Few vehicles have played a more important role in the transformation of a brand as has the Subaru Outback, so it’s no surprise the Japanese maker has so much riding on the all-new model making its debut at the New York International Auto Show.
The launch of the new 2015 Subaru Outback comes five generations and exactly 20 years after the original crossover was launched in the Big Apple. And much has changed over the years. The Legacy has gotten larger, roomier, more powerful and more lavishly equipped with each remake. That holds true this time around, noted Tom Doll, President and COO of the maker’s U.S. subsidiary.
“The 2015 Outback hasn’t forgotten its roots,” he proclaimed, “but it’s reaching for the stars.”
The exterior of the 2015 model reflects Subaru’s ambitions to boost sales and make the remake seem a bit more “premium.” It takes on a faster-looking silhouette, with a slimmer A-pillar that improves visibility. One thing not immediately visible: aerodynamics-enhancing active grille shutters.
The new model actually shares the same exterior dimensions as the old Outback but gets a larger cabin for front and rear-seat passengers, as well as their cargo. And those sitting in back can now get heated rear seats and air conditioning.
If faulted in past, critics felt the Outback interior was a bit Spartan. Now a bit more premium feel with the use of better materials, including soft-touch fabrics, thicker cushioning and improved center console and other trim give the new Outback a more premium feel.
“Winners always have to innovate to stay ahead,” Doll said.
Or at least keep even, which is what the company did with its new infotainment system. Using a 6.2-inch touchscreen, the Outback incorporates the Subaru STARLINK smartphone integration with Aha Infotainment, Pandora Radio and iHeart Radio; Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming; iPod control capability, USB port and aux. input jack.
An upgraded system is available that adds a six-speaker audio system; 7-inch touch screen display with multi-touch control that offers swipe and scrolling gesture control; voice-activated controls; SiriusXM satellite radio; a vehicle information display; SMS text messaging, iTunes tagging capability and dual USB ports.
A new high-end audio system standard for Outback Limited combines an AM/FM/HD Radio system with a harman/kardon upgraded 576-Watt-equivalent GreenEdge amplifier. The system’s 12 harman/kardon speakers include a front center speaker and a rear subwoofer. GreenEdge technology provides increased audio performance and amplifier efficiency while consuming less power and reducing heat dissipation.
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The available navigation system’s interactive voice command system accepts natural language and phrases, and this functionality can also operate the dual-zone automatic climate control system.
While getting places in comfort is important, Subaru’s mainstay is more economical than ever when it comes to its mileage ratings. The Outback provides drivers a choice of two Boxer engines: a 2.5-liter four cylinder producing 175 horsepower and delivering 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined or a 3.6-liter V6 putting out 256 hp and mileage ratings of 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 22 combined. The ratings represent improvements compared with their predecessors.
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Both engines are mated to Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT. Since the CVT doesn’t shift, the ride is smoother and it provides a boost to the car’s fuel economy. The selectable mode gives drivers six pre-selected options and allows motorist to use the paddle shifters for additional control.
Also known for its safety, the maker continues to try to remain ahead of the competition this year by adding new front seat-cushion airbags that help to keep occupants in place in a frontal collision. Subaru will not need to worry about complying with the newly minted rules regarding rear-view cameras: all trim lines come standard with a rear-view camera. A new rollover sensor can deploy the side curtain airbags if an imminent rollover is detected is also standard equipment.
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A slew of optional equipment, such as EyeSight, which uses Subaru-developed stereo camera technology and integrates Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking and Vehicle Lane Departure Warning, as well as its other standard equipment has the 2015 Outback on track to achieve the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award, as the 2014 Outback did, the company said.
Michael Strong contributed to this report.