Vehicle Overview There are vehicles roughly in the same ballpark as the 2017 Subaru Outback, but there's nothing playing the same position. It's a midsize wagon with standard all-wheel drive and more ground clearance than all but the most rugged SUVs. It's definitely an alternative sort of choice, but it also checks off so many practical boxes that we think it's a must-drive for anyone looking for a reasonably priced crossover SUV.
For 2017, the Outback gets a new, ritzier Touring model that dials back the utility in favor of some added style. The Outback's excellent safety credentials also get a further bump this year with the addition of reverse automatic braking to the already well-regarded EyeSight package of accident avoidance tech.
It's a pretty minor update, though, and our shopping advice remains the same as it has been the past few years. If you don't need the Outback's usual trick roof racks and would prefer a plusher cabin, it might make sense to consider similarly high-riding luxury wagons such as the Audi Allroad or Volvo XC60 Cross Country. As for other vehicles to consider, the new-for-2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is the only other rugged wagon with all-wheel drive, but it's smaller and has considerably less ground clearance.
Then there are crossover SUVs. The Outback has the interior space of midsize models like the Ford Edge and Kia Sorento, but has an advantage because of its lower roof (makes it easier to load up bikes or cargo boxes on the roof rails) and a higher ground clearance (for making it over rocks and through deep snow). The same can be said in comparison to smaller and slightly less expensive SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru's own Forester. It's a similar set of advantages for the Outback here plus the further competitive benefit of greater comfort and refinement.
Perhaps such comparisons won't ultimately matter. It comes down to this: Do you like wagons? Then the 2017 Outback offers a just-right mix of attributes that could make your vehicle search a one-stop affair.
Performance and MPG The 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i trims come with a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ("boxer") four-cylinder and it's the engine you're most likely to find on dealer lots. It has 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque and drives all four wheels through a standard continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
In Edmunds testing, this powertrain brought the Outback from zero to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds, which is quite slow. Most compact SUVs are quicker. On the up side, the EPA estimates the Outback will return 28 mpg combined (25 mpg city/32 mpg highway), which is a bit thriftier than most compact SUVs.
For those who desire more power, the 3.6R trims feature a 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. A CVT and all-wheel drive are again standard. The six-cylinder definitely provides the extra grunt needed in the Outback, but acceleration is still underwhelming, especially compared to its surprisingly quick turbocharged Forester 2.0XT. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 3.6R drops to 22 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway).
Safety The 2017 Subaru Outback comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and seat cushion airbags (to position occupants correctly in the event of a frontal collision; these are used in place of knee airbags). Also standard is a rearview camera. On the Premium and Limited trim levels, the Outback comes with Starlink Connected Services, which includes emergency assistance and automatic collision notification. This can be enhanced with the optional Safety Plus and Security Plus upgrade, which adds remote vehicle access, remote vehicle locating and stolen vehicle recovery.
Subaru's EyeSight system is available on the Premium and Limited trims as part of the Driver Assist Technology package. It includes a forward collision warning system with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking and lane departure warning and automatic intervention. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems are standard on the Limited trims and included with EyeSight on the 2.5i Premium.
In government crash tests, the Subaru Outback earned a five-star overall rating, with five stars for total frontal crash protection and five stars for side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Outback its highest possible rating of Good in the small-overlap and moderate-overlap front-impact tests. It also earned a Good score in the side-impact, roof strength and seat/head restraint (whiplash protection in rear impacts) tests. The Outback's accident avoidance tech earned a top rating of Superior.
Vehicle Overview The 2017 Subaru Outback wisely adopts the motto, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The midsize wagon still comes with standard all-wheel drive and possesses the remarkable ground clearance that you would find on more hard-core SUVs, not on a family wagon. While it's different from other vehicles in its class, it would be hard to argue with the Outback's practicality. We're happy to see it remain as an affordable must-drive car for those who are looking into crossovers and compact SUVs and are willing to broaden their horizons.
All the assets that make the Subaru Outback popular are back: superb safety features, a low profile for easy loading and unloading, spacious seating (especially in the rear, where most compact SUVs suffer) and fantastic ground clearance that provides confidence in off-road conditions.
The Outback's impressive optional EyeSight safety package returns, with a forward collision warning system (which includes automatic braking and pedestrian detection), lane departure warning and automatic intervention. For 2017, it packs in more features: reverse automatic braking and automated high beam headlight control.
Also new for 2017 is the addition of a modern touchscreen interface, available in two sizes. It features user-friendly navigation and a host of smartphone-connectivity applications.
The fuel economy for the 2017 Subaru depends on the engine. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder variant will give you a combined 28 mpg (25 city/32 highway), which is a subtle improvement over most SUVs in the compact range. The more powerful 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine drops the numbers slightly to a combined 22 mpg (20 city/27 highway).
As with the 2016 Subaru Outback, the 2017 Outback comes in several different trim levels. Starting with the base Outback 2.5i, Subaru adds practical options to the Premium level, such as a windshield wiper de-icer and automatic climate control. The luxurious Limited increases safety features and adds some style and sound enhancements. For a more spirited drive, the 3.6R Limited gives the car extra power over the regular Limited.
New this year is a Touring level (both for the 2.5i and 3.6R) that effectively makes the car fully loaded and improves the interior/exterior visual aesthetics of the vehicle.
The 2017 Subaru Outback remains a smart choice for shoppers looking for an alternative to the compact SUV segment. Rely on Edmunds for assistance on your quest to finding the 2017 Subaru Outback that is right for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.