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I'm in the market for a new family-friendly car and the Outback is on my radar for all the obvious reasons -- safety, space, accessibility, reliability, versatility, etc. I've read through several threads on this forum over the past couple of months (this is a great site, by the way) and have made note of the pros and cons of various models and trim levels along with the differences in performance between the 2.5i and the 3.6r. So I think I've got a fair impression of what people like and don't like about their Gen 5 Outbacks, and what the 2.5i and 3.6r do well and what they do not so well. I'm not concerned about high elevation performance, whether in the snow or trucking up a mountain pass. I'm in the southern Appalachians where Subaru's AWD system will more than adequately handle our rare snow storms and where the elevation isn't nearly enough to affect engine power like it does out West. (I do drive up and down a mountain every day -- the one-way elevation gain/loss is around 1,200' -- but my wife and I fare just fine in our current meekly-powered hybrid FWD cars.) And I have no illusions about rock-crawling in a Subaru as if it were a jacked-up 4Runner or Jeep.

Still, I have a lingering, specific question that I'm not sure I've seen directly (or at least comprehensively) covered here:

How does the Gen 5 2.5i perform over the course of a trip while loaded up with four passengers and a trunk/cargo box full of luggage or camping/hiking gear at normal (below 3,000' or 4,000') elevations? If I load up my wife and kids, all of our luggage, camping gear, and maybe a cooler and a small grill, am I going to be comfortable moving in and out of traffic for hours on an interstate? And how about when we get off the interstate and start making our way down windy dirt or gravel roads in the forests or mountains, which, even at low elevations, have enough low-traction incline or descent to them to make a standard FWD car balk?

This isn't a make-or-break question in my search for a new car, or one that I'm using to gauge how the car will perform during most of my drives. Obviously family vacations and weekend trips to a mountain cabin or a semi-remote trail with friends are not representative of the bulk of driving that I do. Most of my driving is to and from work and hauling my family from Point A to Point B, and that will not change with my next car. I can discern the 2.5i's performance of those tasks reasonably well in test drives.

But I can't simulate a four-passenger, gear-packed trip, whether on an interstate or a meandering gravel road. So I was hoping to get y'all's takes.

I also assume that a 3.6r's performance in the scenarios that I described would be adequate. That's why I'm interested to hear the experience of 2.5i owners.

Anyway, thanks in advance for your input. (And sorry for the long post and potentially excessive context. That's sort of how I roll.)
 

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I've read in a recent (not too far in the past) thread of someone in a 2.5 with 4 people and gear with no problems.

I can't find it right now but did find this post of traveling with 3 people (or maybe 3 + driver) and gear which suggests you will likely be fine.
 

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2016 Outback Premium 2.5 CVT w/EyeSight+SRVD
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My wife and I have traveled extensively across the western U.S. in our 2016 Outback ... 2-4 adults and moderate cargo load aboard, at elevations from near sea level to over 12,000 feet ... and the 2.5 has been fully adequate for our uses. The CVT actually helps a lot to make best use of the power and economy available from the 2.5 engine.

I'd advise driving both a 2.5 and a 3.6 before deciding. Better yet, rent or borrow a 2.5 Outback for a weekend off-road camping trip with the family. Choice is good.
 

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crammed 4 ppl + a medium size dog + luggage for 2000km trip in summer.

Hwy = stay nice and cool in the car, avg 28-30mpg.
Off paved roads = nice and fun.

Cargo box can eat 2-3mpg off your normal results.
 

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Been doing the 2.5 camping / road tripping with 4+, for yrs. I’m west coast you know Sierras, coastal range, PNW and we often tow the 4x6 900lb empty or about 1300 loaded trailer. Towed our 21ft racing boat for many yrs also. Simply put unless your at or over 6000ft the 2.5 especially now with the cvt hauls the butts and gear just fine. In my case my OB is probably toting way more than average daily, currently loaded with my rental maint tool kit + hitch bike rack from our family ride yesterday and the snow ski box on the roof. Yeah we’re kinda active and busy hauling people and crap.

My first Subaru in 01replaced a 4Runner and we bought another Subaru 2.5 after replacing the 01 Legacy at 180,000 miles, wanted the bigger 2010 OB.

