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June 23, 2015

Review: 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R-S

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Subaru has always been different, catering to a kind of customer who desires something a bit more special than your mainstream sedan or crossover. Time and time again, the company has shown that that strategy has worked. For instance, the XV continues to be a brisk seller compared to the Impreza on which it’s based on. And although they’ve strived to iron out the kinks and smoothen the awkwardness with each new model generation, the intrinsic Subaru difference is still there.

With the all-new 2015 Outback, Subaru has comprehensively reworked it inside and out, without shaking up the formula that made the nameplate a success in the first place. While there’s nothing truly radical about the Outback, it’s still new with a much more refined design. The overall shape has been smoothened out and the proportions tweaked to give it a ruggedly handsome look. It’s still evident that there’s a Legacy somewhere underneath the body cladding, more prominent fog lamps, and roof rails, but you shouldn’t care. Designers have done a great job of making the Outback look complete on its own.

The lovely thing about this tougher looking design is that it’s been done for the sake of function. There’s 220 millimeters of ground clearance on hand (or 213 mm according to the global site) and 500 millimeters of water wading depth, pretty good numbers considering the low overall height of 1,675 millimeters. And although it’s not much larger than the outgoing model, it’s much roomier. It feels absolutely huge with no shortage or head, leg, shoulder, or hip room for both front and rear occupants. In addition, the cabin experience is appreciably of higher quality.

Eschewing the previous model’s fake wood and beige leather seats, the all-new Outback has a more straight-laced cabin with black leather seats, metallic highlights, and piano black inserts. All the materials, especially those that come in contact with the driver or passenger’s hands, are of higher quality with soft-touch paneling. Ergonomically, all the controls are clearly marked and well-placed—a far cry from the “confuse and conquer” layout of its rivals. In front of the driver is a new instrument cluster with binocular-style gauges with a central LCD display. An interesting feature is that the meter rings have a setting that allows you to customize its color (or turn it off). This automatically switches to amber when you slot the shifter to M or Manual mode. The seats also feel plusher and offer power adjustment for the front passengers. The rear seats offer adjustable seat backs in a 60/40 split.

The prehistoric-looking infotainment system has always been a sour point for Subaru, but that problem’s been rectified here. The new large touchscreen features a fresh looking and modern interface complete with gesture controls. It works well and manages good tactile operation thanks to a balance of both physical and touch-sensitive controls. It has robust voice-activated controls, but most importantly, it benefits from usable Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming aside from two USB inputs. Playback is through a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system with a 576-watt GreenEdge amplifier.

It also shines when it comes to cargo carrying capacity. Aside from the larger luggage space than its predecessor, it now has a power tailgate. And if that’s not enough reason to love the Outback, the roof rails come with an ingenious foldaway crossbar for fitting things like luggage racks and bike carriers without the need to purchase a separate accessory. What’s more, they’re rated up to 50 kilograms.

Under the hood, the Outback has a sole engine: the 3.6-liter boxer 6-cylinder engine largely carried over unchanged. Still, the EZ36D engine does benefit from a re-tweaked Mitsubishi ECU instrumental in flattening out its peak torque curve of 350 Nm which is now available from 2,000 to 6,000 rpm. Peak horsepower remains unchanged at 260 horsepower. Mated to this engine is a “high-torque” Lineartronic CVT shared with the WRX. Unlike other CVTs which just drone up the power band, this one’s actually good, mimicking gears complete with shift points thanks to a new kick down algorithm.

The Outback 3.6R-S is plenty powerful and fast with a quoted 0-100 km/h time of just 7.3 seconds. However, the experience is not about copying the WRX. Instead, speed is delivered in a linear and progressive manner. There’s an initial jumpiness to the throttle engagement, but it’s easy to adjust for that. In city traffic, it’s more than enough to keep the Subaru SI Drive to ‘I’ or Intelligent and let the car adjust drivetrain performance for fuel efficiency.

In fact, it feels more than enough even on open roads. However, if you want even more power, you may want to engage ‘S’ or Sport or even ‘S#’ or Sport Sharp on the steering wheel. Not only does the throttle feel lighter, but the CVT alters its ratios. In S, the CVT is kept just below 2,000 rpm, where peak torque occurs. In S#, it’s at 2,000 rpm. Therefore, expect a locomotive-like sensation each time you gun the throttle. This can get tiring during long drives, so again, leave things in Intelligent unless you need that burst of power. And goodness, the boxer-6 sounds great, growling at full throttle while you see your fuel economy dip quickly. In that regard, the Outback still does better than you think doing 6.5 km/L in heavy city traffic, 8.9 km/L in light city traffic, and 13.7 km/L in highway situations.

