Drive Time: 2017 Outback beats U.S. 34 closure to Glen Haven | MyWindsorNow.com

Drive Time: 2017 Outback beats U.S. 34 closure to Glen Haven

Bud Wells
For The Tribune

Steve Childs, owner of Glen Haven General Store, inspected the new Subaru Outback.

With four days to closing of U.S. 34 for winter repairs in Big Thompson Canyon, Jan and I on Thursday morning fired up the 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i Touring wagon and headed west out of Greeley.

We drove through Loveland, on into the canyon, departing the highway at Drake in favor of the smooth new Devil's Gulch Road and on to Glen Haven, one of my favorite destinations in northern Colorado.

At the Glen Haven General Store, we shared one of Steve and Becky Childs' homemade cinnamon rolls, which went down for me with the store's special 25-cent cup of coffee.

The new Outback attracted keen interest from Steve Childs; he owns two Subarus — a 1986 Brat and 2009 Legacy, and says his sons are "Subaru fanatics." He was quite taken with the wagon's java brown leather-trimmed seats.

This is the 36th year the Childs have owned and operated the general store. The highway closing fits their timing, as they have scheduled closing of the store for the winter Oct. 22 (to reopen in mid-May).

The Outback I'm driving this week is equipped with the 175-horsepower boxer-4 engine (174 lb.-ft. torque) and Subaru's continuously variable transmission. More power is available with a 3.6-liter, 6-cylinder, though its price premium of several thousand dollars lends support to my opting for the 4-cylinder, the Outback's strongest seller.

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The "4," noted for its smoothness, is not overly powerful. It worked hard on a couple of sharp switchbacks on the climb from Glen Haven to Estes Park. In less strenuous maneuvering, though, shift it into manual mode, engage the paddle shifters and the rpm will rise and deliver more adequate performance locked in a low gear setting.

I remember the first Outback, introduced in 1995 as a variant of the Legacy wagon. Wagons were going nowhere at that time. The Outback, though, with its boxer engines and sturdy all-wheel-drive structure and heavy side cladding, endured among a rush of SUVs and more modern crossovers, and found favor with lots of outdoors persons.

It caught on "big time," as its all-wheel drive conquered our state's rugged terrain and inclement weather.

As hot as Subaru is in Colorado today, its products are more lukewarm in much of the U.S. Besides Colorado, its pockets of especially strong sales success are New York, Pennsylvania and the New England states; Washington, Oregon and northern California.

The brand will gain exposure here next month when Greeley Subaru opens its large new structure on 47th Avenue, moving from 2805 8th Ave.

The Outback is facing some stiff, new competition from the introduction last month of the Volkswagen Golf AllTrack wagon. Like the Outback, the AllTrack will be available only with all-wheel drive (4Motion). Among other competitors are the Audi Allroad, Volvo V60, Volvo XC70 and VW Golf SportWagen.

For all-around, everyday service, dependability and durability, the Outback can compete with any of them. It's been a winner of long standing.

The'17 Outback was equipped with the EyeSight safety system, which incorporates driver assistance features including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure and lane-sway warning, precollision braking and throttle control. On a busy highway 18 months ago in a Subaru with the system, the EyeSight overrode my acceleration and applied the brakes for safety against a truck veering across two lanes of traffic.

The '17 Outback Touring model carried a sticker price of $36,870, including navigation, audio/Bluetooth, rearview camera, power rear gate with height memory, heated front and rear seats and moonroof.

Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at budwellscars@comcast.net.