The 2016 Subaru Outback is the perfect car for taking the family...
Walkaround and Interior
The Crosstour design is unique, give it that. It's similar to the BMW X6, but swoopier. We looked down into a parking lot at our Crosstour, from the top row of grandstands at a soccer stadium, and its roofline appeared almost Jaguar XF-like. But then, you can find an Audi or Mazda, and others, that flaunt similar fastback lines.
Crosstour has a high butt, big but not fat. One long character groove extends from the top of the front fenders through the door handles, climbing slightly to the taillights, contributing to the vision of the raised rear. The roofline flows in the opposite direction, its slope so long and shallow that the vast rear glass seems almost flat. There's no trunk lid at all; you can't even call it a liftgate, it's more like a big fastback hatch. A black spoiler contains the horizontal brake lights, but it's lost in the tinted privacy glass.
The hips appear huge, like no midsize car we know. From the front, the Crosstour appears widened at the fenders, and dropped at the nose; however that's an illusion that seems to come from the windshield and rooftop above it. The Crosstour's track is no wider than an Accord's.
The hood has one wide groove, like a shallow riverbed that flows from the windshield to the grille. The fascia below the front bumper contains a horizontal stretch of black plastic with a silver-colored faux skid plate. Add mesh around the foglights, and it all looks cheap.
The pillars are blacked out, and a chrome rim surrounds the glass. The rear corner is a sharp triangle following the roofline, back behind the C-pillar, where there are no passengers to look out the tinted glass triangle.
We wonder what it would do to the car's lines if there were no chrome. Also, if there were no flat black plastic rocker panels with silver plastic strips.
The Honda Crosstour has a nice cabin. What we liked best about our Crosstour EX-L Navigation model was the comfort of the leather seats, whose contours matched our body and bolstering matched our needs. The seats were not too firm, not too soft, not too wide, and not too flat. Fabric upholstery comes with the base Crosstour EX model.
What we liked least was the rearward visibility. Rear-seat headrests have been tweaked to improve this, but it's still bad, because of the roofline and the obstructive horizontal bar at the deck. That's structurally necessary, because of all the glass (it contains the CHMSL brake lights). But it blocks the view of cars in your rearview mirror, when they're at a common following distance. It's annoying, if not unsafe. We don't know what can be done about it, in a car with this much glass in back. The Toyota Prius has the same problem.
What we liked second-least was the complicated radio tuning. We think it's a dastardly plot by manufacturers, because nowadays it seems they're all like that. Far too many touches and clicks are required to get where you want to go, on satellite radio. Not to mention non-intuitive thinking. The distraction is dangerous.
Instrumentation is clean. The speedometer and tachometer contain crisp, white numbers on a black face, with nice silver rings that change colors at night, into a moody electric blue. Needles, too. The pillars allow good forward visibility.
The Crosstour EX-L with Navigation puts its trip information on the big navigation screen on the center console. That information should be displayed in a smaller box ahead of the driver's eyes. On the nav screen, it takes up more space than needed.
The standard rearview camera is nice and clear, but the optional/upgrade LaneWatch blind-spot display malfunctioned on us. It shows on the camera screen what's behind you, to the right, when the right turn signal is activated; but for a while, it stayed on. We wanted the navigation map on the screen, and all we could get was the right lane behind us.
We are not fans of Lane Departure Warning systems and find them annoying. In the couple years since these systems were invented, we've gotten hundreds of warnings in cars we've driven, every single one of them false alarms. On a two-lane road with curves, it's impossible to keep it from repeatedly warning you that you're about to run off the road. The basic problem is sensitivity. The camera sees painted lines, and if you move 12 inches laterally within your lane, it'll go off.
You can turn it off, but you must do so each time you get in the car. That's annoying. At the least, they should get rid of the default ON position. Turn it on when you might need it, like on a long trip to Las Vegas where you fear you might wind up half-asleep at the wheel. But they probably can't do that, because drivers would sue them if they crashed, blaming the car for their lack of control of it. And they can't get rid of it because their competitors have it, and that would make them look like they didn't care as much about human life.
As for the Forward Collision Warning, it's a mixed bag. In stop-and-go 20-mph traffic, unless you leave a big gap between you and the car in front, the collision warning will go off. If you do leave that gap, someone will jump into it. At other times, the warning might indeed wake you up.
Finally, one more feature with unintended consequences: Smart Entry. We unlocked the car with the remote on a hot day, and all four windows plus the sunroof came down a few inches, to let hot air out of the cabin. But we weren't going anywhere, only getting something out of the car. When we locked it, the windows didn't go back up. We had to climb in the car, start the motor and roll them up, along with closing the sunroof. How come everything named Smart nowadays (like our Direct TV Smart Search) is really rather stupid?
Rear-seat legroom is average for a midsize car, with 37.4 inches (37.0 with AWD), but rear headroom is compromised by the roofline, so a six-footer has to duck to climb out.
Cargo capacity is a good news, bad news story. When seating five people, Crosstour beats the Accord sedan by a lot: 25.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat of the Crosstour, compared to 15.8 cubic feet in the trunk of the sedan. But with the rear seat dropped for maximum space, the sedan looks better. And if you compare the Crosstour to real SUVs with their boxy shapes, it comes up short in cargo space. Even the smaller Honda CR-V has nearly 20 more cubic feet of cargo space. But still, it's mission accomplished for the Crosstour. It's as much about style as cargo.
The space behind the rear seat measures 41 inches deep by 55 inches at its widest, with 30 inches between the wheelwells. The carpeted floor can be flipped over to its plastic underliner, so no worries with wet or dirty things. The 60/40 rear seat folds with the flip of a lever, creating nearly seven feet from the front seatbacks to the tailgate, with tie-down points to keep objects secure. There's also a couple more cubic feet of space under the Crosstour's cargo floor, divided into separate plastic bins. The largest measures two feet square by nearly a foot deep; add ice and it works as a makeshift cooler for drinks.