Subaru Outback packs punch and deliver’s fuel economy with revised styling
We are longtime Subaru fans and the 2018 Outback 2.5i Touring model we recently tested affirmed our pleasure for the vehicles. There are four Outback models equipped with the 2.5-L DOHC Boxer engine (175 HP) and two with the 3.6R Boxer power plants (256 HP). We like the 2.5 because it provides more than ample punch and has fuel ratings of up to 25 MPG/city and 32/highway.
New for 2018 are revised front and rear styling (including LED daytime running lights), a new STARLINK Multimedia system with Apple CarPlay, redesigned exterior mirrors, improved noise reduction (including sound-insulting glass on front side windows), USB power port for rear passengers, and more.
Likeable features include Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD (always a winner), the smooth-shifting six-speed Lineartronic transmission with manual mode, the 8.7-inch ground clearance for safer off-roading, X-Mode with Hill Decent for fun off-roading, heated steering wheel and heated seats (which we used a lot during inclement weather), power rear gate, a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon premium audio system, and the LED headlights with high beam adjustment control.
The Outback 2.5i Touring also has GPS navigation, Subaru’s Eye-Sight Drover assist Technology (adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking lane departure warning and more), and a towing capacity of 2,700 pounds.
With 35.5 cubic feet of standard cargo space (up to 3.3 with rear seats down), the tested Outback had a MSRP of $36,490 and no options.
‘The Little Jeep That Could’
When the Jeep Renegade was introduced a few years ago we were skeptical about its capabilities and marketability, but after test drives of several Renegade models we became hooked on this small SUV.
A recent test of a 2017 Renegade Desert Hawk 4x4 proved to us that this little beast is both fun to drive and a usable vehicle for many purposes.
Our test drive included some nasty snow and ice conditions and it performed like a trooper with its All-Speed Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control. It also has a Select-Terrain System with rock mode; Off-Road Rock Rails; a Jeep Active Drive Low System for handling snow, sand, mud, or rock climbing conditions. There are also transmission, fuel tank, and transfer case skid plates, as well as Hill Start Assist and Hill Decent Control.
Powered by a 2.4-L Tigershark MultiAir engine, the Desert Hawk is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control (the latter providing better acceleration than the automatic). Fuel ratings are 21 MPG/city and 29/highway (we averaged over 27 MPG in challenging weather and mainly highway driving).
We found the unibody Renegade to be comfortable and easy to drive, sporty, and the Desert Hawk limited edition is a winner for off-roading, especially for such a small SUV.
Our tester was priced at $26,895 and had six options that included more than two-dozen items ranging from upgraded tires to safety elements, GPS navigation to heated seats and steering wheel (which we appreciated in frigid weather). Final price was $33,570.
‘You’ve come a long way, baby’
The Toyota Corolla has come a long way in its styling and comfort, and the 2017 Corolla XSE, the top of seven model offerings, was a generally enjoyable midsize sedan to drive. With refined exterior and interior attributes, plus Toyota Safety Sense-P in all models, we found the Corolla to be a safe and reliable car in its class.
While a bit underpowered with its 1.8-L DOHC engine, the Corolla now has a CVT with sport mode drive. The positive side is that it offers good fuel economy at 28 MPG/city and 35 MPG/highway.
Our likeable features on the Corolla XSE included 17-inch tires mounted on machined alloy wheels, power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade, an Entune Audio Plus with navigation, and SofTex heated front seats with an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat.
There are also a variety of standard safety features in addition to the Toyota Safety Sense-P system that include the Star Safety System and advanced airbags, as well as Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. The safety elements on the Corolla have earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.
The interior on the Corolla is stylish and sporty with its metallic trim and paddle shifters, and we found instruments to be user friendly. Seating was comfortable and provided more than adequate shoulder, head, and leg room. Cargo capacity is 13 cubic feet.
While Corollas start at $18,500, our tester had an MSRP of $22,680 and no options.