Subaru of America Inc. unveils the ’10 Outback today at the 2009 New York International Auto Show.

The fourth-generation Outback, which Subaru calls the “World’s First Sport Utility Wagon,” is larger than the outgoing model, riding on a new chassis that is 2 ins. (5.1 cm) wider, with a 2.8-in. (7.1-cm) increase in its wheelbase.

While overall length is reduced, the ’10 Outback has about 8% more interior volume and 4 ins. (10.2 cm) more rear-seat legroom than the ’09 model.

The ’10 Outback shares its two engines with its sedan sibling, the ’10 Legacy, also unveiled at the show today. The Outback 2.5i models get Subaru’s 2.5L 4-cyl. boxer engine making 170 hp and mated to a standard 6-speed manual transmission or Subaru’s new Lineartronic CVT.

A 256-hp, 3.6L 6-cyl. boxer mill, teamed with a 5-speed automatic, is available in the 3.6R Outback trim. As with the Legacy, the 3.6L in the Outback replaces a 3.0L 6-cyl. that required premium fuel.

The 4-cyl. turbocharged boxer engine that powers the current Outback 2.5XT Limited trim and new Legacy is not offered in the ’10 model.

Subaru calls the design of the ’10 Outback “bolder,” blending “a sophisticated” cross utility/vehicle design with SUV details. Hawkeye headlamps, molded lower valence and side skirts, a wider track and “expressive” wheel arches are some of the styling features to be found on the new model.

For off-roading, Subaru has increased the Outback’s ground clearance to 8.7 ins. (22.1 cm), from 8.4 ins. (21.3 cm), in nearly all trims.

For buyers interested in utility, the ’10 Outback has a new roof-rack system with integral crossbars that swing into position only when needed, stowing in the roof rails to reduce wind noise, Subaru says.

Compared with the ’09 version, the ’10 model is nearly 4 ins. taller and 1 in. (2.54 cm) shorter. Passenger volume grows by 8 cu.-ft. (0.2 cu.-m) to 105.4 cu.-ft. (3.0 cu.-m). Maximum cargo capacity is increased by 6 cu.-ft. (0.2 cu.-m) to 71.3 cu.-ft. (2.2 cu.-m) with the rear seats folded up.

The new Outback also features a rear-cargo area that is deeper and wider than in many small SUVs and easier to access through its wide aperture rear hatch, Subaru says.

As with the ’10 Legacy, the new Outback comes standard with electronic stability control and has a new electronic Hill Holder feature, which keeps the car from rolling back until the throttle is compressed. Also standard is 4-wheel disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.

All-wheel-drive is standard across the ’10 Outback lineup. The 2.5i models with 6-speed manual transmission have a viscous-coupling locking center differential, splitting power 50/50 front-to-rear.

The 2.5i models with Subaru’s new CVT have an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch “to actively control power distribution in response to driving conditions.”

The top-end 3.6R Outbacks have an advanced Variable Torque Distribution AWD system, using a planetary center differential and electronically controlled continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch to manage power distribution.

“The VTD system normally sends more power to the rear wheels to enhance handling agility, and it continuously adjusts power distribution in response to driving and road conditions,” Subaru says.

The ’10 Subaru Outback goes on sale in the U.S. in late summer.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com