The Outback has endearing qualities but CNet's Brian Cooley thinks it falls short a little bit on the tech side.
2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium Review It's the official ride of the L.L. Bean set. And that's a good thing, because it'll never be the official ride of the Tech Forward set. Let's check it out. Being inside an Outback when you're from CNET, is like going to a Cubs or a Lions game or voting for Nader just always falls short. Yeah, there's a fair amount of tech available in this Outback but none of it's really satisfying, especially since we don't have the really cool head unit to show you. But if you got a NAV head unit, there'd be a touchscreen LCD rig up there. We have instead the upgraded audio system which actually sounds quite good. There's no particular branding. It's Harman Kardon technology. It adds quite a bit of power and quite a bit of speakers to the cabin 440 watts. Nine speakers are around here including a subwoofer. But your input sources are, hmm, not great. First of all, without getting another option on top of the best audio system, all you have is a 6-disc internal changer which is fine plays MP3s and WMAs, AM/FM, no HD radio. It's a Subaru so you can have either flavor of satellite radio optionally added, XM or Sirius. That's kind of nice. And you've got an AUX jack down here, power outlet. Now, if you want to get more interesting and get an iPod connector and a USB jack, those two go together in this thing called the media hub. And there are two flavors of the media hub. One has iPod USB. The other one adds A2DP Bluetooth streaming for 50 bucks more. Why? Just make one unit, guys. Who's going to quibble over $50.00? So I think that's kind of a screwy option menu plan there. Now, this 6-speed manual here is not available on the Limited, the high trim that goes with the navigation package option, but it is a nice thing to have on a car that has limited displacement. Too bad I'm not a fan of the transmission. I find its throws are all a little bit sloppy if not bordering on vague. It's got some crunchy, clicky stuff going in there when you move between gears. It's not a happy gearbox. It's just serviceable. Subaru has upgraded the interior quality of materials, I think. The finish is real good. There's a good kind of a good quality feeling to all the polyurethane, pseudo rubbery leather that cars all use these days. And this kind of faux brushed metal finish is one of the more tasteful I've seen in the realm of plastic dashes. Our Outback 2.5i is the midlevel premium car done up in cypress green pearl with the one interior choice, warm ivory cloth. Now, when did Outback’s get so damn big? Didn't they used to be wagons? This one almost prints SUV in person. It's a Subby so under hood lies a two and a half liter 4 cylinder Boxer engine. The 3.6liter Outbacks has a 6 cylinder Boxer, but that's a different review, 170 horsepower and 170 foot pounds of weight along with MPG of 19/27 all pretty fine stuff. But the engine has pretty limited low end torque requiring high RPMs for any kind of performance and midlevel RPMs to get off the line without stalling. The greenest part about this car, aside from the paint, is its tailpipe. It complies with the super tough California partial zero emissions standard. That's about as clean as a gas engine car is going to get. While you're out enjoying not polluting and not accelerating with much verve, you could also enjoy bouncing around like you're on a kids' ride. The 2.5i Outback has one of the softest, jauntiest suspensions I can recall driving all year. Okay. Let's price our Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium. Now, it's about $25,000 a little less with destination. Then you’ve got to add that Harman Kardon upgraded head unit. That's like a minimum to get this thing CNET style or at least going that direction. That's 995, and it does include the Bluetooth handsfree technology. Now, if you don't do that for some inexplicable reason, you start nickel and diming yourself to death. You could add, let's say, that media hub with streaming, A2DP, for 350, subwoofer for 300, the tweeter kit for $80.00, Bluetooth ala carte for 400, sunroof is 995 or get the sunroof and NAV package together, oh, that's right you can't because to do that you've got to go to the Limited trim car. And to get the Limited trim car, you’ve got to kiss goodbye your 6-speed manual. Can't have a manual because you want NAV? Screwy town. But if you do want to kiss goodbye to that 6-speed manual and go for a CBT automatic, you can do that for a thousand dollars. Oh, and by the way, Sirius or XM, you have your choice, 398 either one.