Subaru Outback
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Beneath the Outback’s suburban sheetmetal there’s a rock-climbing-capable off-roader.

Four- and six-cylinder engines return, but connected to continuously variable transmissions, only; Standard all-wheel-drive is the Subaru way, of course.

During its 20-year history, Subaru’s plucky wagon has remained true to its roots, while undergoing continuous improvement. For the 2015 model year, the Legacy-sedan-based Outback receives a number of critical updates. Visually, the car appears similar to the outgoing version, although a revised grille, lightweight aluminum hood, reshaped headlights and door-mounted mirrors are evident. The upgrades continue inside, with a quieter cabin with a reshaped dashboard, larger front seats and a more cavernous floor console. The Outback’s suspension has been retuned and Subaru has added Active Torque Vectoring that applies slight brake pressure to the inside front wheel during a turn. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces a bit more peak horsepower (175 versus 173) and maintains the same torque rating of 174 pound-feet. The optional 3.6-liter six-cylinder continues to make 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet torque. Both engines are connected to continuously variable transmissions (four-cylinder Outbacks are no longer available with a five-speed manual). The CVT helps the 2.5-liter model achieve 25 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway, up from the previous 24/30 rating. The standard all-wheel-drive system has also been tuned for improved slippery-road performance. A new driver-controlled X-Mode adjusts the transmission and engine output plus the AWD system to reduce wheelspin. X-Mode also adds Hill Descent Control (keeps vehicle speed to a crawl), Incline Start Assist (briefly holds the vehicle when starting on hills) and a Hill Holder System that prevents the Outback from rolling backward when stopped, until the accelerator is pressed. When combined with the Outback’s 8.7-inch ground clearance, X-Mode makes the Outback more fit for rugged off-road duty.