Subaru really produced the best of both worlds, writes GRAHAMSMITH
THE Subaru Outback was an attempt to create an allrounder capable of going as far off road as most townies wanted, but without abandoning the niceties of the civilised Liberty on which it was based.
Being based on the regular Liberty wagon, the Outback was smaller than the SUVs that are now clogging the streets around town.
It was the perfect choice for anyone wanting to take that dream trip in a vehicle that was still pleasant to drive around town. was more than capable of satisfying the needs of the vast majority of outback tourists, Subaru let us loose in a then-new Outback around Alice Springs in 2004. In a true test it had a Jayco pop-top camper trailer attached.
In the course of the test we drove along typical outback highways, down gravel roads — smooth to moderately rutted — and even down a dry riverbed that involved hopping over some rocks along the way. It wasn’t anything that would test a true four-wheel drive, but the Outback handled it well.
The Outback was powered by a 2.5-litre flat-four engine delivering 121kW at 5600 revs and 226Nm at 4400 revs, or a 3.0-litre double overhead camshaft six-cylinder that peaked at 180kW at 6600 revs and 297kW at 4200 revs.
On road or off the symmetrical allwheel-drive system ensured the Outback was a breeze to drive.
The higher ride height and taller tyres made it a little less sharp than the Liberty, but it was still well mannered on all road surfaces.
The seats were comfortable, important on a long trip, the headroom was generous front and back, and the 60/40 split-fold rear seat was useful when travelling.
Subaru offered three versions of the 2.5i Outback, the Wagon, Luxury and Premium; and two versions of the 3.0R, the Wagon and the Premium. All had a host of standard features. The entry-model 2.5i Wagon had climate control airconditioning, cruise, central locking, power windows and mirrors, six-speaker CD sound, cloth trim and roof racks.
Step up to the Luxury and you got a powered front driver seat, leather trim and self-levelling rear suspension. The Premium added power front seats and an array of airbags.
The 3.0R was similarly equipped in the respective entry-level and Premium models. PAY $15,000-$22,000 for the 2.5i Wagon, add $1500 for the Luxury Pack or $2500 for the Premium Pack. Step up to the 3.0R and pay $20,000-$30,000, add up to $5000 for the Premium Pack. ALL-WHEEL drive with ABS, traction control, emergency brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution provide a comprehensive package of active safety devices for the Outback, topped off by electronic stability control in the 3.0R Premium.
Should the sheetmetal start
to crumple there was plenty of passive protection in the form of dual front airbags in the entry-level models through to dual front side airbags, and front and rear curtain airbags on the range-topping 3.0R Premium. SUBARU build quality has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years.
Little of a serious nature goes wrong with the Outback. It is competent off road, but has it limitations, which can be exceeded by an uncaring or unknowing owner. Check also for a service record. THE 2.5i Outback will run on regular unleaded, and tests at the time of launch showed it would return 10-11 litres/100 km on average. The 3.0-litre needed 95-octane fuel and Subaru claimed it would do 10.9 litres/100 km. GOOD all-rounder more than capable of touring in the bush or beating around town.
Outstanding Outback: the Subaru Outback was based on the Liberty and offered comfort and performance on and off-road.