2013 Subaru Outback Review and Prices

Last Updated: Nov 1, 2011

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2013 Subaru Outback Buying Advice

The 2013 Subaru Outback is the best car for you if you want a station wagon styled like a midsize crossover SUV or, depending on your perspective, a crossover SUV that drives like a station wagon.

The 2013 Subaru Outback should continue with few alterations pending what likely will be a modest makeover for model-year 2014. Tweaks to incrementally boost power or fuel economy are possible 2013-model upgrades. So is addition of some technology features to help keep it competitive with newer rivals. The 2013 Outback will continue as essentially a higher-riding station-wagon version of the Subaru Legacy sedan and as such, remain a surprisingly capable alternative to more overtly trucky midsize crossover SUVs.

Should you wait for the 2013 Subaru Outback or buy a 2012 Subaru Outback? Buy a 2012 Outback. The 2013 version isn’t likely to change in any ways worth delaying a purchase, and buying one would saddle you with styling that’ll have a short shelf life, looking a little outdated once the facelifted 2014 Outbacks arrive. Buying a 2012 Outback would sidestep that minor drawback, but avoid a larger one: the almost inevitable model-year price inflation.

2013 Subaru Outback Changes back to top

Styling: The 2013 Subaru Outback should carry over cosmetically intact. It’ll continue with the puffed-up-wagon look it adopted with its most recent redesign in model-year 2010. Indeed, Outbacks are essentially Legacy sedans with an elongated wagon body, additional ground clearance, and SUV-inspired styling cues.

This is a formula that’s worked well for Subaru since it helped pioneer the crossover concept with the original 1995 Outback. Critics initially derided the Outback as a poseur riding the coattails of “bona fide” SUVs – those based on truck frames. Subaru’s crossover nonetheless became a hit with buyers who preferred something more rugged looking than the average wagon but didn’t want to drive what essentially was a truck. The basic formula continues in this fourth-generation Outback, and it’s been copied by myriad other automakers.

The 2013 Outback’s body will continue at roughly 4.5-inches taller and nearly 2-inches longer than the Legacy’s. Expect blacked-out lower front, rear, and side fascias to again help give it a more-rugged looking appearance. It should continue with a generous 8.7 inches of ground clearance, some 3 inches more than the Legacy sedan and nearly an inch more than such competitors as the Camry-based Toyota Venza and the Honda Accord Crosstour. And while ground clearance will again approach that of some genuine off-road-ready truck-based SUVs, such as the Toyota 4Runner, the 2013 Outback will remain aimed mostly at traversing varied terrain and deep snow, not hard-core rock crawling. At that, it’s always been surprisingly adept. 

The 2013 Subaru Outback will also continue to share its basic interior treatment with the Legacy. It’ll remain roomy and comfortable, with ample headroom and a generous 37.8 inches of rear-seat legroom. That should again be on a par with the Honda Crosstour and only about an inch below competitors like the Venza, Chevrolet Equinox, and Ford Edge, all of which feature somewhat longer wheelbases. The distance between the front and rear axles, wheelbase is a factor in how much passenger room a given vehicle supplies, and Outback makes optimal use of it.

The 2013 Subaru Outback’s interior should continue to make extensive use of high-quality materials to give it a rich look and feel and include no less than eight cupholders. Expect a simple dashboard design, large, readable gauges, and a no-nonsense layout of buttons and dials. When fitted with the optional GPS navigation system, the top-center of the dash should again feature an 8-inch color LCD touchscreen display.

No reason the 2013 Outback’s seating shouldn’t remain supportive, with cloth upholstery standard and leather exclusive to the top-line Limited models. The rear seatbacks will continue to recline for added comfort and fold flat on a 60/40-split basis for cargo-carrying flexibility. The 2013 Subaru Outback should again deliver a generous 34.3 feet of storage space behind the rear seats and expand to a voluminous 71.3 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded flat.

Expect a six-model 2013 Subaru Outback lineup consisting of three four-cylinder versions labeled 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, and 2.5i Limited and three six-cylinder editions tabbed 3.6R, 3.6R Premium, and 3.6R Limited. Body-colored mirrors and 17-inch tires on alloy wheels should continue among the few visual differences separating 2.5i Premium and 3.6R models from the entry-level 2.5i Outback, which likely will continue with black mirrors and 16-inch tires on steel wheels.

Mechanical: The 2013 Subaru Outback almost certainly will reprise a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine for the 2.5i-series models and a 3.6-liter six-cylinder for the 3.6R-series versions.

Expect the four-cylinder to continue with 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque and the six to repeat at 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. (Torque is the force behind an engine’s acceleration; all else being equal, more torque makes one engine feel quicker than another.)

