[This is actually an older article, but nonetheless here]
As an aside that would otherwise go unheard, I’m putting out blogs of my work versus my own thoughts, as they are two different things.
Before SUV’s became a craze of the 1990’s ignited by the then-new Ford Explorer, there were all-wheel drive wagons from Japan (and America’s dead Eagle brand). Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi all competed, and the Civic Wagonvan was Honda’s entry. But most remembered of all, was Subaru.
In its 1971 year, the all-wheel drive advantage of Subaru was already taking hold in snowy states with the Leone/GL model until the Subaru Legacy came to replace it in 1989, and the Impreza/Legacy line of 1994 introduced the Outback models for added utility. For the 2014 model year, that heritage keeps rolling with Subaru’s AWD, Boxer engines, and frameless windows. Last redesigned in 2009, the current Outback introduced the CVT Lineartronic transmission which holds the engine in an optimal rev range rather than moving in and out of where the power sits. For those wanting the feeling of shifts, there’s a six “gear” manual mode with paddles, or a real three-pedal six-speed manual transmission. Checking the box for the Outback 3.6R gives a horsepower boost from the base 2.5L Boxer four-cylinders’ 173hp and ups it to 256hp via a 3.6L Boxer-6—the only one you’ll find on the market outside a Porsche. Opting for more power gives a five-speed automatic and a drop in fuel economy: 17/25 city/highway versus the four-cylinder 24/30 when equipped with CVT (manual is 22/29).
It’s not as though Toyota or Honda have forgone such vehicles as those AWD wagons; they just come in different packages. We know them now as the Rav4 and CR-V. One of the best selling CUV’s, the Honda CR-V is on its fourth generation in 2013, since first debuting for the 1996 model year. Featuring a 2.4L inline-four, a five-speed automatic, and a choice of front- or optional all-wheel drive, the CR-V’s base price of around $23,000 puts it right under the base Outback. Cargo capacity behind the back seat is nearly 3cuft larger than the Subaru (though folding the seats down the Subaru still has a slight advantage).
The base CR-V against a base Outback looks promising until one moves up from the LX 2WD to an EX AWD model, and likewise with the Outback 2.5i Premium, landing the Honda just slightly over the Subie’s price. The AWD-optional doesn’t apply to the Subaru, nor does it detract fuel economy: the CR-V drops from 23/32 city highway to 22/30, versus the consistent Subaru CVT rating at a 24/30. The Subaru also has a tighter turning radius, more proven and capable all-wheel drive system, and a higher tow rating by nearly twice the Honda. Subaru even offers a choice in four-cylinder transmission options, or a more powerful engine. So many choices and capabilities makes the Subaru Outback a winner here.
The CR-V versus Subaru isn’t new to me, since the Forester/CR-V was actually the first paid writing gig I had with CD. Back then, the CR-V was the CarsDirect winner before. As I said in the articles original version “the CR-V does pull a gas-can out of a hat and gets better road-test mileage in the real world than the Subaru. Furthermore, the Honda has a smaller interior volume overall, yet has more cargo and rear-seat space than the Subaru.” My end result was I didn’t like SUV’s/CUV’s, but the losing Subaru offering a manual for the regular four cylinder, or a turbo engine, either of those two would be my choice.
With this second take with a CR-V/Subaru the CarsDirect tables turned, and my own taste still determines neither really excites me. Yet that lack of excitement isn’t even because of the CUV thing. I like that the Outback sticks to the wagon body so well, and offers a manual, but the looks inside and out compared to what it replaced so long ago (check the 2006’s out) disgusts me no end. The front in particular wreaks of the Chrysler Sebring, a car so bad that– regardless of a long standing name– was refreshed with name “Chrysler 200” to cover up the horrid of what the old name stood for.
What the Sebring was… … and the Outback is.
What the Sebring became… … what the Outback was.
What comes as a shock is the CR-V is so small, but is a CUV. Parked next to a 2006 Toyota Matrix, it’s not much larger outside, but packs loads of space inside– a trick Honda’s Fit also achieves, but through other means (the “magic seat“). At this point, for my hated of the Outback Legacy, I would take the losing Honda for the better looks and rear-seat-up cargo holding alone. Call me superficial for now, but the Outback is just that atrocious.
Lets review the CRV vs Subies history then. I liked the losing Forester over the winning Honda, and like the losing Honda over the winning Outback… so I prefer the losers? No. I prefer the Forester manual or Forester turbo over the Outback or CR-V, making the Forester the best of the three in my mind.