Where has the time gone? That’s not the only conundrum the Subaru Outback has come up in its more than two decades on, and off, Australian roads.

Designed and developed in America, yet given an Aussie name tag, the enigmatic Outback helped set off the move from station wagon to sport utility vehicle and has continued down that road since.

The sixth generation recently landed Down Under in a simplified three-variant range – Outback, Outback Sport and Outback Touring – with an impressive list of features, including Subaru’s hallmark all-wheel drive technology.

With 1341 sales, a massive 190.9 per cent increase for the month and 119.8 per cent year-to-date, Outback dominated the SUV Large, under $70,000, segment. It achieved its best-ever March result since the original model launched 25 years ago.

Standard features across the models include a 90 per cent new 2.5-litre Boxer engine, refined continuously variable transmission, high definition 11.6-inch information display, new generation EyeSight 2 driver assist package and up to 2000 kg towing capacity.

Sport additions include light sensing headlights, power tailgate with handsfree sensor and memory function, quality leather clad steering wheel, fixed ladder-style roof rails and factory fitted satellite navigation.

The Touring takes on electric sunroof, Harman Kardon nine-speaker sound system, with subwoofer and single CD player, located inside the centre console, heated steering wheel and Nappa leather accented seat trim.

Pricing starts from $39,990, plus on-road costs, for the basic Outback, Sport variant comes in at $44,490, while the top-of-the-range Touring rounds out the range at $47,790.

Subaru Outback has a 12-month / 12,500-kilometre capped price service schedule, courtesy, says the maker, of efficiencies gained via the Subaru Global Platform.

Looks lean more to the traditional square station wagon stance, rather than the curvy contemporary character of the SUV. Outback aficionados need not be worried.

It shares the Subaru family features of all new generation models, with C-shaped daytime running light design and signature C-shaped rear combination light cluster in line with the headlight design.

The tailgate opening is approximately 20 mm wider than the superseded model and achieves a wide-body feel and silhouette, with a strong presence, while new design 18-inch alloy wheels add to a confident presence on, or off road.

The new-generation Outback has the roomiest cabin in its history, with key dimensions scaled up to include larger, wider-opening cargo area as well as a wider windscreen and dashboard.

The Sport’s steering wheel is leather bound, while seats are clad in water repellant trim. Every Outback has an eight-way power front passenger seat, with seat lifter. The passenger side of the centre console also gains a side pocket, for storing of devices like smartphones.

Phew! With more screens than a suburban multiplex, Subaru has finally abandoned its over capitalisation of driver information, cutting to a single high definition 11.6-inch tablet-style unit on the centre stack. It has also simplified many controls.

Information is prioritised in relation to need and ability to set and check, all in a size that is clear and easy to read. Two pieces of information can be viewed simultaneously via a split screen.

The A category area shows apps, maps, audio, smartphone-connected screens, the rear-view camera, front and side-view monitors, reverse autonomous braking and pop-up notifications as needed.

Air-con controls are integrated in the screen, while voice commands can be used for operation, including setting temperature and adjusting fan speed.

The more mature driver can’t fail to appreciate a dashboard instrument display with analogue speedo and tacho, plus other gauges, all in positions where they have been for years.

Every new Outback is powered by a reworked direct-injection 2.5-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, with power boosted from 129 to 138 kW and torque increased from 235 to 245 Nm.

This has been mated with a refined Lineartronic CVT, with eight-speed manual mode, producing a new level of drivability.

The latest EyeSight 2 package is on hand to assist the driver with new features including lane centering, autonomous emergency steering, lane keep assist, speed sign recognition, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention and pre-collision braking with collision avoidance at intersections.

(NB: Almost 2000 new Outbacks have been recalled by Subaru to fix the vehicle’s pre-collision braking system that may see it activate unexpectedly. The rectification requires the system software to be updated, which takes around two hours).

Standard active safety features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, plus adaptive beam and steering responsive LED headlamps.

Outback now has eight airbags, including front passenger seat cushion airbag.

It has reverse automatic braking, which caught me unawares as I reversed up my driveway close to overhanging foliage and it jammed the brakes on…

Once on the move, the largely reworked direct injection 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine makes the best a power and torque increases with the help of a refined Lineartronic CVT, which includes an eight-speed manual mode.

However, off the mark, the new Outback is prone annoyingly to lurch a little unless the accelerator pedal is treated with some restraint. Other than this little quirk, the vehicle drives with the assurance we have come to expect from any Subaru with its trademark all-wheel drive system.

The maker claims the car will use 7.3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres of driving in the combined urban / highway cycle. The test Outback came up with 10 litres per 100 kilometres in city and suburbs and 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres on the motorway.

Off the bitumen it can also call on the pre-set dual function X-Mode, which automatically controls the throttle to suit going in mud, snow or steep unsealed inclines.

At all times, a Subaru driver monitoring system makes sure he or she maintains attentiveness behind the wheel.

Covid-19 has had its evil ways with the automobile industry, infecting suppliers with uncertainty about the future. Subaru was not alone in feeling the effects but has recovered remarkably well with record sales of the Outback. However, deliveries of the new model may be pushed out for an extended period: patience will be well rewarded.

Subaru Outback AWD $39,990
Subaru Outback AWD Sport $44,490
Subaru Outback AWD Touring $47,790
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Subaru Outback 2.5L 4-cylinder Boxer petrol CVT AWD SUV)

Capacity: 2.498 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders, horizontally opposed
Maximum Power: 138 kW @ 5800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 245 Nm @ 3400-4600 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91-98 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.3 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 168 g / km

DRIVELINE: Lineartronic continuously variable transmission, AWD

Length: 4870 mm
Wheelbase: 2745 mm
Width: 1875 mm
Height: 1675 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Tare weight: 1626 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 63 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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