Amanda and I were not eager to buy a Subaru, especially an Outback. It’s joked to be the official car of Boulder, and here they stand out about as much as a Toyota Camry, Ford F-150, or Honda CR-V in other parts of the country. It’s not terribly fun to drive compared to, say, a BMW 2-Series or a Mini, and not excessively attractive either. And, finally, with a MSRP of $30k plus/minus depending on the trim package, it would be our most expensive purchase since our home in 2012, but with one big difference: the car will depreciate, not appreciate, at nearly 10 percent per year.
Nonetheless, on Monday Amanda and I joined the ranks of happy Subaru owners, and did our part in helping the Outback retain its title as the most popular car in Colorado. Here’s why:
When the rear seats are folded down, the Outback’s cargo area offers 73 cubic feet of storage and will swallow a 190-cm (76 in) pair of skis, or longer by sitting them on the center console. To get this much space, normally you need a truck or a full-size SUV. The Jeep Grand Cherokee actually offers less space (68 cu ft with a 66-in length) and the Ford Explorer is only marginally better, with 80 cubic feet.
The Outback also has AWD and almost 9 inches of ground clearance, which will get us safely and confidently to any ski hill and to most Colorado trailheads.
2. Fuel economy
Over the last decade Subaru has made huge and consistent gains in fuel efficiency. The Outback now gets 33 highway/25 city, which is equal to or better than my 2005 Pontiac Vibe and Amanda’s 2010 Kia Soul (which we traded in), despite the Outback being heavier and more powerful, and having AWD. In comparison, most 4WD trucks and full-size SUV’s are high-10’s/low-20’s, and most AWD crossovers like the Ford Escape are in the mid- and upper-20’s.
Instead of the Outback, I would love to have in my garage a sexy Audi allroad Wagon or a manly Chevy Colorado. But we’re too practical and cost-conscious. With similar interior trims and AWD/4WD, the import wagons and small SUV’s (e.g. BMW X3) are about $10k more. Crossovers cost about the same, but offer less. Small- and mid-size trucks are slightly more, but but since the Outback will primarily be Amanda’s car, we didn’t give them much thought.
New or used?
Our original plan had been to replace my Vibe — which is older and has more miles than Amanda’s Soul — with a used car. But given Subaru’s value retention, we quickly determined that the marginal cost for a new car was worthwhile. And, helped by being DINKS and avid savers, we thankfully had the cash to cover.