2015 Subaru Outback Review
2015 Subaru Outback Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Spacious and comfortable interior
- efficient engines
- excellent visibility
- above-average off-road ability
- top safety scores.
- Base engine's lackluster acceleration.
Redesigned for 2015, the Subaru Outback packs more interior space, higher fuel efficiency, a nicer interior and more intuitive controls than before.
With generous cargo capacity and a roomy interior, the 2015 Subaru Outback wagon is a good option for families. Families who enjoy occasional outdoor adventures will like it even more.
Notably, we picked the Subaru Outback as one of Edmunds' Best Used SUVs for 2015.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) 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
$136/mo for Outback 2.5i
Avg. Midsize SUV
The lines have become increasingly blurred between station wagons and crossover SUVs. Give the former a bump in ground clearance and all-wheel drive, and it essentially becomes the latter. Whatever you want to call it, the redesigned 2015 Subaru Outback represents the latest version of the company's popular family truckster. It retains its core competencies of abundant cargo space, standard all-wheel drive, impressive ground clearance and an affordable price tag. But Subaru has stepped up the Outback's game with even more space, better fuel economy, nicer cabin materials and some tech upgrades.
Despite adding less than an inch in both overall length and width, the newest Outback somehow picks up nearly 3 cubic feet in added interior space. There's a bit more room for rear-seat passengers along with a 2-cubic-foot increase in cargo capacity. Not quite a compact, not quite a midsize, the 2015 Outback is about the same size as a Volvo XC70, but about 10 inches longer than a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4.
All Subaru Outback models now come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while engine choices still consist of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter six-cylinder. Thanks to the revised CVT, active grille shutters (which reduce wind drag) and the adoption of electric-assist power steering, the Outback's fuel economy gets a boost. Whichever engine you choose, there's a 2-mpg increase in the EPA's combined fuel economy estimate from last year.
The company also addressed the gripes about the previous Outback's cabin, fraught as it was with hard plastic trim and some quirky controls. For 2015 there's an all-new interior that boasts notable improvements both in materials quality and ergonomics. In a nod to smartphone- and tablet-trained consumers, the navigation screen allows you to zoom in and out by squeezing your fingers together or apart. Meanwhile, the new Outback promises more safety via new front seat cushion airbags, a newly standard across-the-board rearview camera and newly available blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert systems.
As before, the Subaru Outback pretty much occupies its own niche. The 2015 Audi Allroad and 2015 Volvo XC70 are closest in concept. They offer all-wheel drive, turbocharged power and nicer interiors than the Subaru, but both cost more, and the Audi's cargo space is noticeably smaller. Of course, if wagons aren't your thing, there are plenty of small crossover SUVs to consider, like the popular 2015 Honda CR-V, the off-road-oriented 2015 Jeep Cherokee, the seven-passenger 2015 Kia Sorento and Subaru's own Forester. Yet the Outback, with its 2015 improvements and reputation for sure-footed handling, is a smart choice for an active family.
Performance & mpg
A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on the 2.5 models, generating 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It is matched to a CVT. All-wheel drive is standard on all Outbacks, as are hill descent control and hill start assist.
In Edmunds performance testing, an Outback 2.5i Limited went from zero to 60 mph in a lackluster 9.6 seconds. Most rivals reach that speed in about 8 seconds.
The 3.6R Limited features a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine rated at 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque and also pairs with a CVT. The 3.6R earns EPA estimates of 22 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway).
Every 2015 Subaru Outback comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and new seat cushion airbags (to hold occupants in place in a frontal collision, instead of the traditional knee airbags). Also standard across the board is a rearview camera, while higher trims also include blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems.
Subaru's EyeSight driver assist system is available on higher trims and includes the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, as well as adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system and a frontal collision-warning and -mitigation system with brake intervention. EyeSight can also detect pedestrians and is capable of braking the Outback if the driver takes no evasive action.
In government crash tests, the 2015 Subaru Outback earned a five-star overall rating, with five stars for frontal-crash protection and side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Outback its highest possible rating of "Good" in the small-overlap frontal-offset, moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts. The IIHS also tested the Subaru Outback's optional frontal collision warning and mitigation system and awarded it a top rating of "Superior."
