2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Review – A safe car for the storm of the decade.

Expert Reviews Subaru

2010 Subaru Outback visiting Bear Valley, CA

By Francis Cebedo


  • New double-wishbone rear suspension and other chassis enhancements deliver smoothest, quietest ride ever in an Outback.
  • 9 cubic feet more room over previous model
  • Ample hidden storage compartment under the rear panel
  • Excellent fuel economy at 22 city/29 hwy
  • Feels ultra safe
  • 6-speed manual
  • Reclining rear seats
  • Innovative parking brake release
  • Very comfortable travel car


  • Redesign is tall and unattractive
  • 170 hp engine feels underpowered
  • No turbocharged or diesel engine options
  • Very uninspired handling car
  • It’s a safe and practical car but the fun is less
  • Side mirrors do not fold back
  • The heated seats seem to completely shut off and on for long periods

Northern California is a dry place with excellent weather. The “drought” word is often spoken here with as much disdain and regularity as the word “earthquake”. California rain is about as plentiful as hydrogen fuel. It is something that exists but there is never any around when you need it. And with the recent weather patterns, it seems the normal 15 inches of rain and few feet of snow we normally get on a good year have not been making their annual appearance.

But an old friend named El Nino is here to the rescue. The warmer ocean currents bring about copious amounts of rainfall. At least that’s what it did the last two times it visited within the last two decades.  While the east coast is getting pounded with record heavy snowfall, our rain and snow collection efforts got off to a slow start this winter.

NorCal Doppler radar map 2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i

Just as I planned a mountain vacation in the Bear Valley, CA, the storm of the decade was announced. The most powerful jet stream in recent memory lined up five storms with California at the cross hairs. Five storms promised a deluge of rain and up to 10 feet of snow as they prepared to hit us daily. My family was a bit concerned but I had the perfect solution to appease them, the redesigned 2010 Subaru Outback.

We received a green 2010 Outback with a revised 170-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine and 6-speed manual transmission for the trip and were surprised by the size of the all-new fourth generation Outback. It looked bigger and taller than the previous model. The Outback had been shrinking over the last decade but that trend was reversed this model year. This is the roomiest Outback ever built and sits on an all-new platform with a longer wheelbase and increased width for greater passenger and cargo room.

2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Subaru Outback interior

The 2010 Outback is also 2.0 inches wider to improve passenger comfort and has more headroom than the previous model. The newly designed interior is considerably more upscale than past Subarus and the steering wheel and controls feel substantial. You notice the additional room in shoulder room and rear seat passenger comfort.

The fourth generation Outback looks more like a crossover SUV wagon similar to the Toyota Venza in stature. It seems to be after a little different market of families that require more space. And it tries to differentiate itself a little more from its sibling, the Subaru Legacy Wagon.

The good news is there is 9 extra cubic feet of cargo room in the Outback compared to the previous generation. This sure came in handy with a family of four as we filled it to the brim. We even took out the divider in the under-floor cargo compartment in the rear to accommodate all of our ski jackets and boots. Let’s face it. These long weekend snow getaways and car camping trips are an exercise in fitting in as much stuff as you can in the vehicle. The more of the house we can bring, the higher our comfort level.

Fully loaded Subaru Outback ready for road trip duty Packed and ready to go

So off we went from San Jose to Bear Valley in a fully loaded Outback. The new Outback was a little harder to get into as its increased height forced a little hop getting in and out the car. Inside the cabin we were very comfortable with heated seats that were supportive in all the right places. The kids in the back appreciated that they could recline their seats and use the pillows they brought to maximize comfort.

On the road the chassis felt solid. Over bumps and uneven terrain the Outback tracked well and kept its line with confidence. With only 170 hp moving us along, the Outback felt quite slow. It had some good initial grunt in each of the 6-speed gears but then, after 3500 rpm, it didn’t really pull the car with much urgency. This was more an issue merging on the freeway and getting up to speed. Once at cruising speed, it had no problem maintaining 70 mph or higher speeds in rolling terrain.

With the solid chassis and relatively low power, this car felt like a very safe cocoon. It was quiet inside and road imperfections and conditions were handled with ease. Fuel economy was a charm at about 28 mpg fully loaded at highway conditions. One very interesting feature I noticed during our stops was the electronic handbrake did not need to be released to start moving. The car knew that if you stepped on the gas with some authority, you wanted to get moving so it would release the handbrake. Why no one has ever thought of this before, I’m not sure. Handbrakes after all are routinely worn out by drivers forgetting to release the brake with the car in full motion.

2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i

The highlight of the driving experience is when the weather turned bad. In good weather, the Outback is a comfortable, safe and slow car. But when we hit the snow line, it seems our position in the vehicle hierarchy elevated a couple of notches. Everything was easy and controllable while driving in weather where it makes more sense to be indoors. The power was just enough to keep the car safe, controlled and fun. Other drivers looked at us with respect or envy.

On our drive back down from the mountains a rainstorm developed and we had to drive through heavy rain for a couple of hours. The kids entertained themselves with all the water dribbling through past their windows. I drove confidently as the car seemingly cut a safe line through all the standing water and poor visibility that the storm brought on. It was a real delight to experience this car in its element.

The Outback served us very well for this trip. But the lack of power on this base model held back the smiles when conditions were dry. The interior was very functional but we did notice that the heated seats could not maintain their temperature for long periods. It seemed to cycle up and down regularly.

Heavy storms create road hazards Stormy weather ahead

In the end, the Subaru Outback seemed to transform from a fun, young person’s active lifestyle car to a roomy and practical family car for inclement weather conditions. And for this vacation during the California storm of the decade, that worked out just fine.

RATING 4.5 4.5 3.0 4.0 3.5 4.5 4.0/B

2010 Subaru Outback Photo Gallery

2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Specs

Mitsubishi MotorsOfficial website for Subaru of America – www.subaru.com

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