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2014 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited is for those with an adventurous spirit

The 2014 Subaru Outback is the ideal crossover for those with an adventurous spirit.

Subaru’s original sport utility wagon, the Outback, is what put Subaru on the map. The Japanese automaker produces multi-use vehicles for a niche market and the Outback is their flagship multi-use model. It gets enhancements to make it even better for 2014. This week we’re testing the 2014 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited. The Outback is the number one-selling vehicle in the Denver market for a reason, and that’s where we are testing it this week.

What’s new for 2014?

The 2014 Outback 3.6R Limited carries over pretty much unchanged from the previous model year. For 2013, Outback gained a new powertrain for higher fuel economy, and also debuted revised styling and suspension tuning. This 3.6R Outback Limited tester ($32,095) continues with a 256-horsepower 3.6-liter six-cylinder Boxer engine and 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The Outback 3.6R is offered exclusively in the Limited trim for 2014.

Limited is the top of the line model for the flagship Outback, and along with the largest engine Subaru offers (3.6-liter V6), it comes loaded with extras inside and out. On the outside, 3.6R Limited comes with a fully independent raised suspension, roof rails with integrated cross bars, privacy glass and fog lights as standard.

On the inside, the Limited model offers the most luxury of any Subaru model out there. Standard features on this tester included leather trimmed seats, a Harman Kardon 9-speaker audio system, heated front seats/mirrors and wiper deicer and 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The only option on this 3.6R was the Moonroof package ($1,445) that included the rear vision camera and auto-dimming rear view mirror.

Why consider the Outback?

For those not already familiar with the Subaru Outback, its a multi-use vehicle that is a smart size compared to other comparable crossover vehicles. It features a fairly roomy interior in an easy-to-maneuver and off-road-capable hatch-back wagon. Subaru is known for its off-road capabilities and Outback provides more car-like handling but with the versatility of an SUV. Many who rave about the Outback do so for two main reasons, it offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance which is higher than for many larger SUVs and crossovers but it maintains a low step-in height, which is advantageous for loading people, dogs and cargo.

We took the Outback up to the mountains west of Denver and experienced a fresh snowfall and cold temperatures. Subaru uses its Symmetrical all-wheel-drive which is made for extreme conditions. We forged through the snow without an issue and felt comfortable taking it up a steep incline at full speed. Many owners will take their Outback off-road into rough terrain here in the Rocky Mountains. If you are an adventurous type and are looking for a all-purpose vehicle for recreational use, Outback will fit the bill.

And the Outback will automatically adjust the all-wheel-drive to fit your driving situation. Subaru uses a VTD system that normally sends more torque to the rear wheels (45:55) to enhance handling agility, and it can continuously adjust distribution in response to driving and road conditions. That’s ideal for those who live in cold weather climates and drive in varying conditions through mud, ice or snow.

What’s to like on the inside?

Outback isn’t cavernous inside, but is an ideal recreational vehicle that features a total passenger volume of 105.4 cu. ft. and maximum cargo capacity of 71.3 cu. ft. We were able to fold down the standard 60/40 split rear seatbacks and put in an abundance of cargo from Home Depot for a home remodeling project. The Outback swallowed it up and it was easy to load into the rear hatch. The Outback features a rear cargo area that is deeper and wider than in many larger SUVs.

The multi-use utility of the Outback carries over to the outside. This current-generation model features the first crossover to come with standard factory-installed foldable roof crossbars. It was refined in 2013 and comes with a handy adjustable design that allows the rear crossbar to be moved rearward to carry longer items, such as kayaks, trail bikes or surfboards. The distance between the front and rear bars can be adjusted from 29.9 inches up to 39.7 inches. It’s also ideal to haul things like 2x4s and other longer items. The roof rack with built-in cross rails also conveniently folds out of the way when you're not using them.

The interior of the Outback does make use of some hard plastics but this can be a good thing when it comes to those who want a recreational vehicle. It’s much easier to clean up after a weekend on the trails after spending time at your favorite camp ground.

Out on the road

The 2014 Outback 3.6R Limited comes with a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine producing 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic with shift paddles is the only transmission offered. Heading up I-70 at altitude, the six-cylinder engine had plenty of power even fully loaded with four adults. In independent testing, it has a 0-60 time of 7.3 seconds which is good for six-cylinder-powered crossover or wagon.

On the road, even though this crossover will take on the worst roads, the Outbacks suspension has a very forgiving ride that makes it a natural for road trips. Subaru stiffened the wagon's structure and retuned the suspension for 2013. In the tight corners near Evergreen, this Outback tester had minimal body roll in the corners and the handling was superb.

A smaller 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is also available in the Outback that delivers better fuel economy, but if you live in the mountains or frequently haul full loads of passengers or cargo, you'll be better served with the larger 3.6-liter six-cylinder Outback. If you're looking to tow a small trailer, the available six-cylinder engine enables the Outback to pull up to 3,000 pounds. Outback 3.6R has EPA fuel mileage that is pretty average at 17/25/20. Our guess is that Subaru will upgrade the new 2015 Outback with their new Lineartronic CVT automatic and improve mileage significantly.

Are you concerned about safety?

Subaru shines better than most automakers when it comes to safety. Every 2014 Subaru Outback comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags that cover both rows. This tester came with the rearview camera that is highly recommended and could prevent an issue in tight spots and rear backing.

One new Subaru safety system worth buying is their new-generation EyeSight system that includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning functionality. It also warns the driver if they sway within your lane on the highway. The EyeSight safety system uses two cameras mounted inside the upper edge of the windshield, which helps reduce the potential for damage compared to conventional radar systems mounted in the front bumper. EyeSight can also detect pedestrians and is capable of braking the Outback if the driver is distracted and takes no evasive action.

In IIHS crash tests, Outback earned a five-star overall rating, along with five-star ratings for its performance in front- and side-impact crash protection. Outback received the highest Top Safety Pick+ accolade after earning a Good rating (the highest possible) in the moderate-overlap front-offset crash test, as well as the side-impact and roof strength tests. It also earned an Acceptable rating (second highest) in the new small-overlap frontal-offset crash test.


Ultimately, the 2014 Subaru Outback is a multi-use vehicle especially suited for those who have an adventurous spirit. It’s a perfect vehicle for those who will use it to commute to work during the week, and then use it for recreation on the weekends. The 2014 Subaru Outback's standard Symmetrical all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance make it a natural for light-moderate off-roading. If you need to head into the high country for camping, hiking or mountain bike trips, the Outback will get you and your passengers to the trailhead and beyond without an issue. It’s truly a rugged versatile crossover.

Watch 2014 Outback walk around video.