During Edmunds brake testing, a Subaru Outback 2.5 Limited came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is an average distance for the segment.
The previous-generation Subaru Outback lost some of the nimble on-road nature that made the older versions enjoyable to drive. But with this 2015 Outback, the mojo is back. A stiffer body, precise steering and revised suspension tuning have made it a competent handling wagon once again. The generous suspension travel endows the Outback with a plush ride, and road noise is quelled even over coarse pavement. Ground clearance stands at an impressive 8.7 inches. That's typically a few more inches than you'll get in most five-passenger SUVs.
Acceleration however, is a different story. For 2.5i versions of the Outback, there's enough power for safe highway merging, but load it up with people and gear and it feels overwhelmed, especially if you're driving at high elevation. Around town, the jumpy responsiveness of the gas pedal and the spongy brake pedal are also distracting and make the Outback harder to drive smoothly than it should be. The six-cylinder provides a lot more punch, and if you frequently load up the car or live in a mountainous area, you're going to want this larger engine.
With either engine, the CVT is pretty likable, as it reacts promptly to your gas pedal inputs and isn't affected as much by the annoying engine rpm quirks of other CVTs.
For 2015 the Outback received a number of notable interior refinements. The base model now features a 6.2-inch touchscreen interface for audio and entertainment functions, while a 7-inch touchscreen comes standard on Premium and Limited trims. If the car is equipped with navigation, that screen allows one to use the now-intuitive pinch-and-expand finger movements to zoom in or out. The cabin vibe also goes uptown as the dash and upper door panels are covered in soft-touch materials, while the various faux metallic and wood-tone accents look surprisingly convincing. The large center stack features easy-to-use controls. The climate control system is a mix of intuitive buttons and knobs, and there's a handy cell phone slot on the center console.
The front seats are generously padded and provide excellent all-day comfort. Still, some long-legged folks might wish for a bit more thigh support. And you needn't spring for leather, as we are quite enamored of the soft, grippy cloth seats in the 2.5i Premium, not to mention the ultra-plush armrests. There's plenty of room for the driver and the front passenger to spread out. But the rear seat is simply surprising -- not so much because of the abundant head- and legroom but rather the plentiful hiproom. Three adults can sit comfortably in back with no complaints, a rarity in this segment.
Although the Outback is more of a station wagon than it is a tall and airy SUV, slim roof pillars give it superb outward visibility. Cargo capacity is also a strong point, as there are 35.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, which grows to 73.3 with the seatbacks dropped. This year also brings the added convenience of rear-seat fold-down levers in the cargo area.
2015 Subaru Outback models
The 2015 Subaru Outback is a five-passenger crossover 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 17-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 rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.2-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera and a four-speaker sound system with smartphone integration, HD radio, a CD player and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The 2.5i Premium model has all of the base car's equipment, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded gauge cluster, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, a cargo cover and an upgraded six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and a 7-inch touchscreen interface.
Stepping up to the 2.5i Limited adds 18-inch alloy wheels, active foglights (these turn with the front wheels), a front skid plate, a power liftgate, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, leather upholstery, driver memory settings, a four-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, wood trim and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
The 3.6R Limited comes with a six-cylinder engine and all of the features of the 2.5i Limited, as well as xenon headlights.
Some of the upper trims' features are available on the lower trims as options. Other available features, depending on trim level, include a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a navigation system, keyless entry and ignition and Subaru's EyeSight driver assist system (includes the blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert systems, adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system and a collision-warning and -mitigation system with brake intervention).
