Subaru Outback H6-3.0 VDC(2001)

Subaru Outback

If you've come to think of Subarus as simple, unpretentious, and relatively cheap, prepare yourself for a shock: Although they're still relatively unpretentious, they're not that simple anymore, and this new Outback is a $30,000+ vehicle.

The VDC is a gussied-up version of the Outback wagon, a vehicle we've liked in the past. To the good old Outback, Subaru has added a powerful new six-cylinder engine, dual sunroofs, special alloy wheels, leather seats, a stability control system, and a long list of creature comforts. And you'll pay for every bit of it: The cars.com target price for the VDC is $29,997 -- more than $6,000 above the nicely equipped Outback Limited, making it Subaru's top-of-the-line vehicle.

Starting in 2001, the Outback becomes a separate model in the Subaru lineup. Both it and the Legacy, which the Outback is based on, are available as four-door sedans and four-door wagons. Among Outbacks, there's the VDC; the LL Bean Edition, which also has the new engine; the Limited, which comes as a sedan or a wagon; and the base-model Sport, which no one has ever caught sight of.

Driving Experience

Subaru Outback The VDC uses Subaru's new horizontally opposed, 212-horsepower, six-cylinder engine. It's got nearly 50 more horsepower than the basic four-cylinder Outback engine. We found it to be very powerful in this car, without being ridiculously powerful -- although it's not far off. You step on the gas lightly, and this car GOES. Needless to say, it does violate Tommy's limit of .06 horsepower per pound.

The rest of the drivetrain, the four-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive system, is wonderfully smooth. And, as you might expect from an all-wheel-drive vehicle, it was exceptional in snow.

The ride and the handling were very good. Cornering was good. Straight-line ride was very comfortable. The Outback remains a car that's easy to drive. Like all Subarus, the brakes were soft. An antilock system is standard.

 

Interior

Inside is where we encountered a shortcoming you don't expect in a $30,000 vehicle: the seats. The cushions in the Outback just don't feel long enough. Sure, they're firm, covered in nice enough leather, and even heated. The driver's seat even has an eight-way power adjustment. The problem is, the seat bottoms just aren't quite long enough to feel fully supportive. If Subaru wants to play in the $30K-and-up league, it should investigate some more luxurious seating options.

Inside, the room is adequate, though not outstanding. Front and rear legroom is sufficient for most folks, and the dual sunroofs (one for the front-seat passengers and one for the back) help make it seem more airy.

In back, the cargo space is pretty good. There's even a rubber cargo mat that would theoretically help keep things neat if some of your passengers were of the canine variety. (Note to Subaru: We would never think of carrying around a dog in the back of a test vehicle, and we tried our best to vacuum up the hair.)

Standard features include side air bags, automatic climate control, cruise control, power locks and windows, and a tilt steering wheel.

Ergonomics

Subaru Outback We have a couple of minor complaints about the controls. One, there's no auto-up feature on the driver's window, and B, there are no controls on the steering wheel for the stereo -- both features you might expect to find on a $30,000 vehicle. (This was our Producer Dougie Berman's complaint, by the way. We were glad for that omission -- it kept us from accidentally changing radio stations every time we rounded a corner.)

We weren't crazy about the gate around the automatic shifter either. It was too easy to end up in third gear instead of Drive. Otherwise we thought the controls and gauges were very good.

Styling

This vehicle is nothing if not familiar. The basic shape has been around now for seven model years. We kind of like it, with its cute yet rugged appearance.

Reliability

Subarus in general have a well-deserved reputation for reliability, and we have no reason to believe that the VDC will be any different. This is a new engine, however, and we don't yet know much about it. It will certainly cost more to fix than a traditional Outback or Legacy engine, because A, it's crammed into the engine compartment, and 2, it's got 50 percent more cylinders.

Overall comments

We like this vehicle. However, there were a few shortcomings that made it feel out of place in the $30,000 price range. Thirty thousand is one of those psychological barriers that invite a little more scrutiny. As nice as it is, the VDC just doesn't feel as "expensive" as the Volkswagen Passat wagon and the Audi A4 wagon, both of which can be had with a nice V6 and all-wheel drive for similar money.

Subaru does have a loyal following, particularly in our neck of the woods, and the new flat-six means Outback owners no longer have to suffer cylinder envy while sitting next to Accords and Camrys at the stoplight. For the dyed-in-the-wool Subaru owners of this world, that may be enough. Or, for the person who wants every possible feature -- all-wheel drive, lots of power, cargo room, bells, whistles, sunroofs AND wants to remain unpretentious, the Outback H6-3.0 VDC may be the way to go.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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