Subaru carefully reworks Outback on new platform

  • 22-Apr-2014 05:00 EDT

Just slightly longer and wider, 2015 Subaru Outback has improved forward side visibility, as seating H point is higher, outside mirrors were moved back from the door edges, and there are partition triangular windows at the forward side-window edges.

The Subaru Outback, a vehicle that was a pioneer in the crossover wagon segment, gets a complete but careful remake for its 20th anniversary model. There are many changes, but with a popular model, the objective was to make sure it obviously was upgraded in all significant areas without a major change in dimensions.

The 2015 model, introduced at the 2014 New York International Auto Show and on sale this summer, is on a reworked platform, with just a 0.2 in (5 mm) longer wheelbase at 108.1 in (2745 mm) and 0.6 in (15 mm) longer overall at 189.6 in (4816 mm). Other key dimensions are comparably close to the previous model, and fuel economy with the 2.5-L boxer four-cylinder engine model is up from 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway U.S. EPA numbers to 25/33. The optional 3.6-L boxer six-cylinder model is up from 18/25 to 19/27 mpg.

Both models have only CVTs

Among the steps taken to improve fuel economy was the switch from a five-speed automatic to a high-torque-capacity CVT (continuously variable transmission) for the 3.6-L boxer six-cylinder, which is rated at 256 hp (191 kW) and 247 lb·ft (335 N·m). The 2.5-L boxer four, rated at 175 hp (131 kW) and 174 lb·ft (236 N·m), had been using a smaller CVT, and that is its only 2015 transmission; the six-speed manual was dropped.

The 2.5-L engine was reworked for 2015 to lower weight; and it is slightly more powerful, up 2 hp (1.5 kW) from the 2014 edition. Both CVTs were internally modified to reduce friction for improved fuel economy. In addition, they each can provide six available fixed ratios or "simulated shifts."

Subaru installed grille shutters and an aluminum hood on all models also for fuel economy.

The interior was reconfigured for a higher seating hip point, and the EPA cabin specification is up from 105.4 to 108.1 ft³ (2985 to 3061 L). In addition, the outside mirrors were moved back from the door forward edges, and there are front small triangular partition windows, both steps to improve forward side visibility.

The Outback got an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick + rating for the 2014 model, which included a Good rating for the narrow offset test. Subaru expects no less on the 2015 model, as the Eye Sight twin-camera system that leads the pre-collision system has been upgraded, including a 40% wider angle view.

Same-type AWD for both engines

Both engines and CVTs are mated to a premium multidisc clutch-type AWD system with an increased level of functionality. It replaces the simpler multidisc type of the 2.5-L boxer four and the center-differential type of the 3.6-L boxer six. It actively varies the split according to acceleration, steering angle, and yaw and if the anti-lock brakes detect wheel slip.

The driver-selectable X-Mode, which increases the activity level of the AWD system and controls engine output and CVT ratio with new regulatory logic to reduce wheel spin, is standard. It's in a package that includes control of hill descent and hill start, enhanced traction control on slippery surfaces, and Subaru's long-used hill holder function. X-Mode made its debut on the 2014 Forester.

Active Torque Vectoring, which operates as an early entry to the stability control system, uses the ABS to make the cornering more neutral.

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