For those who prefer control over convenience, a six-speed manual transmission will probably remain standard on the 2013 Outback 2.5i and 2.5i Premium models. Optional on those models and standard on the 2.5i Limited would be Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

A CVT utilizes a belt and variable-width pulleys designed to create an efficient balance of acceleration and fuel economy. A CVT delivers power more or less seamlessly, though the lack of shift points and the engine’s propensity to run at high rpm during heavy throttle application can be annoying. Despite a lack of physical gears, Subaru’s Lineratronic CVT should again be capable of mimicking manual-type gear control via steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The 2013 Subaru Outback 3.6R, 3.6R Premium, and 3.6R Limited versions should continue with a conventional five-speed automatic as their only transmission. As with the CVT, it’ll again include a manual mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. But its continued presence will put the 2013 Outback further out of step with top crossover rivals, virtually all of which use automatics with at least six speeds. In transmissions, the greater the number of gear ratios, the better the chance to maximize engine performance and fuel economy.

Subaru tradition dictates that both engines again be of a so-called boxer design. This configures the cylinder banks in horizontal opposition, as opposed to conventional inline or V-shaped arrangements. Porsche is the only other mainstream automaker to feature horizontally opposed engines. The intent is a lower center of gravity which, in turn, contributes to inherently better handling characteristics.

The boxer-engine design should again combine with a four-wheel independent suspension to give the 2013 Outback ride and handling among the best of any midsize crossover SUV in their price range.

Aside from the 2013 Subaru BRZ, a rear-wheel-drive sports coupe the company is building in conjunction with Toyota, the 2013 Outback and every other car from this Japanese automaker will come standard with all-wheel drive (AWD). Subaru customizes the AWD application to suit Outback’s particular powertrains.

The AWD system used in manual-transmission 2.5i models should again lock into a 50/50 front/rear torque split if wheel slippage is detected. That used with the CVT will redirect this ratio on a continual basis. The more-sophisticated AWD system that should again come in 2013 Outback 3.5R models normally sends slightly more power to the rear wheels (a 45/55 percent split) to afford a sportier rear-drive feel, again redistributing the torque as needed to maintain traction.

Features: The 2013 Subaru Outback probably won’t see many, if any, added features, though some content may shift among trim levels or option packages.

Standard safety features should again include torso-protecting front side airbags and head-protecting side curtain airbags for all outboard positions. The 2013 Outback will continue to come standard with stability control (required in all vehicles by federal safety regulations); Subaru calls its system Vehicle Dynamics Control, and it helps prevent the vehicle from skidding out of control during extreme or emergency handling maneuvers. Traction control is also certain to be included to help the vehicle get moving on wet or snowy surfaces.

The 2013 Subaru Outback should continue to come well equipped with all the basics covered in its 2.5i and 3.6R base models. Expect Premium editions of both series to again add such conveniences as a power driver’s seat, cargo cover, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and rear privacy glass.

Top-of-the-line 2012 Outback Limited versions should again include amenities such as heated front seats and side mirrors, power passenger’s seat, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, woodgrain dashboard trim, and windshield wiper de-icers.

All models will again include Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity with steering-wheel control buttons. The audio upgrade is likely to reprise a harmon/kardon system with XM satellite radio.

Depending on model, available options should again include a power moonroof that comes bundled with a rear backup camera whose display is integrated into an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A voice-controlled navigation setup that incorporates the backup camera display into the dashboard screen will return, but may again be offered only on Limited models.

2013 Subaru Outback Prices back to top

Prices for the 2013 Subaru Outback should remain close to their model-year 2012 levels and keep this crossover competitive with other midsize five-passenger AWD SUVs. That suggests a 2013 Outback base-price range of roughly $24,350-$32,950. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Subaru’s fee for the 2012 Outback was $775.)

Estimated base price for the 2013 Outback 2.5i is $24,550 with the six-speed manual transmission and $25,350 with the CVT automatic. Estimated starting price for the 20-13 Outback 2.5i Premium model is $25,850 with manual transmission and $26,850 with the CVT. Expect the 2013 Outback 2.5i Limited to start at about $29,850.

Estimated base price for the 2013 Outback 3.6R is $29,350. Expect the 2013 Outback 3.6R Premium to start around $30,600 and the 2013 3.6R Limited to be priced from roughly $32,950.

Among key 2013 Outback options, expect the $500 All-Weather Package to again bundle heated front seats, heated side mirrors, and windshield wiper de-icers.

The same package with the power moonroof/backup camera added should cost about $2,000, around $1,800 with the harmon/kardon stereo, and about $3,250 packaged with both. The moonroof/backup camera on Limited models should cost about $1,450, with a package including the moonroof and navigation system/backup camera going for around $3,000.

