KBB Logo Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.

Editor's Overview

The 5-passenger Subaru Outback continues to make a name for itself by combining the on-road civility and utility of a modern crossover with the all-terrain capability of a traditional SUV. In addition to its standard all-wheel drive, Subaru endowed the Outback with a variety of powertrain, cosmetic and content enhancements for the 2013 model year.

You'll Like The 2013 Subaru Outback If...

Few vehicles on the market can equal the Subaru Outback’s ability to conquer tough terrain while simultaneously delivering carlike fuel economy. Safety buffs will appreciate its perfect crash test marks and the availability of the segment-exclusive EyeSight driver assistance system.

You May Not Like The 2013 Subaru Outback If...

Those who wish to tow more than 3,000-pounds or frequently carry more than five passengers should begin their search for a new vehicle with a conventional mid-size SUV like the Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Highlander or the Honda Pilot. And if all-wheel drive is of little importance in your next SUV, consider the smaller, less expensive Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5.

What's New

The Subaru Outback receives a fairly significant mid-cycle refresh for 2013. Chief among the changes are a modified body structure and suspension, which result in less body roll and reduced interior noise. Additional refinements include new audio systems, a restyled front end, and a new 4-cylinder engine that is both more powerful and fuel efficient.

Interior Features

The roomy, versatile 2013 Subaru Outback cabin is stylishly functional. Responding to owners’ desires for more rear-seat room, Subaru added four inches of legroom and nearly three inches of headroom with the 2010 redesign. During our test drive, we comfortably fit three 6-foot adults in the back seat without their knees touching the front seatbacks. Wide front seats and a reclining rear seat further improve comfort, while the upscale Limited and Premium trims offer power driver’s-side lumbar support and leather seating. A dash-mounted electronic parking brake frees up console space for water bottles and latte cups. Automatic-transmission models also feature steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Exterior Features

While previous Subaru Outback generations seemed more like a jacked-up, fender-flared Legacy, the newest models – including the Outback – take on more personality of their own, with a 3-inch-higher roofline and a better-integrated look of ruggedness. Thick plastic cladding, a raised ride height and 8.7 inches of ground clearance reveal its off-road capability, while beefy black roof rails conceal fold-out crossbars that stow away to reduce drag when not in use. The Outback’s exterior styling looks even sleeker for 2013 thanks to new headlights, a redesigned front bumper and a more prominent grille.

Driving Impressions

If fuel economy takes precedent over quick acceleration, the 2013 Subaru Outback’s 2.5-liter four with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is your best bet. The 173-horsepower engine has to work a bit, but once up to speed, the CVT finds and holds the engine’s peak torque, providing a good balance of response and efficiency. The CVT does take some getting used to, as there are no discernible gearshifts like a traditional automatic. The standard steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, however, allow the driver to simulate manual gearshifts, for quicker passing and merging. With an estimated 30 mpg highway and an 18-gallon fuel tank, the Outback can cruise well over 500 miles before refueling. On the road, the Outback demonstrates an impressive sedan-like feel, in part because the low center of gravity of its powertrain more than offsets its tall bodywork. Steering is precise and predictable, and only some slight wind noise around the roof racks intrudes on the quiet ride.

Pricing Notes

The 2013 Subaru Outback starts at a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $24,000 and tops out north of $36,000. Pricing is on par with the majority of compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and the Ford Escape, and undercuts the Toyota Venza by roughly $3,000. Everyone wants a great deal on their new car, and KBB.com’s Fair Purchase Price can help by revealing what consumers in your area are actually paying for their 2013 Subaru Outbacks. The Subaru Outback is expected to retain higher than average residual values over a 5-year period, besting the Ford Escape and the Nissan Rogue, but falling just shy of the Venza, CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.

Notable Equipment

The 2013 Subaru Outback is offered in five trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R and 3.6R Limited. Base 2.5i models feature all-wheel drive, a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-inch steel wheels with covers, roof rails and a 4-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and a USB port for portable music players. Moving up to the Premium trim adds alloy wheels, fog lights, a 10-way power driver’s seat, and two additional speakers, while range-topping Limited versions include leather seating, dual-zone climate control and 440-watt harman/kardon sound system. Safety equipment consists of six airbags, all of the expected electronic stability controls, and Subaru’s new EyeSight driver-assistance system, which includes an adaptive cruise control system that automatically maintains a preset distance between the vehicle ahead, pre-collision braking, and lane-departure warning to alert drivers of an unintentional lane change.

Notable Options

Most options for the Subaru Outback are dependent on trim level. The CVT automatic transmission is the lone option on the base 2.5i, with Premium and Limited models offering a Power Moonroof Package comprised of an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear backup camera and – you guessed it – a power moonroof. Limited models offer voice-activated navigation, the aforementioned EyeSight safety system and a Special Appearance Package with metallic gray exterior adornments, wood-grain-style interior trim and keyless access with push-button start. Given the standard audio system’s marginally adequate sound quality, we suggest upgrading to the available 9-speaker harman/kardon setup.

Favorite Features

CONTINUOUSLY VARIABLE AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION (CVT)Subaru’s take on the popular, fuel-saving transmission-without-gears features a paddle-shifted manual mode that mimics the shift points of a manual transmission without needing a clutch pedal. Best of all, the Outback CVT’s estimated 24 city/30 highway mpg is better than with the 6-speed manual.ELECTRONIC PARKING BRAKE WITH HILL-HOLDER FUNCTIONThe traditional parking brake handle is replaced by a soft-touch push/pull switch on the dash. The electronic brake system includes a feature that holds the brakes for a moment on inclines greater than five degrees, for easier takeoffs without unwanted rollback.

