2015 Subaru Outback
While station wagons have long been out of American favor nationwide, drive around New England and you’ll see lots of square-back, Subaru Outbacks. Now maybe it’s because of their standard all-wheel drive, or even that Subaru uses the word “utility” to describe it. All we know is that where Volvo wagons were once king, the Outback now reins. And, this all-new, 5th generation, 2015 Outback shows no sign of surrendering that crown.
While being the “World’s First Sport Utility Wagon” may have started as a marketing tag, there’s no denying that the Subaru Outback has come to embody the rugged, all-weather, all-road station wagon.
Visually, like the companion Legacy sedan, the new Outback is a little more vanilla and a little bit less “Subaru-unique”. Yet, you still know it’s a Subaru, and perhaps THE Subaru.
Familiar too is the way it drives, though there is a welcomed amount of steering and road feel added in, and a little bit more noise kept out. Some staffers found the suspension to be firmer than expected, though that clearly fit’s Subaru’s “rugged and livable” image.
Many other detail changes focused on what owners asked for; like a better navigation system, moving the info center from the dash to the gauge panel, a real temperature gauge, more safety features, and softer materials. It’s mostly all for the good, though some of the useful info has become a little harder to read, and there’s now way too many controls on the steering wheel.
Seats however, have taken a step back. They are a little more supportive, but also harder. Plus, the optional perforated leather rubbed some of our staff the wrong way.
No one can deny the wealth of interior space for the money, both in seating, and in cargo room. The latter climbs to 35.5 cubic-ft. with the seat backs up, 73.3 cubic-ft. with them down. Roof rails with retractable cross bars are again standard, and a power lift gate is now available.
We’re not sure how many people pony up for the 256-horsepower 3.6-liter boxer-6 with 247 lb-ft. of torque, but it’s very smooth as is the CVT transmission attached to it. Base Outbacks find the CVT fitted to a slightly enhanced 2.5-liter boxer-4 with 175-horsepower.
Regardless of engine choice, this Outback does enhance its rugged ways as the standard all-wheel-drive system now includes X-Mode traction management, with hill descent control, and 8.7-inches of ground clearance. That makes it more capable than most crossover utilities.
Despite that high ground clearance, there was very little roll through our slalom course. And while the Outback prefers a relaxed pace, there’s very little understeer and only minor computer intervention. New Active Torque Vectoring is standard, using selective braking to the inside front wheel to help the Outback pivot around corners.
As for acceleration, despite sounding very aggressive and jumping off the line, power build is slow and steady; taking 7.5-seconds to hit 60. The full ¼-mile took us 15.8-seconds, crossing the line at 91 miles-per-hour.
Simulated shifts are added into the CVT transmission. Reaction is better but you still won’t be fooled into thinking it’s a real automatic. Panic braking produced lots of nose dive and an out-of-sorts rear end; as well as average stops from 60 of 133-feet.
Dimensionally, the new Outback has grown a little bit in all directions, but you’d be hard pressed to notice it. 3.6R Limited models get the highest level of content ever in an Outback; including HID headlights, dual stainless exhaust tips, 18-inch alloy wheels, turn signal mirrors, heated front and rear seats, and both wood and matte finish interior accents.
New safety features include a standard rear view camera, the latest version of Eye Sight, Subaru’s Rear Vehicle Detection System, and front seat cushion air bags. An electric parking brake is carryover. New is Hill Holder and Incline Start Assist.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 20-City, 27-Highway, and 22-Combined which we matched perfectly on regular gas. But most buyers will give up some guts and go with the four-cylinder for a 25% economy gain and a combined rating of 28 MPG. That makes for a reasonable Energy Impact Score of 11.8 Barrels of Oil used and 5.2 Tons of CO2 emitted annually.
That 4-Cylinder 2.5i Outback starts at $25,745. Our 3.6R Limited goes for 8-grand more at $33,845.
We think the 2015 Subaru Outback has received the perfect amount of change. It has been upgraded, sure; but it’s still a unique vehicle with great appeal. It’s likely more practical than most crossovers, and definitely more efficient, performing equally well in daily commuting and weekend getaway duties. So yes, Americans are still buying wagons, and most of them are Subaru Outbacks.
- Engine: 3.6-liter
- Horsepower: 256
- Torque: 247 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.8 seconds @ 91 mph
- EPA: 20 mpg city/ 27 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 11.8 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 5.2 tons/yr
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined