Tom Crosby: 2017 Subaru Outback Touring gets top trim upgrade

Tom Crosby

Subaru, with its all-wheel-drive and award-winning driver safety technology, has improved its best-selling vehicle, the mid-size Outback, adding major enhancements to the 2017 five-passenger SUV.

While the basic design and two-engine choice remains the same as the 2015 fifth-generation platform, this year’s 2.5i (4-cylinder engine) Touring becomes top trim above the base 2.5i, 2.5i Premium and 2.5i Limited. (There are also 3.6R – 6-cylinder engine –  Limited and Touring trims.)

Our 2.5i Touring cabin showed extra posh with Java Brown leather-trimmed upholstery with contrasting ivory stitching, wood grain interior touches and flawless fit and finish. With comfortable seats, excellent all-around driver visibility with 8.7-inch ground clearance and a well-integrated six-speed continuously variable transmission, drivers may be forgiven if they get lulled into paying less attention to the road.

Their safety net is the award-winning EyeSight®, which has vaulted Outback into top tier for crash and driver safety after government and insurance industry testing. Our no-option test drive provided adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert with automatic braking, pedestrian detection and lane departure warning. High beam assist lowered beams automatically for approaching vehicles. Named for outback regions in Australia to illustrate its more than adequate off-road capability, the symmetrical AWD drive-train hugs curves, oozes confidence on icy roads, adjusts torque, wheel spin and power as needed on and off-road.

The Outback isn’t quick – which helps it achieve a good miles-per-gallon rating – but confidently goes places more powerful vehicles cannot. Combined with responsive sedan-like handling, Outback’s pleasurable ride comes via a MacPherson-type strut front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension.

Outside changes this year include a dark gray grille, 18-inch shiny alloy wheels, silver-finish roof rails, low body side cladding and chrome badging.

Inside, heated front and rear seats were comfortable with plenty of leg and headroom, gauges were easy to read and the steering wheel heated. The automaker’s STARLINK system uses a 7-inch touch screen that allows swipes and scrolling like an iPad, text messaging, iTunes tagging and access to popular apps via a smartphone with a nice cellphone holder. Audio via a 12-speaker Harman Kardon system with subwoofer was clear and noise-mitigation good. Rear seats recline and fold flat and the powered tailgate reveals an ample-sized trunk with a spare tire. Visors are extendable.

The 2017 Outback’s future residual (resale) value was ranked tops in the mid-size crossover class by ALG, the analytics division of TrueCar, Inc.

LIKES: Safety aids, interior, quiet, ride, roomy, visibility

DISLIKES: Poor acceleration

BOTTOM LINE: Luxury blended with top safety aids, plus performance

FACT FILE

SUBARU OUTBACK 2.5i TOURING 2017

Base price w/destination fee: $36,870 (as tested, no options).

Vehicle weight: 3,684 lbs.

Wheelbase: 108.1 inches.

Length: 189.6 inches.

Width 72.4 inches.

Engine: 2.5-liter, 4 cylinders, DOHC, BOXER.

Horsepower: 175 hp at 5,800 rpm.

Torque: 174 lbs.-ft. at 4,000 rpm.

Transmission: Continuous variable Lineatronic® transmission/paddle shifters.

EPA rating: 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway.

Range: 18.5-gallon tank, regular.

Performance: 0-60 in little over 9 seconds.

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.