2013 Subaru Outback Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2013 Subaru Outback weren’t available in time for this review. Subaru could recalibrate various powertrain elements or even specify lower rolling-resistance tires for the 2013 Outback. Even with such measures, don’t expect a huge jump over the crossover’s model-year 2012 mileage ratings.

That suggests the 2012 Outback 2.5i series should rate around 19/27 mpg city/highway and 22 mpg combined city/highway with manual transmission and 22/29/24 mpg with the CVT.

Expect the six-cylinder 3.6R models to rate around 18/25 city/highway, 20 mpg combined.

2013 Subaru Outback Release Date back to top

The 2013 Subaru Outback should reach dealers’ showrooms in fall 2012.

What's next for the 2013 Subaru Outback back to top

The Subaru Outback, along with the Legacy sedan upon which it’s based, is expected to undergo a midcycle update for the 2014 model year. This won’t be a full redesign, but more of a freshening that probably will involve modestly reworked front- and rear-end styling. One or more new wheel designs, some gauge and/or dashboard revisions, and a few new features should round out the revisions. A completely redesigned Subaru Outback and Legacy probably won’t come to market until model-year 2016.

Whatever Subaru has in the works for the next-generation Outback, don’t expect the automaker to tinker much with a successful formula. This crossover will likely remain similar in size and shape. More infotainment and connectivity features will be available to help attract younger and tech-savvy buyers. Advanced safety features such as blind-spot detection and lane-departure-warning systems are likely to be on tap, as will collision-mitigation technology.

The most significant mechanical changes to a redesigned Outback will likely be made with improved fuel economy in mind, particularly to help Subaru meet stricter federal requirements that will phase in through the 2016 model year.

The next-generation Outback will probably make extensive use of weight-saving materials; shedding pounds helps boost a car’s fuel economy. More efficient engines and transmissions should also be part of the mix. Expect a turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder engine to replace the current six-cylinder. A smaller-displacement four-cylinder -- perhaps a version of the Subaru Impreza compact’s 2.0-liter – could become the next-generation Outback’s base engine.

A six-speed manual transmission will likely continue to come standard in one or more versions, with the CVT possibly remaining in the line as an alternative with the standard engine. The optional automatic transmission will come with at least six forward speeds, maybe more, as a fuel-saving measure. An automatic start-stop system that depowers the engine when the vehicle is at idle could be added to further help improve the car’s fuel economy.

The next generation Outback could be offered in a gas/electric hybrid version—perhaps even as a plug-in hybrid that can run for an extended period solely on battery power—with technology provided by Subaru minority shareholder Toyota.

2013 Subaru Outback Competition back to top

Chevrolet Equinox: The popular five-passenger Equinox crossover is set to get a midcycle makeover for model-year 2013, though changes should be relatively minor. Expect to see a revised nose and tail, some interior improvements, and perhaps a few new features added. It should continue to come powered by a fuel-efficient 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or an optional 3.0-liter V-6, with both coming mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive should again be optional, along with a Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning system (perhaps again limited to the top LTZ model) that can warn the driver if the car is inadvertently wandering across lane markers or if a crash is imminent. The Equinox’s interior should remain roomy and comfortable, with a back seat that can slide fore or aft as needed to maximize legroom or cargo space. Estimated 2013 Equinox base-price range is $24,500-$32,500.

Ford Edge: This five-passenger SUV should carry on with only minor changes for 2013 after adding the 2.0-liter four-cylinder version of Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged engine to the line for model-year 2012. Likely again offered as an extra-cost option, it combines four-cylinder fuel economy with V-6-like acceleration. Otherwise, a 3.5-liter V-6 should remain the standard engine with a peppier 3.7-liter version coming with the top Sport model. By comparison the Edge feels heavier on the road than does the Outback and offers less front-seat travel, which taller drivers can find annoying. The MyFord Touch operating system should again be standard or optional, depending on the version; it swaps traditional buttons and gauges for menu-driven LCD displays and dashboard “touch points.” Hopefully Ford will have made it easier to master and less distracting to operate by model-year 2013. The Edge should see its next full revision for the 2014 or 2015 model year. Estimated 2013 Edge base-price range is $28,500-$40,000.

Toyota Venza: In another era the five-passenger Venza would be called the Toyota Camry Wagon, which is essentially what it is. The 2013 version may see a few cosmetic tweaks to bring it in line with revisions made to the 2012 Camry, but don’t expect major changes. Like the Outback it’s roomy and comfortable, and delivers a smooth ride with predictable, though far from sporty, handling. A 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine should again come standard with a more powerful 3.5-liter V-6 alternately offered; both should come mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Front drive will likely again be standard with AWD optional. A generous assortment of comfort and convenience features should again be offered. Expect a 2013 Venza base-price range of $28,750-$31,500.

2013 Subaru Outback Next Steps