Subaru loads '15 Outback with technology

The redesigned Outback keeps the same exterior dimensions, but interior room has increased by 2 cubic inches.
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BEND, Ore. -- The rugged but quirky-looking Outback crossover put Subaru on the map when it came out in 1995.

"It has gotten better, bigger and more comfortable over the years, and sales have reflected that," says Peter Tenn, Outback product manager for Subaru of America.

The redesigned 2015 Outback has more interior room, technology and comfort features than its predecessor. But it's still a conservatively styled Subaru.

"It has to look like it can do the things it has to do," said Tenn. "We did not want to have a revolutionary design. It is iconic and a step in the right direction."

The cladding on the bottom has been narrowed, aerodynamics have been improved and fuel economy is better. Subaru used thicker soft-touch materials in the interior to give the crossover a more premium feel and added a 3.5-inch standard center LCD information display.

Subaru has made its collision-preventing EyeSight system available as an option. The system can bring the vehicle to a complete stop at 30 mph. It comes with a 5-inch standard LCD display.

An X-Mode feature is standard and activated by a switch to reduce the spin of individual wheels. It also has hill descent control that maintains a constant speed downhill. Exterior dimensions didn't change, but interior room has increased by 2 cubic inches.

Subaru expects Outback sales of about 12,000 units a month, up from an average of 10,000 vehicles a month for the current generation, executives said.

"We expect this Outback to grow on sales of the previous model," Bill Cyphers, then senior vice president of sales for Subaru of America, said at the press introduction in June. Last year, Subaru sold 118,049 Outbacks.

The basics: Subaru's fifth-generation Outback is built in its factory in Lafayette, Ind. It shares a platform with the Legacy sedan.

The manual transmission has been dropped in favor of a standard continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters. Subaru says this helps fuel economy. On the base model, it's improved to 28 mpg combined, up from 26 mpg in the 2014 model.

A new active grille shutter, which reduces wind resistance when closed, helps aerodynamics. The Outback also has electric power-assisted steering.

A 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine is standard and has 175 hp and 174 pounds-feet of torque. The 3.6-liter six-cylinder Boxer engine is optional and has 256 hp and 247 pounds-feet of torque.

How Outback stacks up
The new Subaru Outback is longer and lighter than the Chevy Equinox.
 2015 Subaru Outback2014 Chevrolet Equinox LS AWD
Wheelbase108.1 in.112.5 in.
Length189.6 in.187.8 in.
Width72.4 in.72.5 in.
Height66.1 in.66.3 in.
Curb weight3,593 lbs.3,926 lbs.
Base engine2.5-liter 4-cylinder Boxer2.4-liter I-4
Horsepower175 hp @ 5,800 rpm182 hp @ 6,700 rpm
Torque, lbs.-ft.174 @ 4,000 rpm172 @ 4,900 rpm
EPA mpg25 city/33 hwy.20 city/29 hwy.
Base price*$25,745$27,065
*includes shipping

Notable features: The Outback has 8.7 inches ground clearance, better than most competitors, including

the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has 8.6 inches.

Blind-spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic detection are available as an option. 

The Outback has the latest version of the EyeSight driver-assist program that uses stereo camera technology and integrates adaptive cruise control, precollision braking and lane departure warning systems to prevent crashes. 

The active torque system has been improved for better traction and steering response in turns and curves. 

A new infotainment system has a 6.2-inch touch screen, and an optional system has a 7-inch screen and also includes six audio speakers, voice controls, vehicle information and a text messaging feature. 

What Subaru says: "We are selling everything we get and selling everything we make," says spokesman Michael McHale. "We believe it is the most competitive CUV and does things other CUVs can't."

Shortcomings and compromises: The Outback isn't flashy -- and it isn't terribly fast with a 0 to 60 mph time of 9.3 seconds, down from 10.3 seconds for the 2014 model. It doesn't pretend to be a super sporty crossover.

The market: The Outback competes with a variety of

compact and mid-sized rivals including the Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevy Equinox, Toyota Venza and Jeep Grand Cherokee. 

The skinny: The Outback is a rugged crossover meant for on- and off-road driving and hauling sports gear such as kayaks and bikes. And that's what buyers want, says Subaru. 

They also want durability and safety -- a key selling factor. Subaru estimates 97 percent of all Outbacks sold are still on the road.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@crain.com. -- Follow Diana on Twitter


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