The Subaru Outback made its debut in the UK back in 1994. And that concludes our brief history lesson. Today the Subaru Outback is wider, and bigger but is it any better? The Outback is a big estate, actually it is slightly less wide and slightly shorter than an Audi A6 Avant. However, the Outback rides on 20-inch tyres and the suspension is raised by over 8 inches to enable an all-purpose on-road off-road presence.
The Subaru Outback is offered in the UK with three different trim levels. The entry-level Limited starts at £36,000, followed by the mid-level Field trim at £40,000, and the top-tier Touring edition on test starts at £42,000.
To start with, I really appreciate the industrial design of the Outback’s exterior. Moving on to the interior, it has a plush, solid feel, and everything seems well-constructed. The material trim is of a very high standard, although it falls just short of the standard of you would experience from an Audi A6 Avant but still significantly better than a typical Mercedes interior.
The Outback’s interior has benefitted from recently introduced updates, featuring a new 11.9-inch infotainment display arranged in portrait mode. While the display is functional, the software experience appears outdated. Fortunately, it supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Bluetooth and USB connectivity which are now standard features.
The driver’s binnacle features a combination of analogue dials and a central digital display. The digital display renders clear and sharp graphics, without any unnecessary flashy animations of more modern interpretations. Overall, it gets the job done effectively.
As for the interior space, it is plentiful, both in the front and for rear-seated passengers. Additionally, the rear seats can be folded down to increase cargo space from 512 litres up to 1,848 litres, allowing for items that are 2 meters in length to be easily accommodated.
Power is supplied by a 182 bhp 2.5-litre, 250Nm, 4-cylinder naturally aspirated engine. Not the most powerful engine, but it does offer smooth driveability. While the continuously variable automatic (CVT) gearbox is much improved over previous iterations, the Subaru Outback isn’t a performance-bred athlete. It’s good enough and fast enough for everyday needs.
As for fuel economy, 33mpg on a combined run is OK but not the best around considering Volkswagen is achieving over 50mph from its latest generation 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engines. The ride is comfortable and cosseting, but if you are seeking a dynamic handling off-road estate then the Outback will not deliver such an experience.
However, the Outback’s handling is poised and predictable, I really do not want to be driving on the edge at every given turn for that one second of thrill-seeking adrenaline rush. So the Outback is perfectly fine for everyday driving. All model trims come with AWD drive as standard, which Subaru calls its Symmetrical AWD, in addition to S-Mode traction control and Hill Assist functionality.
In reality, the most off-roading I did was traversing up and down a steep angled driveway. Subaru has one of the best AWD capabilities, it doesn’t need to flex its muscles in an attempt to prove itself to the competiton.
The equipment levels are high for all model trims, and the Touring trim is fully loaded with “toys”. I won’t go into detail as the list is long and equipment and trims are subject to continual change, but you can click on the link to see what’s included.
However, the Harmon Kardon sound system could benefit from better calibration. The usual equipment “suspects” are available as standard such as climate control, adaptive cruise control, heated seats, LED daytime running lights etc.
While some reviewers have expressed dissatisfaction with the Outback’s Lane Centering Assist, I personally found it to be acceptable. It’s important to keep in mind that these systems are not flawless, and while Subaru’s implementation may not be the best, it’s certainly not the worst either. As long as the Lane Centering Assist does not pose a danger to the driver, I believe it is sufficient for its purpose. But as always, the intelligence of such a system is only as good as the capabilities of the hardware and software allow.
Is It Worth It?
Based on its price and features, the Subaru Outback Touring is a worthwhile investment. The Audi A6 Avant’s basic entry-level model costs £44,000, while the starting price for the entry-level Outback is £36,000. The Outback provides one of the top standard AWD systems available. The Outback feels more upmarket than before, it is fairly quiet and cosseting on the move, the ride and handling are clearly setup for comfort and I am perfectly happy with that.
It isn’t the most frugal, but that’s to be expected with a high-riding car loaded with an AWD system, but 34mpg is still a decent return. Subaru should be turbocharged to boost efficiency and power output. However, while the Outback isn’t fast in a straight line it has just enough power to suit all situations.
The Subaru Outback is a very underrated car and has been unfairly reviewed by the British motoring journalist establishment.