- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

To borrow from presidential campaign-speak, Subaru added "gravitas" to its Outback lineup. Outback is engineered with a new six-cylinder engine and advanced stability system with all-wheel traction control.
Its name, Outback H-6-3.0 VDC, is a mouthful. The new wagon is joined by a running mate whose name is equally long, the Outback H-6-L.L.Bean Edition. These two new models are the performance and technology flagships for Subaru and raise the bar on power and comfort above the Outback Limited.
Calling the H-6 a "wagon on steroids," company executives told a group of auto writers that the H-6 has more gravity than an I-6 (in-line) or a V-6, implying that the H-6 is a much more desirable vehicle for on- and off-roading. Under the hood, the horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine is centered lower, making it more stable. The I-6 and V-6 both have a higher center of gravity, which makes them less stable. Executives say the new Outback has 7.3 inches of ground clearance, the same as the Ford Explorer and more than the BMW X5.
After years of driving new model-year Subaru four-cylinder engines, I developed a limited performance expectation from the Outback. When I hopped into a 2001 Outback H-6 and took off for the hills, however, I had to pull in the reins. This Outback didn't need to be pushed hard; power was underfoot immediately, and the higher output was delivered quietly.
Outback's 3-liter, six-cylinder power plant generates 212 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 210 pounds-feet at 4,400 rpm. The newly designed H-6 is 30 percent more powerful than the H-4 and weighs 100 pounds more than the four. All 2001 Outbacks receive larger-diameter front brake discs (11.4-inch over the previous 10.7-inch).
The new, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine is only 0.8-inch longer than the H-4 used on the standard Outbacks. The engineers marvel that they didn't have to "shoehorn" in the new power plant and that the hardware adjustments between the H-4 and the H-6 were minimal: larger radiator capacity and different hose routing, thicker sound insulation and a front reinforced cross member.
The "VDC" in H-6-3.0 VDC stands for Vehicle Dynamics Control, a stability system combined with all-wheel traction control. Subaru says VDC is not just a yaw system; it is the next level in active safety. The objective in developing a yaw system with all-wheel traction control is to prevent oversteer and understeer while maintaining the fun-to-drive aspect of the H-6-3.0.
Subaru also is debuting a new type of all-wheel drive in its new H-6. Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) and all-wheel drive distribute power 45 percent to the front wheels and 55 percent to the rear wheels. The slight rear-wheel enhancement gives the new Outback a better performance-driving feel. VTD has the job of monitoring throttle input for optimizing the all-wheel-drive power distribution under all road conditions. VDC measures steering angle and individual wheel speed to maintain vehicle stability.
In addition to dual power moon roofs, seat-mounted side air bags and heated seats and mirrors, the $31,895 Outback comes with automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver's seat and a mahogany wood-and-leather steering wheel designed by Momo. The wagon also comes with a high-end stereo from McIntosh that features 11 speakers and an AM/FM CD/ cassette player. The L.L. Bean Edition has special interior and exterior badging.
Company executives say seven out of 10 all-wheel-drive wagons sold in the United States are Subarus. That's a lot of gravitas.
MOTOR MATTERS

MODEL: Subaru Outback H-6
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door all-wheel-drive wagon
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $32,390
MILEAGE: 20 city, 27 highway


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