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2019 subaru Outback

Essentially a wagon version of the Legacy sedan with additional ground clearance and SUV-flavored styling cues, the Subaru Outback offers a roomy cabin, a sure-footed all-wheel-drive system, and excellent fuel economy relative to its size.

Recent changes
For the latest model year, the Legacy gains more standard features including electronic driving aids and a 6.5-inch touch screen. It's also more expensive.

Overview
Though it debuted before the term had been coined, in retrospect the original Outback was one of the first crossover vehicles to hit the market. The original model combined efficient and relatively light car-based components with the styling, elevated ride height, and versatility buyers had come to appreciate in SUVs.

Several decades and redesigns later, the Outback continues to deliver that same cocktail of characteristics, albeit with a host of modern updates. Outside, the familiar rugged, SUV-like styling cues are in evidence, including oversized fog lights, imitation skid plates and tough-looking black plastic trim. But the overall look is sleeker than it was in the past thanks to details like shapely headlights, crisp lines, and a handsome hexagonal grille.

Inside, the clean, functional dashboard houses a 6.5-inch touchscreen that integrates Bluetooth connectivity, the audio system, Subaru's Starlink infotainment system, and navigation when equipped. Starlink provides access to Aha, which offers tens of thousands of stations of Web-based content like Slacker, MOG, and Rhapsody. Starlink can also help keep Subaru owners stay connected to the social network via Facebook and Twitter news feeds in audio.

Mid- and high-end models get a larger 7.0-inch display with extras like text messaging capability and iTunes tagging, and both setups offer tablet- and smartphone-inspired swipe and scrolling gesture functionality.

High-quality materials adorn the Outback's cabin, while passengers both front and rear enjoy space to stretch out. Cargo capacity is also a major Outback strong suite - 35.3 cubic feet of storage space are available behind the rear seats, expanding to a cavernous 73.3 cubes with the rear seats folded flat.

Technical specifications
Like all Subaru models except the lightweight BRZ sports car, the Outback comes standard with all-wheel-drive. In combination with an SUV-like 8.7-inches of ground clearance, the drivetrain is a boon for wet and wintry-weather traction.

The Outback's entry-level engine is a 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder that produces 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. While that's middling power for the segment, the mill does return 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway - those are impressive figures that best what some smaller, front-wheel-drive crossovers can eke out.

More power can be had by choosing the optional 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder, which churns out 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft. The big six is good for 20/27 mpg.

All Outbacks feature a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Trim Level Breakdown
The Outback is offered in six trim levels called 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 3.6R Limited, and 3.6R Touring.

The entry-level 2.5i comes standard with A/C, cruise control, Starlink Bluetooth connectivity, a 6.2-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD Radio stereo with AUX and USB inputs, automatic headlights and windshield wipers and 17-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.

To those features, the 2.5i Premium adds heated front seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, two extra speakers for the sound system, SirusXM satellite radio and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The 2.5i Limited brings leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable front passenger's seat, heated rear seats, imitation matte wood trim, a power rear tailgate, a 12-speaker, 576-watt Harmon Kardon premium stereo, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, a proximity key and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The 3.6R mirrors the 2.5i Limited's features but adds the more powerful six-cylinder motor.

Finally, both Touring models benefits from a dark gray grille, 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome accents, specific roof rails, brown leather upholstery, wood trim, piano black inserts, and a heated steering wheel.

Occupant Safety
All Outback models come standard with dual front, front side, front seat cusion, and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.

Subaru groups its electronic driving aids under the name EyeSight. The system includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and throttle management, lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. EyeSight comes standard on every trim level.

Key competitors
The wagon is a dying breed in the United States. However, Outback buyers can also look at the Volvo V60 Cross Country, the Buick Regal TourX, the smaller Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, and the more expensive BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon.