I had my ‘05 Outback XT off at the dealer to replace several pieces of worn and/or rusted suspension and alignment hardware so they tossed me the keys to their loaner Outback in the loaded Touring trim and let me loose with it for the next ~36 hours. Stock photo because stock vehicle. Impressions were as follows:
The XT’s turbo has spoiled me. The naturally aspirated 2.5L here had just enough oomph to get up to speed at the end of uphill onramps, but required a pretty heavy boot to get the job done there and elsewhere. This was with just me in the car too, so I shudder to think how this would fare when loaded up with people and luggage.
The CVT? Not bad, actually. It was decently responsive and didn’t take long at all to bring me power when I needed it. I struggled to find any noteworthy flaws across a variety of situations while I had it. However, it still won’t stop me from being bothered by the concept of a CVT going out of its way to emulate “gears”.
Steering was very, very numb, though there is something to be said for how easy and relaxing it was to drive. Ride quality was a little better than my XT with refreshed shocks, though the mediocre OEM tires and additional weight (up 200+ lbs over the years) left a lot to be desired in the handling department.
The interor was a substantial step up for me. The leather seats were large, comfortable, and had all of the adjustments I was accustomed to, but lacked any meaningful bolstering. I didn’t spend a great deal of time diving into the infotainment, but what I did use was easy enough to navigate, and the whole system was acceptably responsive within a minute of starting up. Subaru seems to have improved their automatic climate controls too, because unlike my XT, I didn’t find myself actively hating it (though that may just be a matter of time/familiarity). I’m also happy to report that visibility has remained excellent, though the side mirrors don’t angle as far out as I like.
This was also my first extended drive in something with a full suite of active safety technology. Adaptive cruise control was pretty damn cool and worked really well, though it curiously forced speed adjustments into 5MPH increments. What wasn’t as cool was the collision detection klaxons going off when it spotted a dark, contrasting square of fresh asphalt at *just* the right spot in a dip between two hills. The lane keep assist got toggled off as well after a handful of false positives, and because really, how hard is it to stay in one’s lane?
Overall, it obviously lacks the goofy demeanor and element of fun that my XT has, but unfortunately that era of adding some spice to the Legacy/Outback line has passed for Subaru. Still, I think they’ve done a good job here at making a solid jack-of-all-trades mainstream crossover wagon. I don’t think I’ll have another Outback or anything like it in my near future, but if I did, a 3.6R model would be in pretty strong contention, though I’m still stuck on the fence when it comes to those active safety systems.