2009 Subaru Outback review

A longtime Cars.com favorite, the Subaru Outback remains a versatile, desirable model whose greatest shortcoming is that it's no longer unique. Along with competing wagons like the Volvo V50 and XC70 and Volkswagen's Passat wagon, it now faces small crossovers like the Toyota Venza, too. This has happened gradually as the SUV market has moved away from bulky, truck-based SUVs toward lighter, more refined unibody models that are more fuel- and space-efficient yet retain the attributes many buyers have come to appreciate: all-wheel drive, additional ground clearance and the flexibility of a hatchback.

For 2009, Subaru eliminated last year's base, Premium and L.L.Bean trim levels. Now the lineup starts with the 2.5i, 2.5i Special Edition and 2.5i Limited. More powerful engines come in the turbocharged 2.5 XT Limited and six-cylinder 3.0 R Limited, along with some additional convenience features not found on the other Limiteds. Subaru simplified matters last year by making the Outback only a wagon, and the Legacy, on which it's based, only a sedan. Little else has changed this year, though an electronic stability system is now standard, and the two higher trim levels include a premium stereo. (There's also an Outback version of the smaller Impreza hatchback called the Impreza Outback Sport. All clear?)

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