Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A popular Subaru Outback for sale, a blue 2023 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition, is shown driving off-road.

What Makes the Subaru Outback Such a Great Off-Road SUV?

Few things in life are better than leaving your problems, stress, and civilization behind, and heading outdoors to get away from it all for a while. The right off-road vehicle makes this a lot easier, with off-road SUVs being my personal favorite choice for the perfect combination of freedom, functionality, and capability. You have more options than ever at the moment for a great off-road SUV, but they’re certainly not all created (or priced) equally. Whether you’re interested in a Subaru Outback for sale, or would simply like to know what options are available to you, this is a great time to get to know the Outback.

To be completely fair, this is not the absolute most-capable off-road SUV on the market. It can’t compete with a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or Ford Bronco Raptor when it comes to the most demanding trails in the country. That being said, it’s also not trying to be one of those models, and it still delivers fantastic off-road performance while also being a better daily driver, as well as going a lot easier on your budget. The Outback is a terrific everyday vehicle that also works beautifully for getting away from it all on your time off.

A green 2023 Subaru Outback is shown driving on a highway.

Two Impressive Engines

While every vehicle benefits from a good engine with plenty of power, it’s especially important for an off-road SUV to be able to go anywhere you need it to. Few things are quite as frustrating as being out on the trail, enjoying yourself, and discovering that your vehicle struggles to get up a hill or otherwise navigate the environment. This isn’t a problem with the Subaru Outback, which has two solid engines available, starting with a 2.5L Boxer-4 engine that delivers 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. With this engine, the Outback can tow up to 2,700 lbs of weight behind it, making it a great choice for pulling a light trailer or camper to wherever you’re having an adventure.

It’s a great starting engine, but I prefer the available 2.4L Turbo Boxer-4 that delivers a fantastic 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. This engine lets the Outback handle up to 3,500 lbs of towing, which can make things easier if you have a boat or larger camper that you want to take with you. Both engines come paired with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission that includes an eight-speed manual mode to give you greater control over your driving experience. You really can’t go wrong with either of these engines, but the improved power of the available turbo option makes it my pick for some serious off-roading.

Standard All-Wheel Drive

Powerful engines are great, but many different SUVs out there have great engines, and that, alone, doesn’t make them a good fit for the trail. What helps set the Outback apart from many other models is Subaru’s standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system, designed to provide power to all four wheels and ensure you can get traction in even the toughest of situations. Subaru Symmetrical AWD is well known for being one of the best drivetrains in the industry, and what’s truly remarkable is that unlike many SUVs, it comes standard on every Outback model. Most SUVs offer two-wheel drive versions to keep costs down on lower models of the range. AWD may not even be available on certain trim levels. But even if you want to keep things simple and go with the budget-friendly Base trim of the Subaru Outback, you still get this fantastic AWD system.

Beyond that, every Outback also comes with X-Mode, which enhances the AWD system by optimizing engine output and the way power is sent to the wheels. This helps improve the Outback’s traction in slippery conditions, making it great for driving in rough weather or when you encounter mud and sand out on the trail. Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) is also standard, which is an electronic stability control system that constantly monitors wheel speed, steering angle, and more to adjust braking power and engine torque as a way to help keep you in control.

This technology is paired with a traction control system that monitors wheel slip and adjusts power and braking as needed to compensate. Every Outback also comes with Subaru’s Active Torque Vectoring that works with the VDC system to apply braking power to the inside front wheel while turning to improve handling during a turn. This is great both on and off the road. The fact that all of these systems come standard on every model to ensure your experience behind the wheel is exceptional speaks to Subaru’s commitment to meeting the needs of its drivers, which is exactly what I want in an off-road SUV.

A burgundy 2023 Subaru Outback is shown driving on a road.

The Subaru Outback Wilderness

So far I’ve been talking about some general features that make every Outback a good choice for heading into the great outdoors, but that’s not all Subaru has to offer. If you’re really looking for a solid off-road machine, you need to check out the Subaru Outback Wilderness, which is a model designed specifically for the trail. For starters, the Wilderness comes with the more-powerful 2.4L Turbocharged engine for boosted performance, along with all of the great AWD features and technology we just looked at. It also comes with an advanced dual-function X-Mode system with dedicated Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes, along with low- and medium-to-high speed functions for greater control and traction while off-road.

There are more key ways that the Wilderness sets itself apart from other Outback models. For example, most Outback trims have 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which is already great, but the Wilderness has 9.5 inches of clearance to more easily climb over obstacles on the trail. The Wilderness has 17-inch wheels, which are similar to what you can find on some other Outback models, but they’re wrapped in exclusive Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires designed for incredible performance and traction even in the roughest conditions. The front and rear bumpers on the Wilderness have been designed for improved approach and departure angles compared to other models, and it features a front skid plate to protect its underside.

Inside the Outback Wilderness, you’ll find a number of features and amenities designed to improve your trail experience and keep you surprisingly comfortable. For example, you’ll find heated front and rear seats in the Wilderness, which are perfect if you like to head out and play in the snow or up in the mountains. Similarly, the Wilderness has a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with StarTex water-repellent upholstery that’s easier to keep clean than the cloth or leather-trimmed options found in most other Outback models. Plus, a large 11.6-inch Infotainment display and a Harman Kardon premium sound system both come standard in the Wilderness to ensure you have a great time behind the wheel.

A Practical and Accessible Adventurer

A lot of manufacturers seem to view going off-road or wanting to explore the outdoors as a niche market that should have a high price tag as a barrier to entry. Subaru, however, shows us that it doesn’t have to be that way, which is something that I respect about them and their overall design and engineering philosophy. You can get an Outback for a reasonable price, and any model works well for going camping or heading to locations with dirt and gravel roads. With the Outback Wilderness, you can elevate your off-road game even further while still sticking to a price well below a lot of other off-road SUVs that seem to have been built with the idea that only drivers ready to drop $60,000 on a vehicle deserve to have fun.

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