
box4legacy,12/10/2011
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.
Love my Subaru!
Linda,04/24/2016
2.5i PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
It's hard to believe some of the other reviews are talking about the same car. This is my 3rd Subaru (one Forester and 2 Outbacks). I bought it pre-owned from the dealer with 35K miles on the odometer. I'm at 50K and change now. These cars run forever with just basic maintenance. When I wanted a Subaru my husband said, "that's a Mom-Mobile". Then he drove it and agreed that this is a great car. Solid handing in wet or dry conditions, I have never experienced the 'drift' some reviewers mention. I do notice better handling since I bought new tires, I got better quality than the ones that came stock on the car. I don't like the placement of the clock (my 2007 Outback had it near the speedometer) and the AC/Heater controls on the 2007 were more user friendly. But those are pretty trivial complaints. I love the All Weather package (heated seats!). I don't need a heated steering wheel. My 2007 had navigation, I wish this one had it but I just use my smartphone. It could have more pep but it's a 4 banger and not a sports car. Love the Blue Tooth. I took the middle headrest out of the back seat to improve rear visibility (it pops right out). I feel safe in this car.
What's not to like?
swtracker,01/14/2012
We researched for a long time, driving nearly 20 vehicles over 9 months before deciding on this model. On the road it is extremely quiet. I like the leg and headroom and the fit and finish is remarkable. I have been averaging 28 MPG overall with the CVT and am really surprised by that. While the Outback is not considered a SUV, it has almost the same cargo space as our Mid-sized SUV. We live in the mountains and have found the AWD to be very adequate for rough forest service roads and it was able to get through 8 inches of snow with the standard factory highyway tires.
Engine Blew at 107,000
Jody Miller,12/24/2015
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!

Features & Specs

MPG
18 city / 25 hwy
Seats 5
5-speed shiftable automatic
Gas
256 hp @ 6000 rpm
MPG
22 city / 29 hwy
Seats 5
Continuously variable-speed automatic
Gas
170 hp @ 5600 rpm
MPG
22 city / 29 hwy
Seats 5
Continuously variable-speed automatic
Gas
170 hp @ 5600 rpm
MPG
22 city / 29 hwy
Seats 5
Continuously variable-speed automatic
Gas
170 hp @ 5600 rpm
See all Used 2012 Subaru Outback features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat4 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover17.4%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Good
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2012 Subaru Outback

Used 2012 Subaru Outback Overview

The Used 2012 Subaru Outback is offered in the following submodels: Outback SUV. Available styles include 3.6R Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A), 2.5i Premium PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), 2.5i Limited PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), 2.5i PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), 2.5i Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), 2.5i Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), 2.5i 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), 2.5i Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6M), 2.5i Premium PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6M), 3.6R Premium 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A), 3.6R 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl 5A), 2.5i 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6M), and 2.5i PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6M).

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Subaru Outback?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Subaru Outback trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited PZEV is priced between $8,695 and$13,995 with odometer readings between 59732 and160180 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium PZEV is priced between $8,406 and$12,985 with odometer readings between 45696 and127844 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited is priced between $11,599 and$13,287 with odometer readings between 65179 and111890 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2012 Subaru Outbacks are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Subaru Outback for sale near. There are currently 19 used and CPO 2012 Outbacks listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $7,130 and mileage as low as 45696 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Subaru Outback.

Can't find a used 2012 Subaru Outbacks you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Subaru Outback for sale - 9 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $19,369.

Find a used Subaru for sale - 5 great deals out of 6 listings starting at $18,946.

Find a used certified pre-owned Subaru Outback for sale - 1 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $15,340.

Find a used certified pre-owned Subaru for sale - 4 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $14,377.

Should I lease or buy a 2012 Subaru Outback?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Subaru lease specials
Check out Subaru Outback lease specials