I like the 3.6 but only time I would want it was if we lived at 6000+ ft. The 2.5 hauls our camping set up, roof box, bikes on the roof and trailer easily 65-75mph. Only downer would be the soft rear springs my originals at 100,000 are past tired. I’ll probably get stock height Rallitek struts which have a slightly heavier spring rating.

The 2015’s got a better strut and spring combo which has carried through to the 18’s so the newer cars are better set up than my 2010. The newer 2.5 has a really flat power band paired with the cvt grunt and power isn’t much of an issue.
 

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2017 Outback 2.5i Limited w/ EyeSight - Lapis Blue Pearl
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How does the Gen 5 2.5i perform over the course of a trip while loaded up with four passengers and a trunk/cargo box full of luggage or camping/hiking gear at normal (below 3,000' or 4,000') elevations? If I load up my wife and kids, all of our luggage, camping gear, and maybe a cooler and a small grill, am I going to be comfortable moving in and out of traffic for hours on an interstate? And how about when we get off the interstate and start making our way down windy dirt or gravel roads in the forests or mountains, which, even at low elevations, have enough low-traction incline or descent to them to make a standard FWD car balk?
Our first road trip, post break-in, with our '17 2.5 Limited was a 2-week trip from Boise to the OR coast and back. On the way out, it was just my wife and me, with our golden retriever, and on the way back, we did add a daughter, and her cargo, to the mix. We had a Yakima Skybox 16 on top. Our journey included plenty of interstate, dirt roads into the hills along the Columbia River, and along the coastal highway, which also can be hilly in places. The 2.5 was very capable, but one would never confuse it with a 6 cyl, or larger certainly. Merging into traffic, passing, etc., is comfortably doable, with the expectation that one is aware of one's surroundings, and drives with attention and purpose. With the Skybox, as many note, we did lose probably 2-4 MPG, depending upon conditions, but we were always able to comfortably maintain a 70-80 MPH pace on the interstate. There obviously is more noise across the roofline, and also, perhaps not surprisingly, our SiriusXM reception was poorer in areas due to the roof-top box.

For perspective, the Outback replaces a 2003 VW Passat GLX 4-Motion wagon. We put over 167K miles on that, with many family road trips and snowboarding escapes with a Yakima Spacecase roof top box. That car did have more power, was quieter, and I still feel demonstrated a superior AWD system, but less ground clearance when off the paved path. Anyway, no buyer's remorse here, with either the Outback or the 2.5 specifically, and we intend upon this being our touring setup for at least the next 10 years if not longer.

Good luck!
 

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2016 Outback 3.6r Limited
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I honestly LOVE the 3.6 for this reason. Can it be done with the 2.5? Absolutely. I will carry a rooftop box and sometimes one bike, and if the bike isn't there, theres multiple on the hitch in the back. There is definitely wind drag. If you do anything going up mountains, grades, etc, I would HIGHLY recommend the 3.6. Secondly everything I've read says its on its way out, and will be replaced with a turbo motor. Turbo's are nothing but maintenance and haven't been proven for lasting for a long time in Subarus line of vehicles. The 3.6 has and is a pretty solid motor. Its been used in the Tribeca for quite some time. If you want a quieter ride with less effort, its a no brainer in my book.
 

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2016 Outback 2.5i Premium PZEV w/Eyesight in Ice Silver
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That's a pretty subjective question. If you expect a loaded 2.5 OB to perform like an empty Fusion Hybrid on hills, you will not be happy. Of course, you won't be happy with the 3.6 either.
The 2.5 will do what you describe without problems or drama, but if you expect higher performance than the car can provide, you will not be happy. Go test drive a 2.5 and a 3.6 and let us know what you think.
 

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2012 Silver Outback Premium 2.5 CVT
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I drove my 2012 2.5i from Austin to my parents' in Abingdon, VA last 4th of July. My buddy and I had the car absolutely stuffed with coolers, full-sized spare, camping gear, full toolboxes, and luggage. We had two mountain bikes on the rear hitch rack and a roof top tent up top. We drove out I-20 and cut up over to Pisgah in NC where we drove dirt roads, camped, and mountain biked. We then went on to Boone and then to Abingdon through the mountains. We hit different riding spots in the Tri-Cities area and headed back to Austin via Little Rock.

Anyway, we saw it all as far as interstates, dirt roads, mountain passes, etc. I have the 19mm sway bar which I was happy about. The car was surprisingly stable while a tad top-heavy. I'm sure a fresher car would be even better.
 

