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2014 Subaru Outback: Seattle to San Francisco

A last look at the current version before the new Outback arrives later this year.

By Perry Stern Mar 6, 2014 7:33AM

2014 Subaru OutbackThere’s an all-new Subaru Outback coming out later this year, so to take one last look at the outgoing model, I took one on a road trip from Seattle to San Francisco.

Arguably the first-ever crossover, the Outback provides SUV capability but still drives and feels like a car. Perfect for our road trip.

Traveling with my wife and 16-year-old daughter for five days meant I had a good amount of luggage. On top of that, my daughter was competing in a dance competition in San Francisco, which meant extra bags plus a dance dress that had to remain flat. We would be going through Sonoma on our trip, which of course meant I’d need to leave space for the inevitable wine purchase.

Plenty of space 

The Outback swallowed all our luggage and computer bags with the cargo cover in place. With everything below the cargo cover, visibility wasn’t impaired and we didn’t have to worry about our luggage attracting attention when we left the car unattended.


Since we’d be spending several hours in the car, space for passengers was just as important as space for cargo. The rear seat had enough legroom that my daughter had no complaints, and as a teenager she tends to complain about everything. We were able to keep a small cooler and bag of snacks in the back seat without her feeling crowded.


On the road

Our Outback was equipped with the 2.5-liter 173-horsepower horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine and CVT transmission. While not a sporty combination — acceleration is rather weak —  this combination was just fine on a road trip consisting of 99 percent highway driving.


Re-fueling stop at Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR

Quick stop at Voodoo Donuts in Portland to refuel

My car was fully loaded with leather trim and all the amenities, including the Subaru’s optional EyeSight driver-assist system. The camera-based system powers Subaru's crash avoidance and lane-departure warning, but for daily use it is also used for the adaptive cruise control, which is a great feature for long freeway drives.


As we headed into the Siskiyou Mountains, heavy rain pelted the roads. The Outback felt solid and confident, even as we plowed through standing water at highway speeds.


However, I did discover a flaw with the Eyesight system. Since it is camera-based rather than radar-based like some other systems, its performance diminished as the rain came down harder and was unable to detect the vehicle in front. When we encountered large amounts of spray from other vehicles, the system shut down. This was a little disappointing, as low-visibility conditions are exactly when you might want a bit of assistance in avoiding a collision.


Made it to California

We arrived in Redding, Calif., after about 10 hours in the car, and I felt no road fatigue thanks to the great seats. They're extremely comfortable and supportive, and even after sitting in there for so many hours I wasn’t stiff or achy.


The next day we crossed the legendary Golden Gate Bridge, finally ending up in San Francisco.


Arriving in San Francisco, CA

Photo-op before crossing the Golden Gate into San Francisco.

Back to my daughter's Irish dance competition — or why I drove five days in the first place. She won first prize in her group and suddenly we had three trophies to pack in with everything else. There was still plenty of room, although one trophy was so large it needed its own seat.Trophy

The trip home was much quicker with no side trips for wine; however, we did make one last obligatory stop at In-N-Out Burger before leaving California.


Unlike the drive down, it rained most of the way home, but the Outback handled the inclement conditions with no stress on my part.

The smaller engine had to work pretty hard to get us through the mountains, and while it was always able to maintain our speed, it did hurt our fuel economy a bit. We totaled 1,712 miles, and average fuel economy was 25.6 mpg.


The Outback still makes a great road trip car even as the current generation is about to be replaced. We’re looking forward to see what’s in store for the new Outback when it arrives later this year.