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
5 out of 5 stars
4wd Swiss Army Knife
Ed Fry, 10/03/2015
2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
Note: I rarely give something 5 stars. For me, 4 is high praise and I quibble about the three choices of poor, OK and great. If I didn't rate something 'great', it's because it was less but certainly more than just OK. That said, I've owned this car for 7 months. I've had to adjust to it rather than the vehicle adjusting to me. But taking the Outback on its own terms, this is what … I'd say to prospective buyers: It's been a very competent car. Road handling in all weather, except wind, has been excellent. Because of it's 8.5" ground clearance which is great for loading and unloading, entering and exiting, it can be a handful on windy highways. And while it's notable, it's minor. Electric steering is responsive, making navigating city streets and parking lots easy. Turning radius is excellent. Braking is good. Acceleration is modest in the 4 cyl. Beware. It's fine around town. On the highway, and with people and luggage, it's another story. But once you learn it and adapt, it is fine. Gas mileage started soft but has gotten better and averages around 26, city and town. Highway averages 31 which I think is outstanding for a 'station wagon-y' vehicle with roof rack and 4wd. It's a joy to buy regular gas. Cabin is comfortable, attractive and uncluttered. We like it. Leather seats are quite comfortable on short or long trips. Rear seats have plenty of room. The seat backs adjust, a big comfort plus. And folding the seats down, a 60/40 split, is a breeze - from inside the car or from the tailgate. The tailgate on our car can auto open. It is a bit fussy, a love/hate feature on the car. Visibility is very good. Backup camera is essential and works very well in handling tight spaces. I give it a solid A. Cross traffic warning is a good option. Blind spot detection is OK but the side mirror warning light, no sound signal, is weak, especially in daylight. That's a big negative. Gauges are OK. Lighting is bright and distinct. Time and temp are tiny. Bizarre. Lots of radio and music options. We have iPhones. They work beautifully and are very easy to connect. The technology is definitely better than ever. That said, not all tech is the same. While the interface works, the voice prompt is clumsy with rigid prompts and responses. I find that disappointing but I can easily get over it. The sound/phone system works seamlessly and the sound quality of phone calls to and from the car is quite good. That's basic to the tech and important that it works as well as it does. The touch screen is large, easy to navigate and easy to read, even in bright sunlight. Remote start is really handy in winter but it takes some practice making it work from the key fob. The suspension was VERY stiff when we first got it. It was on the verge of being a deal breaker. I've seen that comment from others, too. But it has softened. It is firm and comfortable and not at all rigid. Road noise is quite modest. Heating and cooling work well, front and rear. Front and back wipers are solid. Best option: dimming side mirrors. I did not get adaptive cruise control and emergency stop. I'm sorry I didn't. I rode in an Outback with that option and thought it was outstanding. Oddity: no heated steering wheel which I miss a lot! Another oddity and major mistake: doors do not self lock above a certain speed. If you don't remember to do it yourself, your doors remain unlocked while you drive. Even our 2003 Passat had self-locking doors. It never occurred to me that Suburu would sell a car without them. Lastly, the most important aspect of any car is its safety - all the things about a car you don't see or care about until you absolutely need them. We were recently rear-ended on a highway while going 50 MPH. The pickup was doing 65. My young son was in the back seat. That could have been a very bad accident. The car performed flawlessly, stayed on center and steered to a perfect stop. Another car could have lost control, hit other cars to the side and caused a deadly pile up. The back is badly bashed in, of course. But despite the damage, all rear lights on the car still worked. Even the back up camera still worked! My appreciation and trust of this car took a big leap. This is not an exciting vehicle to drive. It drives you. If you can adjust to that, this is, as my son says, a "beast" of a car, in the best sense of the word. I like "Ranger". UPDATE: the original tires, Bridgestone Duelers, were very poor. 29,000 and done. Shocking. Advice: on a new Outback, sell them immediately and buy real tires. Shame on Subaru for marring an otherwise solid desi UPDATE 12/18: My appreciation has grown. Added a value star. Reliable car - comfortable, safe, good in all conditions. We've since bought a Lexus, too. In terms of equipment and design, it stands up well, even surpasses the Lexus in some areas. No mechanical failures. UPDATE 6/20: same as 12/18. Love this car.
