Cabin & Utility

Roomier by almost 10 percent, the Outback's cabin addresses some of its predecessor's biggest issues Ч namely, backseat room. There's plenty of it now, and abundant headroom, too. The front seats could use longer seat cushions for better thigh support, and drivers over 6 feet tall will want to be able to move the seat farther back. (I'm 5-foot-11, and I drove with the seat all the way back.)

Our test car came outfitted in a nice grade of leather Ч it wouldn't be out of place in an entry-level luxury car Ч but the grainier upholstery along the center console and door armrests doesn't live up to the same quality, and both areas are short on padding. Chrome door handles and nicely textured faux-metal trim add an upscale touch, but our test car's shiny faux-wood trim is among the worst of its kind.

So is the optional navigation system. The graphics look dated, particularly once you get into the menus, and it all runs off old-school DVDs, not a hard drive. That makes for slow map and menu loading, and it requires you to put in additional map discs if you travel to new parts of the country. The map view has too few street labels, and overhead sunlight or polarized sunglasses render the whole display difficult to see. The system includes iPod/USB integration, but it locks out most functions while the car is moving. On a road trip and wanting a new iPod playlist? Better make a pit stop.

Cargo volume behind the rear seat is a competitive 34.3 cubic feet, and the Outback's wide, rectangular cargo area accommodates large cargo better than many. Fold the rear seats down, and the crossover has an impressive 71.3 cubic feet of space.

*37.2 cubic feet in three-row model with third row folded.

Source: Automaker information

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