Mar 17, 2014 3:40AM
I only wish that they would sell the diesel version in the US. It's been available for years in Europe, has more power, and almost twice the gas mileage.
Mar 17, 2014 7:16AM
Reliability issues?? I live on a dirt road on a mountain in New Hampshire. Thirteen homes, nine of which have either a Subaru Outback or Forester in the driveway (7 Outbacks 2 Foresters). Mine is a 2012 Outback with 94,000 miles. Maintenance has included regular oil changes, brakes and I'm on the third set of tires (third set just purchased a week ago). Haven't heard of any major issues from any of our neighbors either. In fact, we decided on the Outback based on their reports of excellent reliability. Other posters saying how unreliable they are obviously can't speaking from personal experience. As far as buying foreign being bad for the economy... Subarus are manufactured mostly in the U.S., thus providing plenty of U.S. jobs. Many GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles sold in the U.S. are  manufactured in Canada and Mexico. Chrysler is now owned by Fiat, an Italian company. My Outback provided more work for U.S. citizens than your Ford F-150, not to mention your Dodge Ram... so what's the problem?
Mar 17, 2014 3:33AM
Na sayers, it's called MAINTENANCE! My first Subaru Outback was a 79. All of my Outbacks had well over 100,000 each in snow country (average 200") of Upstate New York, still snowing. The last 2 were made in Ohio. They use to build for Toyota at the same place until this year. I'm a dedicated fan and I "run" them! I can keep up with the guys from Stuttgart and leave them behind in the snow.
Mar 17, 2014 7:18AM

A Subaru is #1 on my son's list as he graduates and heads for CO for college this fall.

Unfortunately, it's as hard to find a Subaru for a decent price as a 4wd Toyota Tacoma at a good he'll just take my 4wd F150 and leave with me his vehicle. 

Be nice if Subi would build more each year...but they sure have done a good job with managing their numbers - and creating a lot of raving fans, lol.   Maybe we'll get one new for him for graduation...we'll see down the road.

Mar 17, 2014 7:28AM
I have a 2005 Outback 2.5xt....bought it in 2007 used for $23K with 25K miles. Now it has 210K miles, Cobb Stage 2, invidia downpipe and borla exhausts with lowered coilover shocks....all cost me less than $5K to provide 300+ hp.  Nothing and I mean NOTHING stops this car.  Subies rock.
Mar 17, 2014 7:21AM
We have a 1996 Outback and a 2000 Forester.  They will have to pry the keys to that Outback from my "cold dead fingers" ! It is versatile, reliable and can hold odd shaped cargo and gets good mileage..  The only annoying thing is that once the "modern" panel displays (clock, etc.) has a bulb die, you can correct it only by buying a whole assembly.  Forget that: just remember to wear my watch.  We will never buy a car with any automatic shift.  That way, we will never smash through a building or fence when a foot slips from a peddle. (We live in a rural area at the end of an unpaved road.)
Mar 19, 2014 6:39AM

my family has owned a 05 subaru baja turbo since it was brand new in 05. we have had no problems of reliablility what so ever. it now has 153,000 hard miles of it towing way over the max towing rate and it still runs very well. its a very well built car considering im still driving it aver its been in 2 car accedents. i love my subarus and it would be very hard  for me to get ride of mine

Mar 6, 2014 6:16PM
Postal carrier has owned many because they offered them with a right hand steering wheel configuration. She said not one of them has been reliable. I always new when she was coming up the road because of the distinctive leaking exhaust sound I typically hear on almost all the older Outbacks. And the drivers of these cars are some of the most slow, knee-jerk, over compensating drivers I ever come across.  I guess if they feel the car is safe so it makes them better doesn't.
Mar 6, 2014 9:24AM
The Outback is a wildly popular vehicle in high country areas but is also wildly problematic  when it comes to it's drive train. The Cherokee is another perfect example of this, and people that do not do their homework before shopping. Yes, they both are very versatile people movers, very capable winter vehicles, but why someone would buy one when there are much more reliable, and problem free, options is beyond me. Especially the Cherokee, since it makes the "Worst used car purchases" list year after year after year. You could buy almost ANY OTHER SUV or CUV and be ahead of the game financially over these two vehicles. Amazingly, the Subaru holds it value well, regardless of it's problems.
Mar 17, 2014 2:23AM
all imports are junk I just don't get it you say you are for US but you all still buy imports that **** is not right you buy a import it don't help us at all the money leaves thy US
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