5 out of 5 stars
Love this Subaru
Janice L Ricci, 04/11/2015
2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.6L 6cyl CVT)
This is our 1st Subaru. Purchased the 3.6, 6 cylinder Outback with Eyesight and Navigation in October 2015. Commute over 100 miles every day between NH and MA. This vehicle performs well in all driving conditions. We have never been stuck in the snow and we had a horrendous winter. It has plenty of power, seats are comfortable, heat and defrost work well. The navigation is very … easy to use and the adaptive cruise control is amazing. We use the Mobil 1 synthetic oil and have not had any issues with mechanics or electronics. The computer voice even tells you that the vehicle ahead has moved- if you've stopped and not paying attention. The lane departure warning is a great feature.
4.63 out of 5 stars
Great Car, Great Value
2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
We traded our 2014 Outback for a 2015 and it is a completely different car. This car is much closer to the Volvo we traded for the 2014 at a fraction of the cost. Things we like: - It handles and tracks great - No jackrabbit starts like the throttle on the 2014 - No harsh suspension feedback like on the Volvo - Quieter ride - Big improvement in the GPS/infotainment system. … Improved ergonomics of controls. - Great fuel efficiency for this sized vehicle - Better than my 4WD truck in snow and slippery conditions. - We continue to find features we didn't realize it had.
5 out of 5 stars
2014 Subaru Outback Limited vs 2015
2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
We bought a 2014 red with black Outback. Really wanted white with black but that combination wasn't available for 2014. Naturally, the 2015 came out with white/black after we had made our purchase. So, in order to get our preferred color, get the new features not available in 2014, and to get back to a zero mileage car, we traded in the 14 on a new 15. While the 14 Limited was/is a … great car, the 15 is even better. For prospective buyers, my real time mpg in the 14 was around 28 mpg in mixed driving. 60mph road trips got mpg as high as 33. As the miles increased on the car (traded in with 23000 miles), mpg seemed to improve. No problems mechanically at all. Update: January, 2020. We are still pleased overall with the 2015 Outback. It now has 85,000 miles on it. But we have had issues with the transmission. The CVT is now getting confused. It doesn't seem to be able to down shift to the right gear after coming to a stop and starting up again or when beginning to initiate a highway pass. The lack of power response, which has lasted up to about 3 seconds, can turn a safe passing maneuver into a scary one. We had it serviced, which we were charged for even though there is a Subaru service bulletin on the CVT, and it still has the same symptoms. The combination of poor dealer support and the CVT problem will cause me to buy some other brand of car in the future.
2015 Subaru Outback videos
SPEAKER 1: This time in the legendary Edmunds head to head, the Subaru Outback takes on the Jeep Cherokee. I'm Alex [? Deweaver ?] as always, your host and referee. And I'm joined by James Riswick, representing the Outback in a questionable hoodie. And Mark Takahashi, speaking up for the Jeep Cherokee, in a beautifully pressured shirt with French cuffs. The first category up is driving experience. James, the Subaru has always been a bit of a weird hybrid between a car and an SUV. Which should make it a better vehicle to drive, right? SPEAKER 2: Absolutely it is. And the Outback is available with a six cylinder, but let's face it, most people are going to get the four cylinder and that's just fine. It has sharp throttle response, and it has the CVT with artificial shift points built into it to make it feel more like a regular transmission. And yeah, if you look at its performance numbers on paper, 0-60 in 9.6 seconds, that's pretty slow. But the four cylinder Cherokee is absolutely glacial. SPEAKER 3: But let's face facts, that the V6 is the engine of choice for the Cherokee. It has enough power to get out of its own way with that engine. And in terms of on road performance, it's got a pretty good ride quality and it handles far better than you'd give it credit for. And when it comes off road capability, it's got the active drive two system with a locking diff and low range gearing, so it could do a lot more than just get you out of a polar vortex. It can really blaze its own trail. SPEAKER 2: Well, if we're going to talk about off road capabilities. Perhaps, obviously the Outback is not a rock crawler but it has the same 8.7 inches of ground clearance as even that Cherokee Trailhawk. And although it doesn't have the same approach angle as the Trailhawk, is not really close, but it actually has a better approach angle than all the other Cherokee's. Now as for on road performance, this redesigned Outback, it's much sharper. It's less doughy. And in general, it is more car like to drive than your typical compact crossover. SPEAKER 1: This is all about