One way to see the Outback

Subaru wagon has all terrains covered

Even in this mildest of Midwest winters, the 2012 Outback proves to be a strong choice. Sharing components with the Subaru Legacy sedan, this wagon compares favorably to crossovers with the handling of a traditional car. Full-time all-wheel drive is ready for adverse conditions. Five passengers get plenty of head and leg room. A large cargo area is enhanced by rear seats that fold flat. Add it up and the Outback scores in good weather as well as it does in bad.

Outbacks were redesigned in 2010 and changes for this year were relegated primarily to sound with Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio. As it is, with base prices starting at $23,295, there are plenty of standard features from the essential, including an antiskid system, to the convenient like steering wheel audio controls, to the bonus items like illuminated visor mirrors. Base, Premium and Limited trims are offered, with the high-end Limited topping out at $31,695.

The standard engine is a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. I found this, when combined with a continuously variable transmission, to be more than adequate to move nearly two tons. Just in case your needs are greater, there is a 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Because there are also 6-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions offered, there are also three all-wheel drive options as Subaru subtly makes adjustments for the best driving experience.

And it’s that driving experience that is a plus for the Outback. In severe winter conditions or over dry pavement, this Subaru is worthy of consideration from the coast to the heartland.

David Mikesell is a free-lance automotive reviewer based in Indianapolis. Read this review and others like it at

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