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Roseville, Calif. – It’s considered a sport utility vehicle, but could easily be mistaken for a wagon. I’m guessing the folks at Subaru could care less how the 2017 Subaru Outback is categorized: as long as it sells.

And regardless of looks – which are appealing – there are many good selling points for the latest version of the Outback. It has solid off-road capability, yet also performs well around town and on road trips. There’s sizable cargo area, standard all-wheel drive, it’s technological, and is loaded with safety features.

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A compact crossover SUV, the Outback would be considered a midsize vehicle if labeled a wagon. Many consider the Outback a wagon version of the Subaru Legacy sedan.

Despite its low roofline, off-roaders will enjoy the Outback because it has 8.7 inches of ground clearance. The X-Mode is standard and aids the Outback in maintaining stability on difficult off-road situations. It also features the Hill Descent Control, a great ally that aids braking during steep descents.

Standard features in the basic Outback model include: all-wheel drive; 17-inch alloy wheels; automatic headlights; rearview camera; roof rails; tilt-and-telescoping steering; 60/40 split-folding rear seat; Bluetooth connectivity; 6.2-inch touchscreen interface; four-speaker sound system, CD player; auxiliary audio jack; USB/iPod interface; and smartphone-integration apps.

There are six Outback trim levels – 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 3.6R Limited and 3.6R Touring.

There isn’t much competition for the Subaru Outback. Some rivals include the Audi Allroad, Volvo XC70 and the new Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, the only other rugged wagon-type vehicle that comes with all-wheel drive.

2017 Subaru Outback

  • Performance: 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 175 horsepower; 3.6-liter, six-cylinder, 256 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 25-32 mpg; 20-27 mpg
  • Price estimate: $26,500 to $37,000
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/36,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited

In normal driving situations, the Outback rides tall and features a level of comfort and refinement. It has a quiet cabin and like most crossover SUVs, delivers car-like driving qualities.

Most Subaru vehicles are not very performance laden. The Outback with the smaller engine – 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that produces 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque – provides underwhelming performance, evidenced by being clocked in 9.6 seconds going 0-60 mph.

However, equipped with the 3.6-liter, six-cylinder that generates 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque, and the Outback demonstrates good acceleration in practically all situations. It gets 20-27 mpg, while the smaller engine means fewer trips to the pumps (25-32 mpg).

A strong overall interior is a quality the Outback possesses. It has good leg room for all five passengers, but headroom is not as generous due to the low roofline. The cargo area has 35.5 cubic feet of space and more than doubles (73.3 cubic feet) with the second row down.

Subaru delivers a lot of quality across the board in its vehicle lineup and the Outback is no exception. It’s a versatile SUV-wagon that offers good overall value, especially if you’re shopping for some off-road capability.

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