Under the Hood

Subaru offers two boxer engines in the 2013 Outback. What’s a boxer engine? Glad you asked: It’s a low-profile and naturally balanced design in which the pistons lay flat in a horizontally opposed configuration. The new 2.5-liter four delivers 173 horsepower, not best-in-class but enough muscle for satisfactory performance. Matching this engine with the CVT automatic will produce the best fuel economy, but the 6-speed manual offers sportier performance. The most refined choice for the Outback is the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder and its conventional 5-speed automatic, whose strong acceleration and passing power come at the expense of fuel efficiency: an estimated 18/25 mpg city/highway (versus the 4-cylinder CVT’s 24/30).2.5-liter boxer-4173 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm174 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg (manual), 24/30 mpg (automatic)3.6-liter boxer-6256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm247 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 mpg

Editors' Notes

Though it was originally promoted as the “world’s first sport utility wagon,” the 2013 Subaru Outback is more SUV than wagon, and that’s a good thing. It’s as spacious and capable as a conventional mid-size SUV, but delivers the fuel efficiency and driving characteristics of a sedan. The Outback also provides the all-weather mobility afforded by Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive and an elevated seating position for a more commanding view of the road. Competing vehicles such as the Toyota Venza, Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox each excel in particular categories, but the 4th-generation Outback’s balanced blend of on- and off-road proficiency offers a unique flavor in an otherwise well-defined category.

Road Test Video Reviews

2013 Subaru Outback Owner Reviews

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Subaru, a fun car for the road!

2013 Subaru Outback

My Subaru Outback is the first SUV I have ever owned. I love my 4-wheel drive, just in case I ever need it! The vehicle sits comfortably high and provides a really smooth ride. The Subaru also has one of the very highest consumer ratings, and is happy to report over 90% of their Subaru's are still on the road after 10 years! The hatch is so spacious and so easy to load and unload all my groceries. The spaciousness and the smoothness of the ride made traveling on the road wonderful. I love the fact that there is such great visibility in this vehicle. I feel like I can see everything. One caveat, my vehicle did not come with a back-up camera. I have yet to get one, but I would not advise buying this type of vehicle without a backup camera. There are blind spots that will make you exceedingly nervous, especially in busy parking lots, where little children can break from their parents grasp and be behind you in your path. It is also important to make certain you have the mats in the front, back, and hatch. Having a big mat in the hatch will really protect the car. As I said, handling is mostly smooth, but the steering mechanism produces a wide turning radius. This can sometimes make maneuvering trickier in tighter spaces. This is just something you adapt to. One cause for concern is the recalls. I know many vehicles have recalls these days, but I expected better from Subaru. There have been two. The first had to do with the steering mechanism, and the 2nd one has to do with the airbags. It is frightening to think of shrapnel flying into you from an improperly installed air bag. Although Subaru handles all the cost of the check and repair, it costs time, which is money. Two recalls leaves me wondering if there are more on the way. My Subaru is a 2013, so it is concerning that I didn't get the notice about the airbags until a few months ago, in 2018. My dealership experiences are always positive. They cater to the comfort of their customers and always wash my car!

- Dee G

My Safe and Reliable Subaru through a Young Adult's Eyes

2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i

My Subaru makes me feel safe and comfortable and relaxed with no worries to be able to get anything done. Easy to fold the seats for packing extra cargo. Or to reset the seats for passengers. Super safe and reliable in mountain terrains. The shocks are gentle and make the ride inside the car feel so relaxed. The outback is right in between sizes of small and big enough. Interior is made of good quality material. I have 2 problems with this car. One is that the 4-cylinder engine doesn't have enough pickup for the car itself so at times when it's loaded down accelerating seems slower. My most basic model isn't used very much for towing so it's not too big of an issue but for other people upgrading the cylinder or getting a sport feature might be better. Second, the maintenance on this car is quite expensive. I thought I could keep up with the maintenance on initial research, but I've been surprised how costly it is if there is issues under the hood. Be wise on considering this in your decision before buying. Subaru, in my opinion, is the safe and luxurious option to terrain and cargo life. Overall, I love my Subaru, it's sturdy and reliable.

- Allison A

Good resale value. I often get offers for trading & a great deal on a new car.

2013 Subaru Outback

The 2013 Subaru outback is very comfortable. It has good legroom in the back seat. People comment that it is roomier than they think. I like the power driver seat. The car is running well after 5 1/2 years. The backup camera is a great feature that I cannot live without. I wish it had a built-in navigation system and better music interface. The Bluetooth for playing music via iphone is occasionally spotty and breaks up. Some people say they cannot hear me on the phone when I am using Bluetooth. It is a great all-terrain vehicle. Rear cargo area is very roomy and I love the fact that it has a sturdy, plastic liner that can be easily removed and hosed off. It had a recall a few years ago for oil issues. In the past year or so, I have found that my oil level light goes on after just 1500 miles (this car uses synthetic, so it should last much longer). We took it to the dealership for a free test (b/c of the recall issue) and they said that it had no problem. I am going to bring it back again since this keeps happening. Overall, I would highly recommend a Subaru and would buy another one in the future.

- Jen M

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