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2017 Outback Premium, 2.5l, Venetian Red Pearl
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How does the Gen 5 2.5i perform over the course of a trip while loaded up with four passengers and a trunk/cargo box full of luggage or camping/hiking gear at normal (below 3,000' or 4,000') elevations? If I load up my wife and kids, all of our luggage, camping gear, and maybe a cooler and a small grill, am I going to be comfortable moving in and out of traffic for hours on an interstate? And how about when we get off the interstate and start making our way down windy dirt or gravel roads in the forests or mountains, which, even at low elevations, have enough low-traction incline or descent to them to make a standard FWD car balk?

This isn't a make-or-break question in my search for a new car, or one that I'm using to gauge how the car will perform during most of my drives. Obviously family vacations and weekend trips to a mountain cabin or a semi-remote trail with friends are not representative of the bulk of driving that I do. Most of my driving is to and from work and hauling my family from Point A to Point B, and that will not change with my next car. I can discern the 2.5i's performance of those tasks reasonably well in test drives.

But I can't simulate a four-passenger, gear-packed trip, whether on an interstate or a meandering gravel road. So I was hoping to get y'all's takes.

I also assume that a 3.6r's performance in the scenarios that I described would be adequate. That's why I'm interested to hear the experience of 2.5i owners.

Anyway, thanks in advance for your input. (And sorry for the long post and potentially excessive context. That's sort of how I roll.)
Well, I've only done it with one person and a cat - but at much higher elevations out West. And I can assure you, you'll have zero problems navigating anywhere out East - even with 4 adults, a cargo carrier and all their luggage. I had a ton of gear in my cargo carrier this summer when I went car camping (actually slept in the back of the car), and the car meandered without any issues at all at elevations up to 8K.

For out East, elevation simply isn't an issue. And unless you're going above 11K or so, it isn't a huge issue out West, either, in my experience.

As for camping with four people, honestly, the Outback is the ideal car. The back seats are amazingly roomy, allowing the people to be comfortable in the back. And you'll still have lots of cargo space in the car to store stuff - plus whatever you throw on top in the cargo carrier.

The Outback, at least for me, is simply amazingly versatile and an IDEAL car for camping and other weekend adventures. And it's excellent for long road trips, too.
 

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I had my the cargo compartment of my 2014 2.5OB filled to the brim (with the back seats down) for a moving job plus two very large and heavy suitcases on the roof rack for a 1,400 mile trip from Florida to NY. Two adults, about 400 pounds in total in the front. We cruised between 70-80MPH the entire trip along I-95.


No problems whatsoever with the engine's performance that did not seem to realize that the vehicle was about as loaded down as it could possibly get. The suitcases on top did put up wind resistance, but the engine performed as it usually does, albeit burning more gasoline due to all of that wind resistance.
 

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2017 2.5i Premium Outback w/Eyesight, Venetian Red Pearl
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Well, I've only done it with one person and a cat - but at much higher elevations out West. And I can assure you, you'll have zero problems navigating anywhere out East - even with 4 adults, a cargo carrier and all their luggage. I had a ton of gear in my cargo carrier this summer when I went car camping (actually slept in the back of the car), and the car meandered without any issues at all at elevations up to 8K.

For out East, elevation simply isn't an issue. And unless you're going above 11K or so, it isn't a huge issue out West, either, in my experience.

As for camping with four people, honestly, the Outback is the ideal car. The back seats are amazingly roomy, allowing the people to be comfortable in the back. And you'll still have lots of cargo space in the car to store stuff - plus whatever you throw on top in the cargo carrier.

The Outback, at least for me, is simply amazingly versatile and an IDEAL car for camping and other weekend adventures. And it's excellent for long road trips, too.

Along with the leg roominess of the rear seats, the fact that the rear seats can slightly recline makes for passenger comfort back there.

Just out of curiosity. How does your cat do on trips. Does it just wander in the car? I have two cats.
 

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So this past weekend, we drove 2018 OB 2.5 from SoCal to NorCal. Along the way, we go up and down the Grapevine path where you climb from 700' or so to 4100' in a relatively short distance.

In short, it was just fine. Yes more HP is always welcome, just as more mpg but given what it is, it gets the job done without any hesitation or lack of drivability over the terrain.

