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SWEETER CUV: For 2015, Subaru redesigns, upgrades its popular Outback

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Subaru listens to it customers’ needs and desires. And then acts upon them. The proof of that can be found in the redesigned 2015 Outback crossover wagon.

The Outback can be considered the progenitor of the crossover utility vehicle, and it remains among the best, especially with the myriad improvements it has acquired with the new model.

It has grown a bit in size over earlier iterations, giving it even more interior room for passengers and cargo.

Head and shoulder space is surprisingly generous, most welcome in the rear seat where three full-size humans can sit without becoming too invasive of one another’s personal space. Ample seat padding also contributes to the overall comfort level.

A common feature of all current Subarus is exceptional outward visibility. As well as being a safety feature, the big windows and thin-but-strong pillars also contribute to the cabin’s airy atmosphere.

Substantially upgraded interior materials lend a much more upscale aura to the surroundings, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors.

Long criticized for its behind-the-times tech features for communication and audio/entertainment, the new Outback boasts a great leap forward based on an intuitive interface operated through a larger, zoomable touchscreen that functions like a smartphone or tablet.

2015SubaruOutback-50There’s a rearview camera standard on all model levels, just one of many available safety features. Our top-of-the-line 3.6-R Limited came with blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert systems as standard equipment, while Subaru’s much-praised (and optional) EyeSight safety suite added even more desirable protection.

Our tester’s flat-six-cylinder engine delivered smooth power to all four wheels via a well-behaved continuously variable automatic transmission. Fuel economy bumped up a bit over last year’s model.

The new model has regained its sprightly handling and near-plush highway ride, making it one of the more enjoyable CUVs to drive. Steering is linear and responsive.

With its generous, 8.7-inch ground clearance, the utility wagon can go most anywhere more conventional CUVs can, while maintaining its carlike drivability. Giving people what they want is proving to be Subaru’s formula for success.