What is it? Subaru has announced a restyling, engine upgrade and new features for the popular Outback wagon for 2013. The front end has been restyled with new headlights, grille, front bumper, and fog lights, moving the appearance in line with the new Impreza.
The wagon will be powered by an updated 2.5-liter flat-four engine producing 173 hp—up three horsepower from the current version. Final fuel economy numbers are not yet available, but Subaru projects 24 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 26 mpg overall. These figures show an increase compared with the EPA-ratings of 22/29/24 for the previous version. (In our tests, we got 24 mpg overall.) A CVT and six-speed manual transmission will be available. The 3.6R models keep the existing 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine. All Outbacks are equipped with all-wheel drive.
What’s new or notable? The Outback and Legacy models show off Subaru’s new EyeSight driver-assist system, with adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning. The new system uses a stereo camera to provide a detection angle claimed to be wider than radar-based systems.
The Outback Limited models offer a new option with keyless access and start where the driver can unlock the car with a touch of the button, as long as the remote is in their pocket or purse.
The base trim now has an upgraded audio system with Bluetooth capability, iPod and USB port.
CR’s take: The 2013 Outback looks to be an effective update to a strong-performing wagon. In our tests, we found the engine to be noisy when pressed and the handling clumsy. Powertrain upgrades promise a welcomed increase to the already impressive fuel economy, and may change other characteristics. Subaru claims that body roll has been reduced 40 percent through suspension upgrades. We look forward to seeing if the Outback improved in these areas.
When will it be available? Summer 2012.