Subaru polishes Outback for 2015

NEW YORK -- The Subaru Outback is getting a major styling update, additional safety and convenience features, and improved fuel economy as part of a makeover to enhance what has been the brand’s top franchise for years.

The redesigned 2015 Outback was introduced today at the New York auto show, where the model was first shown 20 years ago. It will go on sale this summer.

The fifth-generation Outback’s engines will be carried over: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine with 175 hp and a 3.6-liter six-cylinder Boxer engine with 256 hp. But nearly everything else will be new or revised.

Subaru said all trim lines will add standard features and new infotainment systems for 2015.

It’s hard to overstate the anchor role the Outback plays for Subaru, one of the industry’s hottest brands with six consecutive years of U.S. sales gains.

In 2013, the wagon was Subaru’s second-best-selling U.S. model, just behind the Forester. Outback sales were nearly flat last year at 118,049, but deliveries have climbed 3 percent this year through March to 28,926 units.

Eric Lyman, vice president of editorial at ALG, said the Outback benefits from “both the fierce loyalty of Subaru owners who love this unique vehicle” and its “mainstream” appeal.

“If Subaru continues its balance of rugged reliability with carlike ride, handling and fuel economy, the Outback should be able to increase its following,” Lyman said.

Sales projections

Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America, predicted the redesigned Outback will outsell the current model because of its improved driving dynamics, contemporary styling and enhanced fuel economy.

“People who are continuing to discover Forester will continue to discover Outback,” Doll said. “Where else will you get this kind of functionality in a package like with the Outback? That is why it does so well.”

Doll said the highway fuel economy on the 2015 model with a CVT is projected to improve by 10 percent. The current fuel efficiency of Outbacks with a six-speed manual transmission is 21 mpg city/28 highway/24 combined. For models equipped with a CVT, current mpg is 24 city/30 highway/26 combined.

To modernize the Outback’s styling, the 2015 model features a more raked windshield that has been pulled forward at the base.

The new windshield position, new front partition windows and door-mounted wide mirrors also help improve visibility.

Roomier interior

The Outback will keep its 8.7-inch ground clearance but will add a step-style doorsill for 2015. A power rear gate with memory height is available for the first time and will be standard on some models.

Inside, Subaru has added more premium soft-touch materials and thicker cushioning on the armrests and center console. The instrument panel has been redesigned and features a standard 3.5-inch liquid crystal information display.

The Outback’s proportions have also changed slightly for 2015 to improve interior room. The wheelbase has been increased by 0.2 inches to 108.1 inches, overall length grows by 0.6 inches to 189.6 inches, and the width has been expanded by 0.7 inches to 72.4 inches. Interior cabin room is improved to 108.1 cubic feet, up from 105.4 cubic feet.

Safety features

Subaru has beefed up the Outback’s safety features by making standard a rearview camera and a new sensor that sets off the side curtain airbags if a rollover is imminent.

A new rear vehicle-detection system is standard on limited trim models and features blind-spot detection, lane-change assist and a rear cross-traffic alert that monitors vehicles coming from a perpendicular direction when the Outback is in reverse.

Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist program is standard on premium and limited trim levels. It uses stereo cameras and integrates adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane-departure warning.

Models with the EyeSight feature also get new steering-responsive fog lights. When the fog lights are off, the left or right fog light comes on based on vehicle speed and steering angle for maximum coverage in corners.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@autonews.com -- Follow Diana T. on Twitter: @dianakurylko

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