Had 4 people, including the driver, and the rear cargo area loaded - similar to your description. During the climb, I found that I prefer to control the transmission using the paddle shifter than let CVT do its thing. That said, I was climbing at 80mph or so the whole way up. Downhill, I maintained 80mph using manual mode and hardly ever touched the brakes. Cruising on the flat freeway at 80~85mph. In all total about 900 miles averaged 24mpg.

I know this may sound going quite fast to those outside of CA, but I was just keeping up or just slightly faster than the flow of traffic. CA freeways tend to be either 80mph or stopped and hardly anything in between.

Hope this helps.
 

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2021 Outback Touring, 2015 Outback (sold), 2019 Toyota LC 200, 1998 Toyota LC 100, 1987 Toyota FJ60
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My 2015 2.5L Outback fully loaded with people, camping gear, and 4 mountain bikes on the back is certainly no slower in the mountains than my Land Cruiser loaded up the same way. And it has a V8.
 

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We are a family of four and do a lot of camping, skiing and road trips with our 2015 2.5, fully loaded. I do not find a discernible difference in highway performance compared to when I'm alone in the car with little load. That actually surprised me when I got the car, I was ready to see my Outback start behaving more like our old CR-V.

All our trips are at relatively low elevations.

And the obvious: the Outback is truly an awesome car camping car.
 

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2017 Outback Premium, 2.5l, Venetian Red Pearl
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Along with the leg roominess of the rear seats, the fact that the rear seats can slightly recline makes for passenger comfort back there.

Just out of curiosity. How does your cat do on trips. Does it just wander in the car? I have two cats.
My cat would love to wander...right onto my lap if she could. To prevent that, I clip a leash to her harness with the leash connected to her litter box. When I travel with the cat, I fold the backseats down and basically turn over the entire back half of the car to her. She has her litter box, a kitty cup, her kitty carrier and a "cat house." The four places to hide keep her well enough while traveling.

Only other thing I put back there is the cat's suitcase (yes, the cat has her own suitcase that holds fold, bowls, plastic bags, etc...) and my own.

To top it off, I spread out my 3 inch mattress topper (which I also use to sleep on, when traveling alone) which is then covered by a fleece blanket. The cat rides in luxury - not that she appreciates it any!

To deal with, um, "accidents," I cover everything in the back with dog pee pads. When the cat has an accident (only happens right at the beginning of the day), the pads hold/absorb the liquid - making cleanup easy.

The "seat extender" shown below in the photo allows for full length-wise use of the back seat once folded. Also prevents the cat from either climbing into the front or diving down beneath the front seats.
 

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I'm in the market for a new family-friendly car and the Outback is on my radar for all the obvious reasons -- safety, space, accessibility, reliability, versatility, etc. I've read through several threads on this forum over the past couple of months (this is a great site, by the way) and have made note of the pros and cons of various models and trim levels along with the differences in performance between the 2.5i and the 3.6r. So I think I've got a fair impression of what people like and don't like about their Gen 5 Outbacks, and what the 2.5i and 3.6r do well and what they do not so well. I'm not concerned about high elevation performance, whether in the snow or trucking up a mountain pass. I'm in the southern Appalachians where Subaru's AWD system will more than adequately handle our rare snow storms and where the elevation isn't nearly enough to affect engine power like it does out West. (I do drive up and down a mountain every day -- the one-way elevation gain/loss is around 1,200' -- but my wife and I fare just fine in our current meekly-powered hybrid FWD cars.) And I have no illusions about rock-crawling in a Subaru as if it were a jacked-up 4Runner or Jeep.

Still, I have a lingering, specific question that I'm not sure I've seen directly (or at least comprehensively) covered here:

How does the Gen 5 2.5i perform over the course of a trip while loaded up with four passengers and a trunk/cargo box full of luggage or camping/hiking gear at normal (below 3,000' or 4,000') elevations? If I load up my wife and kids, all of our luggage, camping gear, and maybe a cooler and a small grill, am I going to be comfortable moving in and out of traffic for hours on an interstate? And how about when we get off the interstate and start making our way down windy dirt or gravel roads in the forests or mountains, which, even at low elevations, have enough low-traction incline or descent to them to make a standard FWD car balk?

