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Dropped my '11 2.5i, CVT off this AM for it's 30K, it has 29K miles as I type this. As luck would have my local dealer had two '13 loaners in stock today, useually all they have are Imprezas & Foresters so of course I asked to use one for the day.

Initial impressions, instead of reitterating everything obvious that we all like about the new '13 model such as the new grille, fog lights, timing-chain motor etc... I'm going to cut right to it. I still havent warmed up to the new wheels, the higher trimmed limited with the polished face or the two-toned SAP wheels look 10x better than the more goffy and plain looking premium wheels on this car, I didn't realize how awkward they actually looked until starring at them directly from three feet away, unfortunately If I bought a premium my first mod or neogotiation would be a set of XV Crosstrek wheels.

This car is the blue-gray color, and I really like it. It also has the all black interior with silver trim. While I was a fan of the darker interior back when I picked up my 2011, I have to say after spending 45 minutes with the '13 black interior it is way too dark for my taste. It probably would look better against wood or carbon fiber trim but in this premium it gives the car a cheaper look inside. For some reason, despite the maintenance requirements of the lighter beige, it somehow gives the interior of my '11 premium a more upscale and airy feeling.

I'm also not sure I like the new guage cluster, but it could be becuase of all the black plastic everywhere in this particular car. Again the '10-'12 guages with the chrome bezels look more upscale, the new ones look like a cost cutting effort but are at least cohesive. I realize I'm basically driving a base model '13 Outback and the setup in the limited & SAP is probably nicer, but for this review sake I am comparing my '11 premium to this '13 premium.

While the seats look like the same overall shape, the new ones feel more plush and give the interior a warmer sensation because of the velour material. I admit I miss the rear-view camera in the mirror and auto dimming feature, this car has a plain rear view mirror with manual dim-adjuster. I also miss the sunroof even if it is small and I don't use it much, it's just adds a slight pinch of luxury and brings in more daylight, the lack of one in this car makes the interior that much austere.

Ok so I'm nit-picking the interior and thats a minor detail really, what I do like is this engine is noticibly smoother idling and when running, If I want to be picky there is the ever so slightly louder valve-train noises in this '13 compared to my car. The CVT is also less buzzy sounding than my 2011's but there is a subtle whine at parking lot speeds in the '13 that I don't notice in my car. I found the mid range acceleration and punch is not necessarily more or less powerful, but what is noticible is initial tip in acceleration when you are just driving normal around town. Truthfully It could be that I'm just in a "new car" or that this new motor/ CVT combo has a snappier feel off the line, I actually have to TRY and take off smoothly as there is more of an initial lurch from a dead stop than with my car. As an example my '11 2.5 CVT takes about 1/4 throttle to get it rolling from a dead stop and the engine grones a little more when doing so. With this '13 you barely have to press the gas and it wants to go.

Like I said the car feels no quicker overall or when passing, but the manner in which it goes about it is much more linear and refineds. If I where still shopping for an Outback for the first time all over again today, I could safely say I would still opt for this 2.5 & CVT as the new one is that good and much smoother in its operation. If it were 2010-12 again with the old Ej and CVT I, I would have by-passed the 2.5 and gone with the 3.6R. At no point driving this 2.5i did I wish or think this car needs more power, yet I do feel this way with my '11 at times.

What I liked the most about this car is the ride and suspension improvements. I honestly can't tell a difference from say the front suspension, but they have magically improved that hop from the rear that occurs when driving over bumps in the road and improved/ fixed the wandering on the highway. I have to hold my '11 cars steering wheel with two hands on the highway at 70 mph, constantly correcting steering imputs. I could drive this '13 completely relaxed and steer it with my pinky if I wanted. While this still is no canyon carver by a long shot, handling is crisp now and somewhat predictable, the rear now feels much more hunkered down and more planted, almost heavier eventhough I know it's not.

If you are coming to this car having never driven a '10-'12 you would still find the handling just so so overall for what it is, and nothing more than adequate. If you own a '10-12 Outback or have driven one you would have thought they completely redesigned the suspension. In fact I'm not sure if it's an illusion but just off looking at the car from different angles you can actually spot positive camber in the rear wheels of the '10-'12 (really noticible on hubcap models) where on this '13 the wheels look flush with the body.

Overall I like the car, but mostly welcome the firmer ride along with the smoother and less elastic feeling of the new CVT. But I already miss the creature comforts of my 2011. I'm glad they didn't have a Limited or SAP to loan as I would be signing papers right now, but I honestly can't say by driving this premium that I would be motivated to trade into an identically equipped car as my '11. I'm really not in a position to buy another "fully-loaded" car let alone one over $30K right now. Only way would be if my '11 got written off tomorrow then it would be a no-brainer.

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