After all these years, I still think of the Subaru Outback as a wagon rather than SUV —
the Forester too.
Unfortunately, you can’t buy a diesel Outback anymore, but the latest turbocharged
petrol version certainly addresses any perceived deficiencies in performance.
And, like a fine wine, Outback continues to get better with age.
Its one major gap in an otherwise impressive repertoire remains the fact that it seats
only five. In fact, Subaru hasn’t offered a seven-seater as part of its range since the
propeller-nosed Tribeca in 2013.
But you’re not likely to receive any complaints from those five passengers in a car that
really sets a benchmark for comfort and features, given its relatively modest price.
Prices for Outback start from $42,690. Two turbocharged versions are offered: Outback
AWD Sport XT is $52,190 while Outback AWD Touring XT is $55,990 – $5000 more
than their standard counterparts.
The Autumn Green Metallic colour of our test vehicle looks very army and provides a
real point of difference, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste (my wife hates it). Paint
appears to be a no-cost option.
To distinguish turbo models, they feature dual tailpipes to go with the extra
performance, although they are barely visible below the back bumper.
There’s also an ‘XT’ badge (remember the powerhouse XT Forester) and LED fog lights
that are made up of six LEDs – we’re told it’s an homage to the Subaru badge which
features six stars.
Like other versions the turbo rides on 18-inch alloys with 225/60 series rubber and
water repellent, synthetic leather seat trim. Touring adds Nappa leather. A full-size alloy
spare is provided.
Standard equipment includes dual zone climate air with rear vents, heated and power-
adjust front seats, electric lumbar for the driver, heated rear window seats and a power
There’s also push-button start, auto lights and wipers, auto dimming mirror, auto high
beam, rear park sensors, self-levelling, daytime LEDs, steering-responsive LED
headlights and adaptive cruise control.
For some reason front parking sensors have always been a dealer fit option.
Outback is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty period along with 12-
months complimentary Subaru Roadside Assistance. A three-year service plan is
Subaru was slow to the infotainment party, but has made up for lost time with a big,
impressive system that’s dominated by a large 11.6-inch tablet-style touchscreen.
It has been redesigned to make it more user friendly, with new shortcut buttons,
updated climate control buttons and full screen Android Auto.
XT Sport features Bluetooth, voice control, AM/FM and DAB+ Digital radio, built-in
satellite navigation, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, along
with six-speaker audio. The CD player has gone to God.
Physical buttons such as the climate control panel have been integrated into the
screen, with convenience and operability prioritised through shortcut switches for some
frequently used features.
There are two 12v/120v power outlets (one in the front, the other in the cargo area),
USB-A and -C ports and AUX in the front console, plus another two USB-A charge
ports in the back.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
A turbocharged 2.4-litre horizontally-opposed DIT Boxer four-cylinder petrol engine
delivers 183kW of power at 5200 rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2000-4800 rpm.
Transmission is to all four wheels via a CVT-style auto, with auto-engine stop-start and
gear changes paddles provided for manual operation.
Five-star safety starts with eight airbags, a rear-view camera and Autonomous
emergency braking (Car to Car, Vulnerable Road User, Junction Assist and Backover).
EyeSight 4.0 features roadside speed sign recognition, adjustable speed limiting, and
intersection crash avoidance using new cameras with a wider field of view and a lower
profile inside the cabin.
There’s also a lane support system with lane keep assist (LKA), lane departure warning
(LDW) and emergency lane keeping (ELK) and an advanced speed assistance system
Three standard child seats anchor points are provided along with two Isofix anchor
Apart from the turbocharged engine, the other big change is the switch to the Subaru
Global Platform (SGP), which is stiffer and provides the scope to use alternative
powertrains — such as hybrid or fully-electric setups.
With maximum torque kicking in from a low 2000 revs, Subaru says the turbo does the
dash from 0-100km/h about 22 per cent quicker than naturally aspirated models (but
they don’t reveal what that time is).
