Subaru Outback Review

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I was fortunate enough to drive two of the new Subaru Outback models back to back during September, and was duly impressed by the capabilities of this unusual wagon.

It’s no secret that I’m a great admirer of the Subaru brand – gold rims and over the top wings aside, I love the innovative technology that underpins every Subaru model, and the quirky designs that have never followed the mainstream.

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I drove the 2.0 litre turbo diesel and the 2.5 naturally aspirated petrol versions. There is also a 3.6 litre petrol model in the range. The first impression you have of the Outback is that it’s BIG – with an imposing length of over 4,8 metres, this wagon is no pocket hatch.

The new Outback has subtle but important improvements over the previous model – for example, the base of the windscreen has been moved forward by 50mm, and the body is 20mm wider than before. This has given both front and rear occupants more shoulder, hip and legroom and also increased the already voluminous luggage space.

This latest rendition of the Outback is definitely the best looking to date. Although it retains a distinct Subaru identity , the lower rear roofline and revised front and rear design of the new model give it a more aerodynamic and updated look that should broaden its appeal to new buyers.

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The Outback sits on 225/60 tyres mounted on attractive 18” alloys, giving it an “I can go anywhere” stance backed up by an excellent ground clearance of 213mm. The clever adjustable roof rails can be configured in several ways to accommodate most types of outdoor equipment, adding to its versatility as a genuine family/adventure vehicle.

The interior of the new Outback is hard to fault, with top quality finishes all round and all the features you could wish for. Dual climate control, multi-function steering wheel, voice controls, cruise control, reverse camera, rain sensor and Bluetooth are all standard on both models.

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The 6,2” touch screen is easy and intuitive to use, and there are two USB/Aux/12 volt ports. The petrol Outback has a sublime 12 speaker Harmon Kardon audio system as standard equipment.

Leather seats are also standard, with power adjustment on the driver’s seat in both petrol and diesel models, as well as the front passenger seat on the petrol version.  The seats are super comfy while offering good support for long distance driving, and with so much interior space there’s room for five adult occupants to travel without complaints emanating from the rear seats.

Visibility is excellent due to the Outback’s high stance, and moving the power mirrors to the door panel has opened up space for an additional triangular window that virtually eliminates the common front corner blind spot. Night driving is no problem, as the LED headlights give fantastic illumination in even the darkest conditions.

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The 2,0 litre turbocharged Boxer diesel delivers [email protected],600rpm and [email protected],600-2,800rpm, and I really enjoyed this motor. It has oodles of torque while being extremely frugal, and works well with the seven “speed” CVT gearbox. It’s quiet for a diesel, with an unobtrusive background rumble, and has plenty of grunt for safe overtaking and easy cruising. Although I’m not a great fan of CVT ‘boxes in general, this is one of the better ones and one can always use the steering mounted paddles to liven up response when necessary.

The six “speed” version of the CVT gearbox does an equally capable job for the 2,5 litre 4 cylinder Boxer petrol motor, although with 129kW and 235Nm you won’t be left breathless by its performance. However, it’s perfectly adequate for the school run and the usual weekend family adventures. If you plan to tow anything from a bike trailer to a fully loaded caravan, though, the diesel variant should be your weapon of choice.

Good timing allowed me to take the petrol Outback up to Mahikeng and back to attend a National Supadrift event.  A road trip like this really allows the Outback to shine: even without making use of the 60/40 split rear seats, the 512 litres of cargo space swallows up loads of bags and racing equipment, and you can drop the seats to give a truly cavernous 1,801 litres of space. Carting around three large passengers with assorted additional baggage was no problem, and the Outback is ideal for rural roads with uneven surfaces and the odd pothole.

Steering is responsive, ride comfort is excellent and the Symmetrical AWD system is superb – definitely Subaru’s secret weapon. Active torque vectoring keeps you in perfect control through the corners, and the Outback is very hard to beat when it comes to overall handling.

The petrol Outback has settings for Intelligent and Sport modes, and liberal use of the Sport setting unfortunately did my fuel consumption figures no good. Still, an overall figure of around 9l/100km was really not too bad considering the car was well loaded. The quoted combined figure of 7,7l/100km should be attainable with a little effort.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to experiment with the X-mode feature, which automatically adjusts for varying off-road conditions. This feature would make the car even safer for the average driver when encountering various situations off-road and settings can be monitored from the touch screen when X-mode is engaged.

Subaru has always been synonymous with safety, and the Outback is no exception. The Outback earned five stars in both Euro NCAP and ANCAP testing, and seven air bags, ESC, EBD, Brake Assist, VDC incorporating ABS, traction control and engine control are all standard. Disc brakes are fitted all round, and the new model has a ring shaped, high tensile steel frame for added protection.

The Outback comes with a 3 year/100,000km warranty and access to Subaru Assist. The diesel Outback has a 3 year/60,000km maintenance plan and the petrol model has a 3 year/75,000km plan. Pricing starts at R479,000.00 for the 2.5 petrol and R529,000.00 for the diesel.

A premium price, perhaps, but the Outback is a top quality, technically superior wagon with great versatility and a real spirit of adventure. It’s a smart choice for the discerning buyer who wants to go almost anywhere in comfort and safety, with oodles of space and the convenience of a passenger car as opposed to a hard core bakkie. Typically Subaru, it’s definitely a car for the individual who can appreciate its unique attributes and enjoy the driving experience that comes standard!

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