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Subaru's Outback 2.5 Limited deserves consideration by any driver as it suits a wide variety of needs.

2000 Subaru Outback Road Test
Improvements are Out There

By Bill Roebuck

Subaru's popular Legacy and Outback sedans and wagons were redesigned for 2000 to provide more comfort, safety and power. Virtually every structural member was strengthened and refined and as a result, crash protection has been increased for both front and rear passengers.

The models were very nice cars before, but now are better in many ways. But there are differences between the Legacy and Outback. For the first time, the Outback was developed completely independently from the Legacy right from the design stage. The aim was to enhance its performance and functionality as a sport utility vehicle.

The Outback has 190 mm ground clearance and increased power at low rpms. We experienced the increased performance in test on the rugged Powderface Trail in the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary in the summer of 2000. The handling was tight and the ride smooth, even over the rocks and loose gravel of our spirited test.

A more sloped hood increases road visibility, pillars are angled to reduce dead space, and there's better visibility out the rear window. Drivers can now see objects as low as one meter in height -- about the size of a five-year-old child.

The instrument panel is easy to see and controls are within close reach. A six-way power driver's seat is more supportive and comfortable than the seat in previous models, a welcome improvement. For safety, front airbags are standard, of course, and front-passenger side airbags are standard on the Limited sedan and wagon, and the Legacy Sedan GT. There are headrests for all five seating positions, but it's a pretty tight squeeze to fit three people in the back seat (it's fine for two).

Performance is also a bit peppier because of a redesigned powerplant. The all-new Phase II 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine runs quieter, yet produces more torque in the low and mid ranges. It lets loose with 165 horsepower and a peak torque of 166 ft-lb at 4000 rpm. The single overhead cam design tends to be easier to service and less expensive to maintain than multi-cam engines. The engine is great for any smooth road driving, but our vigorous manoeuvres along the Powderface and through the mountains made us wish for the extra power of a six-cylinder engine. (A 3.0-litre six is now available in the Outback H6 model.) We had no complaints or comments about the excellent automatic or the five-speed manual transmission.

The 2000 Outback is definitely quieter than its predecessor. Overall noise, vibration and harshness have been reduced with a new floating, multi-link rear suspension system that proved to provide dependable traction under all our test conditions. Another advantage of the suspension redesign is that the shock towers do not intrude into the trunk, increasing cargo space.

Subarus get a three-year, 80,000 km warranty, extended to five years and 100,000 km for major components and the power train. A free three-year roadside emergency service package in conjunction with the CAA also is included.

The Outback, like all Subarus, has a very competent full-time all-wheel drive system that's proven it's prowess over several years now.

For 2002, the Outbacks -- the base 2.5 manual-transmission wagon ($31,995), the Limited Wagon ($36,995) and H6-3.0 automatic wagon ($39,995) -- provide a nice balance of ride comfort, good handling and dependable all-wheel-drive traction in a very nice-looking, compact package. They are vehicles you could happily take almost anywhere.

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2002.

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