I recently went car shopping with my dad, he’s looking for something to replace a 15 year old Subaru since I stole his last baby, a 2000-something CR-V, away to Michigan. He was somewhat torn between the Subaru Outback and the 2012 CR-V. We test drove both, and they both seems like solid cars, with some minor differences in target market and engineering emphasis. I do like both, but picking one over the other is somewhat hard, and depends largely on your priorities as a driver. Both are great, but have different personalities.
Honda CR-V Likes: The 2012 CR-V is pretty much the same as the 2011 CR-V, which is pretty much the same as the 2010 CR-V, etc. The only difference is they squeezed in a little more horsepower and torque without increasing the weight, they borrowed the front end aesthetics from the Odyssey, and stole the back end of a Volvo. The driving feel is about the same, with a reasonable-but-hardly-luxury-level suspension, sharp brake cut-in, and responsive throttle. The most noticeable improvements are inside, where Honda got busy with electronics, putting in one of their multifunction LCD displays for music/navigation stuffs and also a back-up camera, which I thought was cool. The 30 MPG highway rating was also pretty fantastic. Honda did drop the suspension an inch for fuel efficiency and handling purposes, so it’s not as good an SUV as other cars. But it does make a pretty darned good general utility vehicle.
No-Like: Mostly aesthetics, I don’t like how the back-end is a giant flat piece of metal, I like some healthy curvature to my cars, though I will concede that it’s useful for improving the storage capacity. The dashboard’s a bit cluttered, Honda made it a stack of pancakes, with rings of indicator lights. It looks cool, but it’s not as hop-in-and-go intuitive as older cars. Also, the styling of the center console feels a tad less tactile. I’m glad Honda’s too cheap to put touch screens (*UGH*) on everything, but the super flat buttons on a giant plastic face don’t look or feel as good as what I’m driving now.
Subaru Outback Likes: The Outback has matured A LOT since I drove my dad’s old one in high school/college. It’s grown from a funky wagon (see fig. 1) into a dwarf SUV that holds its own against larger cars.
The Subaru’s racing/enthusiast side showed through in the 3.6L version I test drove, they threw in paddle shifters to try and make driving with an Automatic more fun (though I didn’t get a chance to put the system through its paces 🙁 ). The driving feel is almost exactly the same as in the old Outback, slower brake cut-in, leisurely throttle response. But this time there’s some horsepower in reserve, though the model my dad’s gonna get will probably be the 2.5L model, marginally fewer horses per pound than the CR-V.
No Like: No paddle shifters on the 2.5L, so the CR-V will actually probably be more fun to drive. CVT is a big unknown for me with the 2.5L Outback. Not as many tech toys as the CR-V (ex. backup camera).