Delivery alert

There may be an issue with the delivery of your newspaper. This alert will expire at NaN. Click here for more info.

Recover password

ALWAYS IN ITS ELEMENT: Subaru offers an SUV alternative with its popular all-purpose, all-wheel-drive Outback 3.6R wagon

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Subaru’s best selling vehicle, the Outback, has lured its many satisfied owners by offering an alternative to those increasingly popular SUVs and CUVs.

Its handy size provides a thoroughly carlike driving experience, yet it provides surprising back-country abilities, thanks to its standard all-wheel drive and generous 8.7-inch ground clearance. In town or in the boonies, the Outback always feels right at home.

Even with its moderately jacked-up suspension, there’s no climbing needed to reach the seats of the Subaru. Unlike some compact SUVs, they’re at a convenient height for entrance and egress, making it an excellent choice for the short of stature or more-seasoned, less-dexterous motorists.

Once situated inside, the Outback provides plenty of headroom for all onboard, and there’s a surprising amount of room for passengers relegated to the rear seat. Front or back, everyone has a great view out, thanks to a high seating position, large window-glass area, the body’s low beltlines, and thin window pillars all around.

The Outback’s cargo volume – 36 cubic feet behind the second-row seat – tops that of many of its competitors. Flop that back split bench down flat, and the space soars to a utility-worthy 73 feet.

Our top-ot-the-line, Touring-grade test vehicle came packed with a plethora of near-luxury accouterments, too numerous to mention. But instantly notable are the cabin’s perforated leather-clad seats in a lovely Java Brown highlighted with ivory stitching, heated front and rear. Nice.

Subaru’s much-heralded EyeSight driver assist technology is standard, helping assure that riders reach their destination safely.

Our tester also carried 3.6R badging, indicating a six-cylinder “boxer” engine under the hood. This powerhouse transforms the Outback from its lesser four-cylinder stablemates, thanks to its 256 horsepower (compared to the four’s 175 horsepower). Smooth, quiet and quick, the six elevates the multipurpose wagon to a higher level of desirability. Fuel economy does suffer somewhat, however.

A high-grade interior, a fresh infotainment system (at last!), a choice of powerplants, and Subaru’s focus on safety keep the Outback a highly viable alternative in an SUV-infatuated marketplace.