This isn't a make-or-break question in my search for a new car, or one that I'm using to gauge how the car will perform during most of my drives. Obviously family vacations and weekend trips to a mountain cabin or a semi-remote trail with friends are not representative of the bulk of driving that I do. Most of my driving is to and from work and hauling my family from Point A to Point B, and that will not change with my next car. I can discern the 2.5i's performance of those tasks reasonably well in test drives.

But I can't simulate a four-passenger, gear-packed trip, whether on an interstate or a meandering gravel road. So I was hoping to get y'all's takes.

I also assume that a 3.6r's performance in the scenarios that I described would be adequate. That's why I'm interested to hear the experience of 2.5i owners.

Anyway, thanks in advance for your input. (And sorry for the long post and potentially excessive context. That's sort of how I roll.)
So my 2.5 I 16' OB Limited with Eyesight is a family car for 4 occupants (husband, wife, 8 yr old and 2 yr old). We have taken many trips with a Yakima Skybox 18 loaded, the cargo space loaded, and a cargo hitch carrier loaded with no deep issues. I am disappointed with my decision to get the smaller engine because of my heavy foot likes to pass quickly and while I don't have issues with the 2.5I. I do feel that it is better to be conservative on the highway when passing or merging into traffic at high speeds when the vehicle is loaded down.

A time I won't forget and wish I had taken a picture was when I assisted a relative move across Washington State west to east over the Cascades Mountains. Again, the Skybox 18 loaded heavily (probably exceeded the 150 lbs. limit for the roof rack). The cargo space was packed to the roof with only a few inches of clearance. The cargo hitch carrier was packed with boxes and a mountain bike. Plus my family of 4 with all the accessories needed for a road trip for a family....SHOOT, I had fishing poles running nearly the full length of the cabin. The 2.5I engine handed the fall weather great through the Cascades. Just one time passing, made me nervous. Felt like it was under powered for the attempt.

Another experience I had was taking my OB to Mount Adams in Washington with 4 male adults. We all had hiking packs weighing 25-35 lbs and a fairly large cooler in the cargo compartment filled with ice and beverages. Hill climbing a gravel road full of switch backs to about 6000 feet elevation didn't stop the OB. This trip did not have the Skybox or the hitch carrier.

For what it is worth, my family OB is probably the most powerful car I have owned/driven for road trips loaded down in terms of HP (175 mph for 2.5I). I had a 02' Celica GTS that could put out 180 horsepower. So in short, I don't know how much of a difference it would make to have an SUV or Truck with 300-500 horsepower.

Hope this helps.
 

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I take my 2016 OB Ltd 2.5 on business trips from my home in CT to SC, NC, MS, AL, TN with up to 2,000 - 3,000 miles round trip. I’m into robotics and carry a large Pelican Case with a robot inside and all my gear and equipment in board. I have to fold down the back seats to fit everything in on business trips. But never any problems driving over mountain passes or highways around the east and south east. I take it fly fishing up to ME, NH and VT with camping gear and driven off-road and over sand at the beach. Never any issues. I regularly carry recovery gear, jump starter, tools, air compressor to air up the tires after off-roading, with some survival gear in case I’m stranded with a “get-home” backpack with survival gear in case I have to leave the car and hike out. My OB so far handles everything I have asked of her. I’m beyond pleased with my OB.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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My cat would love to wander...right onto my lap if she could. To prevent that, I clip a leash to her harness with the leash connected to her litter box. When I travel with the cat, I fold the backseats down and basically turn over the entire back half of the car to her. She has her litter box, a kitty cup, her kitty carrier and a "cat house." The four places to hide keep her well enough while traveling.

Only other thing I put back there is the cat's suitcase (yes, the cat has her own suitcase that holds fold, bowls, plastic bags, etc...) and my own.

To top it off, I spread out my 3 inch mattress topper (which I also use to sleep on, when traveling alone) which is then covered by a fleece blanket. The cat rides in luxury - not that she appreciates it any!

To deal with, um, "accidents," I cover everything in the back with dog pee pads. When the cat has an accident (only happens right at the beginning of the day), the pads hold/absorb the liquid - making cleanup easy.

The "seat extender" shown below in the photo allows for full length-wise use of the back seat once folded. Also prevents the cat from either climbing into the front or diving down beneath the front seats.
Jim, thanks for sharing the photos and your setup, very helpful! In the past, when we had only one cat, we let her wander. I like your setup better!
 
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