your needs. If you are going to hit the trails, choose the Jeep. But if you're going to spend most of your life on terra firma, choose Uncle Scooby. It's a tie. SPEAKER 3: What? SPEAKER 1: Mark, tell me about the Jeep's interior. SPEAKER 3: Well, this time around the Jeep actually gets a really nice, refined interior. Materials are actually top notch. And it's going to be surprising for a lot of people who are expecting the kind of plasticy Jeep. Passenger space is excellent in the front and in the back. And the backseats get the slide and recline feature. But the bright spot has to be the new Uconnect infotainment system. It's got this great big touch screen, intuitive menus, and it really is the best in class. SPEAKER 2: Actually, I think I'd agree with you there. But the touchscreen in the Subaru is a lot better than it used to be. It's basically Toyota's Entune system that's very easy to use. But let's move on to the area where the Outback really shines, and that's interior space. In terms of cargo capacity, it's not even close. It has more than 70 cubic feet of total capacity with the seats down. The Cherokee, by comparison, has 54.9 cubic feet. Not even close. And has a really high load floor. Then there's backseat space. The Outback is a lot more spacious, it's more comfortable. You can actually fit three people across. SPEAKER 1: Now the Jeep's interior might look more interesting, but in the real world the Subaru has so much more space, which is why it gets my point. So James, what about value? Can the Subaru score another point? SPEAKER 2: It absolutely can. Now their base prices are actually the same, but that's with a four cylinder, front wheel drive, Jeep Cherokee. When you add on the V6 and four wheel drive that you really absolutely need, as well as you start adding on optional equipment, the gap between the Cherokee and Outback really starts to grow. Then there's the fuel economy. The four cylinder Outback gets 28 combined, which is absolutely excellent. The four cylinder, front wheel drive, Cherokee is 25. The V6 Trailhawk is 22. SPEAKER 3: Yeah, but the six cylinder Outback is also 22 miles per gallon. You compare that against other off roaders like a Wrangler or Xterra, they get 17 or 18 miles per gallon. In that case, you're going to save hundreds in gas with the Cherokee Trailhawk. And for the money, you get way more off road capabilities and refinement than the Subaru. SPEAKER 1: For its lower fuel consumption and its lower real world price, it's another point for the Subaru. So for now the Outback has a clear lead but all that might be about to change as we enter the wildcard round where anything goes and I get to choose the points. So Mark, can the Jeep come up on the rails? SPEAKER 3: So the Outback gets points for practicality . But personality, that's where the Jeep has it beat. It's got attitude. It makes a statement. And that statement, is I can go anywhere and I can do anything. Jeep's won the war, and you can't buy that kind of heritage. So while you're having fun in your little wagon. I'll be conquering the outback in my trail rated SUV. SPEAKER 2: You probably will look cooler going some place fun and adventurous. The Outback is actually the vehicle you will want to take some place fun and adventurous, simply because you have so much space inside and it also has that lower roof height. Allows it to make it a lot easier to put mountain bikes, and kayaks, and cargo boxes up on the roof. And as I discovered with Mike McGrath in a comparison test with the old Outback, it has these really cool roof rails that slide around to become crossbars. That is really handy. SPEAKER 1: Well, I'm not sure the original Jeep really did win the war, and to be honest, the Willys has about much in common with the Cherokee as I do with Jay-Z. But it is still more interesting than the Outback. So it gets one point. So overall, the Cherokee has 1 and 1/2 but the Outback has 2 and 1/2. Is that fair? Well you tell us. And for more information, be sure to explore Edmunds.com.
Subaru Outback vs Jeep Cherokee: Off-Road Comparison Test
Two crossovers: one more like a wagon, the other more like an SUV. Both provide better off-roading capabilities than the typical crossover while being just as impressive on the well-beaten path. Editors James Riswick and Mark Takahashi debate the merits of each, including their… performance, comfort, interior quality, cargo, value, fuel economy and which is more fun to drive.
2015 Outback Highlights
|Combined MPG||28 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$136/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||all wheel drive|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|
NHTSA Overall Rating5 out of 5 stars
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall5 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat5 / 5
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover17.5%
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
- Small Overlap Front Driver-Side TestGood
- 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