By July 24, 2006

2005 Subaru Outback Review never know what I’m going to get when I rent a car in San Francisco. I always request a four-door intermediate car, and I have been given that type of car exactly once in seven visits. After my very delayed flight out to SFO, Hertz informed me that they’d given away my car to someone else, but I could take either a minivan or a Subaru Outback. I chose the Outback, not only because it was the lesser of two evils, but because I’d owned a 2004 Impreza WRX sedan three years ago. I like Subarus, despite their ugly appearance.

My Outback was “satin white pearl,” and the exterior color said it all: this was going to be a bland, yet capable, rental.

Based off of the Legacy platform, the Outback is larger than my WRX and is a decent people mover. I was able to put four co-workers in it with minimal complaining. The cargo room was large enough to eat six bags of carry-on luggage (well, five plus a big ass rolling bag). The front was plenty big for me, I stand 6′ tall and didn’t have to move the seat all the way. I didn’t spend time in the back, so I can’t tell you how the legroom is back there. My passengers were all under 6′, and I think their pleas and cries were due to my driving, not to cramped legs.

Subaru Outback InteriorThe Outback’s interior was a drab tan color, with cloth interior. I tell you, the more I drive leather-seated cars, the more I like cloth interiors. The steering wheel was sparsely appointed, devoid of any cruise, stereo, or weaponry controls. I liked it that way, there’s too much shit on steering wheels these days. The instrument panel was easy to read, and the center console controls were well laid out, in sharp contrast to the Buick Rendevous. Controls for the multi-stage heated seats were located on the console between the driver and the front passenger. The heated seat control is a wheel that allows the occupant to dial in their preferred level of heating. I’m not a fan of this system. One of my passengers managed to turn their heater on by accident, probably by brushing up against the wheel. I would have preferred the system used on my MINI Cooper S: one click for the first level, two clicks for the second level, and a third click to turn the heater off.

The weather was beautiful in San Fran, so I didn’t get a chance to test out the air conditioning all that much. I think I had it on twice; once while making a phone call and once while I had passengers who wanted to talk to each other (go figure). I had the AC on for about ten minutes max each time, but it seemed to be adequate.

Performance was what I came to expect of Subaru’s famous flat-four: torquey, but a poor off-the-line starter due to the all wheel drive. The Outback I rented had the base engine, turbo models and larger engines are available for more real ultimate power. The throttle was fairly responsive for an automatic. I was very impressed at the Subaru’s acceleration when in “sport” or manual-tiptronic mode. I only rode in the least-power but most-effecient default mode when I was on the highway.

The transmission was my favorite part of the car. As I alluded, the Outback had three modes: default, “sport,” and tiptronic. The sport mode does all the shifting for you, but provides more aggressive acceleration than the default mode. The tiptronic mode allows you to shift up or down sequentially through the gearbox. It allows you the most control over the car’s transmission. I still haven’t figured out how to compression brake in one of these, though.

So, everything’s hugs and kisses in Subaru Outback Reviewland, eh? Not quite. Aside from the sketchy seat warmer controls, I had two gripes about the Outback. The first one is minor and probably won’t be encountered by someone who buys an Outback on purpose. Just like in my WRX, there is a LOT of body roll around corners at high speed. I think it’s due to the car’s geometry and also due to the lack of any sway bars or stabilizers. If you’re concerned about body roll, chances are you won’t have selected the Outback as your chariot of choice. I am mentioning it because I drive like a ninja on acid and because apparently body roll is a Subaru “feature.”

The second transgression is almost unforgivable. If I were in the market for a sport utility wagon/crossover, I would have nixed the Outback because of this. When locked, the doors will not open without using the electric unlock switch. If you pull on the door handle, nothing. Pushing up manually on the lock? Nada. You have to use the power lock switch. This is fucking unbelievable. Paranoid as I am, I can imagine body-rolling into the bay and watching in horror as the electrical system shorts out underwater. Good thing I’ve been lifting and could bust out the windshield with one heroic KEEEEYAH. Maybe my car had a problem with it, perhaps an Outback-owning Gibberish reader can come to this otherwise nice car’s defense.

All-wheel Drive In the Forty Gigawatt Range

  • No bullshit, dependable transportation.
  • No frills, highly functional controls.
  • Plain, comfortable interior.
  • Surprisingly peppy performance for a naturally aspirated station wagon, I even managed to break the tires loose around a corner.
  • Decent room for a young family of four or two adults and one mid-sized babyhuman.
  • Three-stage transmission almost makes an automatic fun to drive.
  • Great car for people who just want to get the job done.

Just What You See, Pal

  • Proprietary center console layout makes replacing the stock stereo a major headache, if not an impossibility. You have to be pretty fucking bad to make Delphi look like a modular system.
  • Odd heated seat controls.
  • More body roll than a late night movie on Cinemax.
  • Don’t ever lose power while locked in your Outback. Holy shit, this must be an oversight.

2005 Subaru Outback, I sequentially upshift
Four out of five STFU mugs!

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5 Comments on "2005 Subaru Outback Review"

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  1. Ed says:

    Only open through using power lock. That fits into some of my worst nightmares…

    (And the glass is well treated and shatterproof. With my luck it would even be bulletproof…)

  2. Bond says:

    “Don’t ever lose power while locked in your Outback. Holy shit, this must be an oversight.”

    I guess it depends who’s in the car with me πŸ˜‰ Could be the start of my own late night cinemax.

  3. roclar says:

    Life Hammer to the rescue!

  4. Not to pick nits, but the car you show in the photo there is an Outback Sport, which is based on the Impreza (just like the WRX), and not the larger Legacy platform.

    Still, a nice car (I own a 2002 WRX Wagon). πŸ™‚

  5. drfaulken says:

    Thanks Josh πŸ™‚ I had a hard time finding a picture of the white Legacy wagon and didn’t check what I found properly.

    This depicts my rental more accurately, even though the color is off.