Since it was introduced with wacky Crocodile Dundee advertising in the late ‘90s, the Subaru Outback has set the standard for all-capable station wagons, predicting the wave of crossovers that have drowned out family sedans and mini-vans. Over the generations, they have become more refined, more capable, and in the case of our 2024 Touring edition, a credible luxury car.
I’ve been looking forward to this review because my family has owned two Outbacks – a 2017 Premium and the 2022 Wilderness we drive now. They’ve been fantastic cars for our family, comfortable on long drives between Indianapolis and Dallas to see relatives, plenty of space for my daughter’s gear, and all-road capability when snow tumbles down. I especially like the jacked ride height, black trim, and turbo engine on our Wilderness. But, for our next Outback, we might be ready for something even more luxurious and not as exuberant.
All Outbacks were updated for 2024 with a bit more of that Wilderness style in gray plastic on the front bumpers, more aggressive wheelwell accents, and fortified lower body cladding. The black grille and headlamps were restyled too. Chrome window trim, satin silver mirror caps, faux skid plates front/rear, and 18” wheels add bling to Touring editions. Unlike on my Wilderness, the roof rack has extendable cross bars built in so it’s super easy to attach bicycles, kayaks, and roof carriers (Wilderness racks are specially fortified for roof tents).
Even if you’ve driven luxury brands for years, you’ll be impressed with the Touring’s interior. Soft brown Nappa leather upholsters the seats while contrasting stitched panels pad the dash and doors. Caress the soft leather-wrapped steering wheel too. All outboard positions get heated seats while the fronts add ventilation and drivers luxe out with extendable lower cushions. Outback seats have always been comfy, but these supportive soft thrones rival Volvo.
But, that’s just what makes the Touring special. The large tablet-style touchscreen comes on all Outbacks and is easy to use with swipe capability and redundant buttons for key climate functions. Proper volume and tuning knobs are appreciated. Connect phones via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Add to that Harman Kardon audio and a power sunroof. I wish Subaru would add a dual-pane roof and head-up display, but safety is enhanced with adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and rear cross path detection with auto brake.
One of the biggest surprises in my Outback that’s shared with the Touring XT is its powertrain. The 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine dishes 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. I don’t love the Outback’s continuously variable transmission, but the turbo eliminates the buzziness. It’s quite pleasant on the highway. It’s also a surprising barn stormer, able to rip 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds – comparable to early ‘90s Corvettes. All that, and it achieves 22/29-MPG city/highway.
All-wheel-drive is standard and incorporates torque-vectoring to sharpen corners. X-Mode further configures the powertrain for steep slippery trails and engages hill descent control to modulate throttle and brakes downhill. Off trail, it just rumbles over rough pavement without a squeak and soaks up long highway miles like a luxury sedan. Turning is especially sharp whether carving trails or wedging into a tight garage.
Perhaps the best part of the Outback is its price, which is more comparable to compact crossovers than the mid-size crossover it is. Base models start under $29,000 with our lavishly equipped Touring coming to $42,795. Compare that to the Chevy Blazer, Kia Sorento, Volvo XC60, Honda Passport, Nissan Murano, and Ford Edge.
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