Complaints: Enough said.
Praise: Excellent overall reliability and construction quality.
Excellent engine. Still the best all-wheel-drive.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Trucky ride on moderately-maintained-to-rough paved surfaces; excellent acceleration; dicey handling in tight curves, usually if you attempt to take them at speed.
Head-turning quotient: I read somewhere where one auto reviewer called the Outback sedan "gorgeous." He either flunked art appreciation or didn't take the course. Nearly everyone who spoke to me about the car called it "ugly." I agree.
Capacities: Seats five people in a bit of a tight fit. Carries 12.4 cubic feet of luggage. Can be equipped to tow a trailer weighing 2,000 pounds. Fuel capacity is 16.9 gallons; premium unleaded gasoline is required.
Engine and transmission: The 212-horsepower, 3-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine is linked to a standard electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission.
Mileage: I averaged 22 miles per gallon in city-highway driving.
Safety: Standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes; depowered front air bags; standard side bags for driver and front-seat occupant. The 2003 model gets the OnStar emergency communications system as standard equipment.
Price: Base price on the 2002 H6-3.0 Outback is $27,995. Dealer invoice on that model is $25,349. Price as tested is $28,520. Base price on the 2003 model is $28,495. Dealer invoice on that model is $25,797. Price as tested is $29,020, including the $525 destination charge. The 2003 model has more standard equipment.
Purse-strings note: The Outback sedan is surrounded by worthy competitors, including the Audi A4 1.8T Quattro, the Volkswagen Passat GLX 4Motion sedan and the Volvo S60 2.4T AWD sedan.