More than just straight line performance, the Outback is surprisingly good in corners. The electric power steering is somewhat dead on-center, but serves up plenty of feedback during turns. The increased steering ratio makes it feel quite spirited despite the crossover appearance. Toss it around corners and the body rolls, but the degree of stability and confidence provided by the Outback is unmatched by any other midsize SUV or crossover out there. As always, the Symmetrical All-Wheel drive is blissful and invisible, serving up perfect amounts of grip on all four corners all the time. It also has Active Torque Vectoring giving an additional safety net.

On tarmac, the Outback offers a smooth and confident ride enabling it to absorb any and all imperfections with ease and poise. There’s a slight degree of firmness felt from the rear suspension, but it feels much better than any other crossover out there, even those twice its price. Plus, it serves up better driving dynamics even when compared to other executive sedans. It’s mighty quiet too with excellent degree of NVH isolation. What’s more, it’s equally capable off-road as well. Aside from the generous ground clearance, it has X-MODE which alters several vehicle parameters. And though hardcore SUVs would be more appropriate in tackling trails, none can match the capaciousness or efficiency of the Outback, especially when the trail turns to tarmac.

Obviously, you don’t anticipate the all-new Outback doing anything but good for Subaru. It’s been vastly improved in every way. It doesn’t shake up the formula and it isn’t even a great departure from the outgoing model, but that’s all fine. The good-to-drive, ready-to-play nature has always made it very popular to a select few and this new one builds up on that thanks partly to a more aggressive price (P 2,288,000) along with a longer list of features. It also addresses all the negative points of the outgoing model while improving upon what made it good. Say what you want about the Outback’s non-traditional form—in this case, it’s good to be different.

2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R-S
Ownership 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R-S
Year Introduced 2015
Vehicle Classification Mid-sized Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.6
Aspiration NA, EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders F6
BHP @ rpm 260 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 350 @ 4,400
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,815
Width (mm) 1,840
Height (mm) 1,675
Wheelbase (mm) 2,745
Curb Weight (kg) 1,698
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Tires Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport 225/60 R 18 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No, Rear Camera
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Auto Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes, Dual Zone, with Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 12, Harman/Kardon
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. Hello Mr. Ang, I am looking to buy a family MPV and I was wondering which of these two choices is best? The Kia Carens 1.7LX A/T, or the Toyota Innova 2.5V A/T? I'd very much appreciate your input.

    1. Go for innova 2.5v!!! It has Captain seats, GPS navigation and good performance!

  2. Does the kia carens lx a/t come with dual airbags?

  3. Ford Explorer or this??

    1. I'd say get the Subaru Outback unless you really, really, really need the third row seats.

    2. For Inquiries:

      Sales Consultant
      Motor Image Pilipinas, Inc. (SUBARU)
      187 Edsa Greenhills, San Juan City
      Metro Manila 1503, Philippines
      Tel: 09276039220


  5. It's basically a station wagon Legacy on stilts.

  6. Great review, as always! I just want to ask, are those LED DRLs in the headlights or are they just park lights?

    1. They're park lights. Outback and Legacy don't have DRLs.

  7. Why does it say "Subaru Impreza" in the infotainment system?

    1. Because that's the name of my iPod. I keep 2 separate iPods for my private vehicles and I name them to whatever car they're assigned to so I won't get confused. Suffice to say, you know what one of my cars already.

  8. Please review the Legacy sedan.

    1. I've driven it already. Just spacing it. Can't have too may Subaru features at once, right?

    2. Did you drive the 2.5 or the 3.6? Can't wait to read it, sir!

    3. 2.5. The 3.6 was just previewed last Father's Day at Powerplant Mall.

  9. In terms of price, the Outback is almost the same as the Mazda CX9 AWD. Which will be of better value? Or which is the better vehicle overall?

    Since you mentioned the new Legacy 2.5L, how does it stack up with the previous generation Legacy GT 2.5L turbo?

    1. Grabe pang oral recitation ang mga questions. LOLZ!!!

    2. Hahaha, this guy wants it all spoonfed to him. Dude, why can't you just take the time to read all the relevant reviews and make up your own mind? Better yet, take them all out for a test-drive before deciding.

  10. Meh. Still quaffs engine oil like a 2-stroke motorcycle engine, just like all Subaru boxer engines. Heck, it's right there on the owner's manual if you don't believe me. It's doubtful if 3rd-party service centers/talyers can even reliably service boxer engines once your dealer warranty expires...

  11. The interior looks really bland. I wish they'd offer a cheaper option with the turbocharged 2.0L direct injection engine.


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