Out and About in the
2018 Subaru Outback

5/1/2018

Families have changed, and so have the cars they drive.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s when I was a kid, “family time” consisted mostly of making sure not to disturb your dad while he read the paper. Now that I have active kids of my own, family time is a lot more interactive. We’re on the move almost constantly, and we’re doing it in weather conditions that my mom’s coupe never would’ve attempted.

Families have changed radically since 1968, when I first arrived on the scene. The Families and Work Institute found that dads in recent years spend 3.4 hours a day with their children, a marked increase over the 2.2 hours that Baby Boomer fathers spent. Moms and dads are hustling kids to events and activities that simply didn’t exist in the 1960s and 1970s, and, as our duties have evolved, so have the cars that we drive.

Families have changed and so has the family car. The 2018 Subaru Outback gets the family and all their gear where they want to go.
Families have changed and so has the family car. The 2018 Subaru Outback gets the family and all their gear where they want to go.

The Subaru Outback is a change agent in that evolution. Prior to its introduction in 1994, sedans, station wagons and SUVs were rigidly boxed into their own categories. Suddenly, when the Outback arrived, it bridged all those segments, providing American families with one car that could do it all.

The 2018 Subaru Outback continues that evolution. We had a chance to sample all its attributes, on the highway from Philadelphia to Boston to the suburban back roads of eastern Massachusetts to the rugged dirt roads and tractor paths in the country. It’s a vehicle that manages to be just as comfortable rolling up to an exclusive hotel as it is with the cargo area full of gardening supplies.

A commanding view of all four corners, thanks to superior visibility. Controls are clear, intuitive and easy to operate, even with gloves.
A commanding view of all four corners, thanks to superior visibility. Controls are clear, intuitive and easy to operate, even with gloves.

One of the first things you notice with the Outback is its near-ideal driving position. No matter what a vehicle looks like from the outside, this is the view you’re going to see the vast majority of the time. If it’s wrong, there’s no getting around it. From the driver’s seat in the Outback, the chair height keeps your legs comfortably positioned. Modern cars in general offer diminished visibility, but the Outback offers a clear view of all four corners.

On top of that commanding view of the road, Subaru adds a range of advanced safety equipment that works to enhance your vision and your reaction to unexpected incidents. From the moment you select Reverse, those active safety features work to enhance your view of what’s behind, thanks to the Rear-Vision-Camera and optional features like Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, which lets you know if cars you can’t see are crossing from either side behind you.

The 15-gallon fuel tank and impressive combined fuel economy allows for a surprising number of miles between fill-ups.
The 15-gallon fuel tank and impressive combined fuel economy allows for a surprising number of miles between fill-ups.

On the trip from Philadelphia to Boston, EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and Adaptive Cruise Control made it possible to set a safe speed and follow other drivers at a safe distance, without having to constantly brake and adjust speed settings. I set it once at 65 miles per hour, and followed safely as traffic tightened up and then relaxed, always maintaining a safe distance behind the car in front of me.

Had a situation arisen, EyeSight would have allowed the Outback to recognize that a car was slowing rapidly in front of me, alert me to the issue and then fully apply the brakes if I didn’t react in time. Fortunately, it wasn’t a feature I experienced along the ride, but it’s comforting to know that the Outback has my back.

Dual-mode, heated rear seats for the warmest seats in the house.
Optional Harmon Kardon audio system adds 12 speakers and a subwoofer.

The kids: I’ve got a 13-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son. Five years between them means that if they touch each other in the back seat, I’m going to hear about it up front. They had plenty of room to stay separate, in comfortable seats. While I got a heated steering wheel and seats up front in the Touring, they both had heated seats when the weather turned cooler. Dual USB ports also meant that we had no arguments over whose electronic device was at 2 percent and falling.

As at home on unpaved roads as the highway, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive tackles a wide range of road conditions.
As at home on unpaved roads as the highway, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive tackles a wide range of road conditions.
A wide cargo opening with a tall hatch makes loading easy.
35.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats occupied.

The high point of our time with the Outback was a visit to Dowse Orchards in Sherborn, Massachusetts, where the photos you see here were taken. We hit it at the perfect time in late August, and the branches were freighted with Empire, Macoun, Ida Red, Cortland and McIntosh varieties. The roads to get there are dirt, and as you get into some of the back corners of the orchard, the terrain can get challenging, with steep hills and hidden rocks. The Outback’s symmetrical all-wheel drive tackled the worst of it imperceptibly. In back, 35.5 cubic feet of cargo volume could hold all the apples we could’ve eaten in a year.

As our family life shifts from one of rigid roles to a true tag-team approach, the Outback’s role as “family vehicle” has evolved, too. Just because the weather has turned foul doesn’t mean your responsibilities are any less critical. It’s good to have the Outback there to get you through.

To experience the 2018 Outback yourself, schedule a visit with your local retailer.

2018 Subaru Outback