This Outback's not flashy, but it'll still make you smile

 03 Dec 2016 - 12:49

This Outback's not flashy, but it'll still make you smile
The now popular 2.5i Touring was pitched in for model year 2017 to please those people who wanted more for less money. Subaru handout photo

By Warren Brown | The Washington Post

Common sense does not have to be expensively extravagant; nor does it have to be so inexpensively cheap that it excludes the real question of value.

It simply has to be well done, reliable, "enough."

Being "enough" in the minds of many argues against any statement of luxury, which embraces exclusion and excess, but often leaves common sense wanting.

It is the old timepiece argument. If all I wanted was something to help me tell the time accurately and reliably, I'd buy a basic Timex wristwatch. There'd be no pressing need to buy a more expensive Rolex.

My "cheap Warren" gene always would lead me to first consider the Timex if I were buying it. But I'd opt for the Rolex if someone were giving it to me.

Why? As a Timex buyer, I'd demand the same accuracy and reliability of a Rolex. As a Rolex recipient, I'd expect it to have at least the same accuracy and reliability of a Timex - plus much more in terms of fanciness and prestige.

The same can be said of most automobiles. Once marketing and psychological anxieties about "prestige" are removed, we are left with the same automobile questions: Does the car work reliably? Is it safe? Does it have an engineering signature that makes it desirable among competitive models?

The 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i Touring wagon - it looks and feels like a station wagon despite Subaru's insistence on calling it an SUV - gets a strong "yes" to all of those above car questions. It is reliable. Its symmetrical all-wheel drive system is one of the best in the business in weather fair or foul. For what it offers in standard equipment, including advanced electronic safety items, it is one of the most competitively priced midsize vehicles on the market, starting at $35,995.

You can get confused. The Outback comes in six trim levels, seemingly one to please every taste and pocketbook. There is the simply base 2.5i, the added features of 2.5i Limited and Premium, upgraded 2.5i Touring, bigger 3.6R Limited and 3.6R Touring.

The now popular 2.5i Touring was pitched in for model year 2017 to please those people who wanted more for less money. Thus, it is best to have functional needs/options in mind when approaching the Outback line. Otherwise, you could get tripped up.

I drove the 2.5i Touring for this column. It had everything, including decent fuel economy at a real-world 32 miles per gallon combined city-highway; an excellent symmetrical all-wheel-drive system; an advanced electric security system, including blind-side monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert; and a certain cabin pleasantness reminiscent of good cars sold 40 years ago.

It was neither snazzy nor boring. It simply was enough. Were it a car covered by my own bank account, I easily, happily could live with it. Impressing neighbors, once a treasured old value, no longer impresses me. I just want a car that works well all the time. The 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i Touring does.

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Nuts & Bolts

2017 Subaru Outback

Bottom line: The Subaru Outback 2.5i Touring is perfect for the small working family earning a good salary and wanting to save as much of that money as possible from automotive repair shops and add-on vendors.

Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets decent marks in all three. People wanting more oomph should check out the Outback 3.6R Limited or 3.6R Touring.

Body style/layout: This is a front-engine, mid-size all-wheel-drive station wagon marketed as an SUV. There are six trim levels - 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and Touring; 3.6R Limited and Touring.

Engine/transmission: It comes standard, as its name implies, with a 2.5-liter, gasoline, 16-valve, opposed four-cylinder engine with variable-valve timing. It is linked to a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Head-turning quotient: It fits well on any school, church, or corporate parking lot.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 35.5 cubic feet. Maximum cargo availability is 73.3 cubic feet. Fuel capacity is 18.5 gallons of regular-grade gasoline.

Real-world mileage: I averaged a combined city-highway of 32 miles per gallon using 87 octane gasoline.

Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; a four-wheel anti-lock brake system; post-collision safety system; traction and stability control; advanced electronic safety control items; side and head air bags.

Pricing: This one starts at $35,995 with a dealer's price of $33,651. Price as tested $36,870, including an $875 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. Dealer's price as tested is $34,531.