A person looking for a solid, reliable wagon with off-road capabilities
Comparable models in this class:
Audi A4 1.8T Avant Quattro, BMW 325xi AWD, Volvo V70 XC,
Subaru, as anyone in the Northeast is aware, is the top-selling all-wheel-drivemanufacturer. Since all Subarus are all-wheel-drive, every one adds to thecompany's reputation. They have proven to be reliable forms of transportationfor people whose jobs require them to be out in all kinds of weather. I had asports editor once who simply had to be at the paper at 5:00 a.m. His vehicle ofchoice was a Subaru wagon and it served him until the paper died.
For 2001, Subaru has two innovations. One is a new six-cylinder engine. This3.0-liter unit is horizontally opposed, as are the Subaru fours and the Porschesix, and delivers 212 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. It's not only one ofthe more powerful sixes in the industry, it is also physically flat, which meansa lower profile and keeps a large portion of weight lower in the chassis, addingto the handling ability.
Subaru puts this engine into two Outback models, the Outback H6 3.0 VDC andthe H6 3.0 L.L. Bean Edition. Out tester was the L.L. Bean Edition. Sonaturally, we'll tell you first about the VDC.
VDC is Subaru-speak for Vehicle Dynamics Control, a stability system withall-wheel, all-speed traction control. The vehicle uses Variable TorqueDistribution (VTD) All-Wheel Drive and is the most advanced all-wheel drivesystem that /Subaru has ever offered in the United States.
The new VTD automatic transmission uses an electronically controlledhydraulic transfer clutch that works with a planetary gear-type centerdifferential to control power distribution between the front and rear wheels. Insteady state driving, the power is split 45 percent front and 55 percent rear.
The VDC system monitors vehicle stability by measuring steering angle, yawrate and individual wheel speed. Using that input data, VDC can tell whether thecar is going where the driver is steering it, detecting and correctingundersteer (front-wheel drift) and oversteer (rear-wheel drift). Under certainoversteer conditions, VDC can direct the all-wheel drive system to transfer morepower to the front wheels.
The L.L. bean edition incorporates the H-6 engine but not the VDC or VTDsystems. But the vehicle does mark the start of a multi-year strategic marketingpartnership between Subaru and L.L. Bean that makes Subaru the officialcar of L.L. Bean and L.L. Bean the official outfitter of Subaru. As such the L.L.Bean Edition has two-tone beige/brown leather trimmed seats embossed with theL.L. Bean insignia, an "L.L. Bean" badge on each front fender andfloor mats with the Bean logo. The Edition also uses a Momo-designed mahoganywood/leather-wrapped steering wheel that had a great feel to it.
Driving the L.L. Bean Edition is akin to driving the Outbacks, with theexception of the H-6 engine. Six cylinders and 212 horses make the new Outback apotent force on the highway. For example, the new Outback has more power than anAudi A4 2.8T Avant, the VW Passat wagon or the Volvo V70 Cross Country. Subarushave never had an enviable reputation for power, but with the new H-6, theSubaru can compete with any of the more vaunted manufacturers.
We had enough power to catch up with and stay with any other vehicles on thehighway. We could accelerate off entry ramps easily, with none of the panic thatwe weren't going to make it into the flow of traffic before that big Macklooming in our rear view mirror crushed us.
Yet the H-6 is an inherently smooth design. Unlike some fours, for example,there was no buzz or excessive noise when we asked for more power. The SubaruOutback is, of course, a street-friendly off-road capable vehicle. Withfour-wheel drive it is capable of almost anything the off-road can throw at it,but it's still basically a station wagon at heart. Ground clearance is 7.3inches to allow for off-road use, but that doesn't make the Outback lookungainly.
And it is a station wagon, don't forget. With the rear seat up there are 34.3cubic feet of cargo space; with the rear seats down that number increases to68.6 cubic feet. The maximum floor length with the seats up is 43.5 inches; downit's 74.9 inches. So you can do some serious carrying and hauling with thisvehicle if you want.
Subaru discovered its market niche a few years ago and has been faithful tothat niche ever since. All its vehicles are all-wheel drive--sedans, wagons,Outbacks and Foresters -- and all offer decent performance. With the new H-6engine though, performance is no longer a stranger to Subaru wagons.
People may start thinking of Subaru in a new light.