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October 28, 2012

Subaru Outback beats winter with style

Now as we approach November, winter mobility should be the most notable attribute tied to the Subaru Outback. After all, the versatile, affordable, all-wheel-drive wagon is nearly legendary around here for its abilities to track through snow and all the related winter muck we’re just now girding to greet.

But the Outback I evaluated last week screamed to be recognized for two aspects far apart from its road-gripping, snow-fighting prowess. First, both inside and outside the Outback, I felt the distinction and pride-of-possession you get when you drive a premium auto. The quality and finish of the automobile, its details and overall bearing, struck me as subtlety luxurious.

Of course, I drove a version at the top of the range for Outback, with a sticker price that tallied $34,202. At that level you naturally get richer details and more pampering features. But it takes solid fundamentals beneath the add-ons to make a model really shine. Those fundamental qualities must also inhabit more basic Outback versions. The four-door, all-wheel-drive crossover wagon starts with a list price below $25,000.

The second screaming attribute I found was the advanced level of assisting technologies installed in the car. The 2013 Outback uses a new Subaru navigation system – available with option packages starting at $2,645 on the $30,000, Limited trim level. The guidance set-up features a seven-inch LCD touchscreen. It responds to voice commands, and it receives weather and traffic updates from SirusXM NavTraffic, a monthly subscription service, with the first four months covered in the option price.

A bigger eye-opener is the warning and control system Subaru calls EyeSight Driver-Assist. It’s part of a $3,940 option package that also gets you the navigation system and a moon roof. EyeSight performs pre-collision braking, warns about lane drift, and provides adaptive cruise control that automatically keeps a set distance between cars. Subaru advertises that at lower speeds, the system detects pedestrians and other obstacles and can even stop the Outback completely. At higher speeds it waits for you to make evasive maneuvers before easing off the gas and applying the brakes.

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