The Outback ticks all the boxes for a roomy and practical SUV, opines Cathy Parker.
Subaru were amongst the first to popularise AWD and were a forerunner in building what has become known as an SUV, so it is no surprise that the latest Outback is a refined package. Whilst it takes a slightly different approach to being an SUV in terms of being more station wagon designed than the higher roofed crop of recent SUV’s, this adds some ease of use, whilst retaining the raised suspension for good performance off the tar seal and the higher SUV driving and seating position.
One advantage is that the roof is easier to access if you want to use a roof rack or box – and unlike most SUV’s you not only get roof rails but the cross bars come as an integral part of them, they clip along the rails when not in use and simply swing across and clip in when you need to carry your bike/kayak/surfboard. The design also means that the boot area is somewhat longer than many SUV’s (although a little lower), increasing the range of items that can be carried, which may assist certain uses.
The 2.5i Premium is the mid-range model in the Outback range, with the Sport below and the 3.6R Premium with the six-cyliner boxer engine above it. Specification levels are comprehensive in that you pretty much want for nothing, electric tailgate, electric driver and passenger seat adjustment with memory for driver, heated front seats, sunroof, dual zone climate air conditioning, auto headlights and wipers and a comprehensive multifunction system with a 7-inch screen, navigation, reversing camera, audio and phone functions. The safety package is equally as impressive starting with Subaru’s Eye sight system, which features dual cameras mounted near the top-centre of the windscreen providing emergency brake assist (Subaru term it pre-collision brake assist), adaptive cruise control, sway and lane departure warning and colour recognition to recognise brake lights ahead and warn the driver. Added to these are other safety features such as blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.
The navigation system has built-in traffic updates and the phone pairing was the easiest we can recall. The system allows Bluetooth media streaming, displays texts onscreen and has Siri compatible voice control but stops short of full CarPlay or Android auto integration.
Legroom in the front (and rear) is impressive and the seat is comfortable although a little more side support on the cushion would be nice. All the controls are intuitive and well laid out and you can even select various colours for the dash back lighting, all the key controls for the audio system are duplicated on the steering wheel and there is an electric park brake.
The 2.5-litre engine starts with the typical Subaru boxer engine sound, performance is good with a nice spread of power across the range and Subaru’s addition of specific shift-points for the CVT ameliorates the worst features of CVT gearboxes, although it was still at times reluctant to downshift on demand. If the driver feels like taking over there are shift paddles on the wheel to select the desired “gear”. If the desire to head off-road strikes the Outback has Subaru’s X-Mode off-road system with hill descent control to ease your way.
Handling is sure footed with good cornering belying the raised suspension height and the ride is excellent.
All round the Outback is a great package if you want space and grace with the ability to head off-highway when needed, it ticks all the key specification boxes backed by Subaru’s many years of AWD expertise.
Body type 5-door Station-Wagon/SUV
Engine type Boxer 4-cylinder petrol
Engine capacity 2.5-litre
Max power 129kW@5,800rpm
Max torque 235Nm@4,000rpm
l/100km (Combined) 7.3 l/100km
C02 emissions 167 g/km
Boot capacity 512/1801
Spare tyre Full size
ANCAP rating 5-Star