The Subaru Impreza Outback Sport is the Japanese brand's answer to the current off-road wagon trend in the US. It's a decent little cruiser and a more than suitable entry to the compact car segment with its all-rounder perks, everyday livability, and family-friendly safety and reliability standards. Under its elongated hood is a 2.5-liter Boxer-four engine that can be tethered to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic DCT to cede outputs to the patented Symmetrical all-wheel-drivetrain. Unfortunately, it's not a very frugal compact and it is pricier than some of its competition - the main rivals being the Kia Forte5, Honda CR-Z, and Pontiac Vibe.
2.5L Flat 4 Gas
The Subaru Impreza Outback Sport wagon is easily recognizable for its unique and distinct exterior styling cues, prompting images from years gone by. It can even be had in a two-tone color theme. It comes outfitted with prominent prow and stern bumper guards, bodyside moldings, and black roof carrier bars. Halogen headlights are stock-fit along with fog lights and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
It carries relatively taught dimensions; in length it measures 173.8-inches, in width, 68.5-inches, and in height, 58.3-inches. Its wheelbase spans a total of 103.1-inches. With the manual shifter, it weighs in with a curb weight of 3,109 pounds, while the DCT throws in another 66 lbs. That is about average in comparison with other competitors in the class.
Powering the Impreza Outback Sport is a 2.5-liter flat-four BOXER unit tuned to deliver up to 170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. A five-ratio manual gearbox is standard-fit and while five and six-ratio automatic transmissions are becoming more common, the Impreza makes do with an optional four-speed DCT. Performance from the powertrain is easy-going, while acceleration from off-the-line is gradual, taking around eight seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. Getting up to top speed does take some patience, and merging or overtaking on the highway is effortless. The shift-stick is the preferred constituent for its slight benefit to driver engagement and fuel economy. The auto performs lethargically at any rate and does nothing for frugality.
Unfortunately, this Impreza doesn't feel as fun-to-drive as prior year models, especially so in its steering responses, which now feel rather sluggish at turn-in. It's otherwise still very peppy and nimble around town thanks to its design and compact dimensions. It's impressively competent and compliant on the road, too. There are slight hints of body roll exhibited through corners but the tail sway exhibited by previous variants has been overcome. Its Symmetrical AWD system is exceptionally beneficial for traveling in slippery conditions, especially in snow, this does, however, come at the detriment of acceleration and fuel economy. In test drives, the cruiser impresses in terms of ride quality as well. It's adequately comfortable and quiet and it isolates bumps and undulations almost as effectively as a larger vehicle would.
The Subaru's consumption readings are relatively subpar for the class. Surprising still is the fact that it is more economical with the stick-shift than with the auto, returning EPA-derived gas mileage estimates of 20/27/24 mpg and 20/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined, respectively. With its 16.9-gallon gas tank filled to the brim, the commuter should cruise for around 400 miles before running empty.
The Impreza Outback Sport has an interior quality and impression that matches its fare. There are a lot of hard-touch materials utilized throughout, but the fit and finishes are nicely integrated. The layout is very straight-forward and the infotainment setup and its buttons are intuitively and neatly displayed. The only qualm here is that a rotary dial is used to flip through stations, which could be an annoyance.
There is more than enough overall room for passengers in the front and rear seats, barring the center chair. Wide door openings make ingress and egress effortless, too. The hatch presents plenty of cargo-carrying versatility and added practicality. Plus, the rear bench folds flat in a 60/40-split configuration for even more space.
Some inclusive features include a leather steering wheel, cloth seating surfaces, a six-way positionable pilot seat, regular air conditioning, electronic accessories, and cruise control. Infotainment is covered by an in-dash stereo with six-speakers, a single CD-player, and Bluetooth connectivity.
The NHTSA has yet to review the Subaru Impreza Outback Sport wagon for its crashworthiness and occupant protection. Fortunately, the IIHS has, availing the 2011 Subaru with the best possible ratings of Good for all four of the agency's specified evaluations. The authority also rated the Subaru's daytime running lights with a top score of Superior.
A total of six airbags - two frontal, side-curtain, and side-impact, cover passive protective measures. Active elements include a dynamics and traction control system, ABS braking, and a tire pressure monitoring apparatus - pretty regular stuff. Unfortunately, Subaru offers no driver-assist technologies or additional protective features.
The 2011 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport is a standalone nameplate offered at a base price of just under $20,000 MSRP in the USA. That's for the standard model in base spec. The optional four-speed DCT will add to the cost as will any other packages and extras. For how much the Outback Sport costs, we'd expect a bit more, so our opinion is that there are a lot better vehicles out there.