2015 Subaru Outback Review
Pros & Cons
- Spacious and comfortable interior
- efficient engines
- excellent visibility
- above-average off-road ability
- top safety scores.
- Base engine's lackluster acceleration.
Edmunds' Expert Review
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.
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.
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).
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.