Auto Stop-Start now incorporates “Change of Mind Control” which as its name
suggests, restarts the engine within 0.2 of a second — if you change your mind.
Although described as symmetrical all-wheel drive, like most systems these days it is
actually a part-time system with torque transmitted to the rear wheels as required (read
the fine print).
In manual mode the CVT features seven steps or simulated gears, with the addition of
Intelligent and Sport modes plus two-mode X-Mode for off-road driving.
With 213mm of ground clearance, X-Mode is designed for use below 40km/h with one
setting optimised for snow and dirt and the other for deep snow and mud.
Fuel consumption from the 63-litre tank is a claimed 9.0L/100km compared to
7.3L/100km for the standard model, and it takes premium 95 unleaded.CO2 emissions
The suspension has been re-tuned to accommodate the new engine, with different
settings for the springs and dampers, and the result is first rate.
The extra torque of the turbocharged engine has also allowed the tow capacity to be
increased 400kg, up from 2000 to 2400kg.
Outback is easy to get in and out of, with a cabin that is a nice place to be.
The seats are large and comfy, something Subaru has always done well, and the ride
is quiet and buttery smooth (in contrast to the Jeep we drove previously).
All-round vision is excellent and you can see where the front of the bonnet is when it
comes to parking.
The large physical blind spot lights that never fail to capture attention.
Elbow room is a bit snug however, so be sure to try it on for size.
The interior layout looks pretty much the same as the previous Outback that we drove a
couple of years back, but the front seats have been redesigned with advanced shaping
and support to reduce fatigue over longer distances.
Although the infotainment system looks impressive, the instrument cluster has a bit of
catching up to do.
It retains old-style analogue gauges that flank a small central driver info screen with
fuel consumption figures etc.
You’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
At 4870mm in length, with a 2745mm wheelbase, rear legroom in the wagon is
excellent as is cargo capacity, with 522 litres available with second-row seats in use
and 1675 litres with them down.
Standing 1670mm high, it’s also easy to wash compared to most SUVs. Outback feels
more like a car than an SUV to drive and it is this that no doubt keeps me thinking of it
as a wagon.
Performance is for the most part effortless, although there was some slight hesitation
from the transmission at times.
It has obviously been tuned differently to other turbocharged models, because power
delivery is more linear, instead of arriving with a bang.
The turbo sails up hills without any need to punch the accelerator, the tacho barely
turning over more than 2000 revs and it gets away from the lights at a brisk pace.
It has a secure, planted feel with a suspension tune that is unfazed by the many pot
holes that now litter our country roads after all the rain we’ve had.
But remember you’re not buying the Outback for its off-road ability, rather the safety
and security of all-wheel drive, with the ability to tackle a bit of mud or snow if the
situation arises. That means no to Fraser Island, as much as you’d like to venture
We finished on 10.1L/100km after close to 400km of mixed driving, but expect this to
be higher around town.
The Subaru Outback is not perfect, but that is the word that springs to mind.
The turbocharged engine adds some punch and extra towing ability, but be prepared to
pay a penalty in fuel consumption.
However, it’s the comfort and ride quality that leave a lasting impression — one that
you’ll want to take home.
The next step in the evolution of the wagon is a hybrid version, followed we assume by
a fully-electric Outback sometime down the track.
AT A GLANCE
Outback 2.5: $42,690
Sport 2.5: $47,190
Touring 2.5: $50,990
Sport XT 2.4: $52,190
Touring XT 2.4: $55,990
SPECIFICATIONS (Subaru Outback XT Touring 2.4-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon)
Capacity: 2.4 litres
Configuration: Direct injected, turbocharged horizontally-opposed Boxer 4-cylinder,
Maximum Power: 183 kW @ 5200 rpm
Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 2000 rpm
Fuel Type: Premium unleaded
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.0 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 204 g/km
CVT continuously variable transmission. All-wheel drive.
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4870 mm
Wheelbase: 2745 mm
Width: 1875 mm
Height: 1670 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Kerb Mass: 1703 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 63 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Five years / unlimited distance