2012 Subaru Outback


#1 out of 9 in 2012 Wagons

$7,898 - $13,203

2012 Subaru Outback Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Subaru Outback was new.


Performance: 8.8

Reviewers like that the 2012 Subaru Outback drives like a car, but has standard all-wheel drive to handle slick roads and some light off-road trails.

  • "The Outback is unfazed by mud, by repeatedly hitting its bump-stops, by 35-degree inclines. Pick your line, pay attention, and drive. The same Subaru experience that has made the company's name in almost every dusty, snowy, icy, yak-tracked corner of the world." -- Autoblog
  • "A stronger, stiffer unit body and new front/rear subframes complement the rest of the Outback's 'right-sizing' changes to create a package that's smoother, quieter, better controlled, and more comfortable than ever." -- Motor Trend

Acceleration and Power

The 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has more than enough power for everyday driving, but those looking for a little more get-up may prefer opting for the 256 horsepower in the 3.6-liter flat-6. The EPA gives 2.5-liter models ratings of 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway when paired with the CVT (automatic transmission) and 19 city/27 highway with the manual transmission. The flat-6 only comes with a five-speed automatic transmission and is rated at 18 city/25 highway. A few reviewers complained about the available power in four-cylinder models with the CVT, but others preferred that setup.

  • "Outbacks with the 4-cylinder engine and the CVT have decent power in most situations, but they lack reserve muscle for passing and merging. The CVT can become confused in hilly driving conditions." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Of course, opting for the Six brings more power. But it also delivers a heavier, more substantial feel to the steering. By itself, the Six is amazingly smooth, and the heft to the steering isn't necessarily negative. But the gain in performance doesn't seem to be worth the trouble or expense, considering how brilliantly the Four works with the CVT." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "While I haven't driven the six-cylinder model, I found the four-cylinder engine to have more than enough power for my everyday driving, with plenty of zip for freeway merges and for passing on two-lane rural roads. I never had the chance to try any steep mountain grades, however." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • "On-road or in the dirt, it felt confident and proved itself capable regardless of powertrain -- although the 4000-foot-plus elevations we were playing in clearly favored the 3.6R's higher output." -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

Even though it compares favorably with SUVs when it comes to cargo space, reviewers say the Outback rides and handles like a car. Reviewers enjoy the handling for the most part, but are mixed on the steering.

  • "Outback is always controlled, never harsh, and more comfortable than many family sedans and nearly any similarly sized SUV. Larger bumps are felt, but Outback's compliant suspension and stout body structure work together so occupants aren't jostled." -- Consumer Guide
  • "What you get is the ride of a car -- not a CUV, and not even a wagon." -- Autoblog
  • "Handling is better than average for a wagon or SUV, thanks to the Outback's close relationship to the Legacy sedan. Steering is tight and fairly responsive." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • "... it's a sweet-natured wagon with poised road manners, a decent ride and light rack-and-pinion steering that never bothers upsetting the driver with any pesky feedback. Beyond that, it's an excellent scrambler along dirt roads and up some pretty difficult trails." -- Popular Mechanics

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