Subaru’s Out­back never went away, but it’s some­times for­got­ten in the SUV race. But how has it kept pace with a big ca­pac­ity flat-cylin­der!?

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story & Pho­tos: Dean Evans

Subaru’s 3.6-litre Out­back is a smooth and silky drive, and al­ways has been.

THREE-POINT-SIX-LITRES OF PETROL-pow­ered hor­i­zon­tally op­posed six-cylin­der en­gine has been an iconic part of the Subaru Out­back for al­most two decades. It’s an en­gine lay­out used in Porsche’s ven­er­a­ble 911 for good rea­son, with power, torque and a war­bling sound that’s full of char­ac­ter.

As one of the orig­i­nal cross­over/suvs, Subaru’s best-sell­ing Out­back has seen its en­gine ca­pac­ity grow from 3.0-litres to the cur­rent 3.6-litres, and it’s al­ways been the bet­ter, stronger and driver’s choice for the big wagon, as well as the Legacy - the big-six of­ten be­ing a bet­ter choice than twin-turbo four-cylin­ders. And in an in­creas­ingly ef­fi­cient mo­tor­ing land­scape where en­gines are down­siz­ing, it’s a mild re­lief to realise the longevity and life­span of the 3.6-litre petrol en­gine. It’s not with­out its own re­fine­ment, ei­ther, with Subaru claim­ing 9.9l/100km for the com­bined fuel cy­cle, a good im­prove­ment over pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tions and the­o­ret­i­cally good for around 550km from its 60-litre tank. We saw 10.5/100km.

It’s an en­gine that pro­duces a strong but rel­a­tively un­stressed 191kw and 350Nm, at least when com­pared to a 2002 911’s 3.6-litre en­gine that made 235kw/370nm and used 12.1l/100km.

Hardly slow ei­ther, and while Subaru spruiks a 0-100km/h time of 7.6 sec­onds, it did not take much to de­mol­ish that claim and record 7.0 sec­onds by sim­ply load­ing up brake against throt­tle and re­leas­ing. Subaru’s iconic all-wheel drive sys­tem and ac­tive torque split elim­i­nates tyre slip, and though the con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion ‘Subaru Lin­eartronic Trans­mis­sion’ is fine for pro­duc­ing those num­bers at the drags, dur­ing nor­mal use, it’s some­times caught out of its happy zone.

Subaru does com­pen­sate for this some­what with its man­ual pad­dle-shift over­ride, and Si-drive mode, which al­ters the ag­gres­sive­ness of re­sponses in three modes.

But the Out­back is largely about the com­fort and space, and it serves up in both

While Subaru spruiks a 0-100km/h time of 7.6 sec­onds, it didn’t take much to de­mol­ish that claim and record a time of 7.0 sec­onds.

ar­eas, es­pe­cially in the Pre­mium mod­els, avail­able in this six, and also the four­cylin­der 2.5i. Ride qual­ity is su­perb and it’s a supremely com­fort­able, well-equipped and spa­cious cabin.

Large eight-inch touch­screens fea­ture Carplay/an­droid Auto, plus Front and Side View Mon­i­tors which helps nos­ing it into the garage each night, aided by the but­ton that al­lows man­ual ac­ti­va­tion. An­other but­ton sets the power tail­gate’s max­i­mum height, for lower garages. Subaru also fits a Tom­tom based nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem with live traf­fic up­dates.

Black or ivory leather with heated eight­way elec­tric seats add to the pre­mium feel, as does key­less go and an epic 12-speaker Har­man Kar­don au­dio sys­tem. There’s also Subaru’s third gen Eye­sight sys­tem which adds lane change as­sist, along with an im­proved sys­tem of col­li­sion avoid­ance and adap­tive cruise con­trol and speed sign recog­ni­tion.

Ex­te­rior for-2018 changes are min­i­mal but in­clude new LED/DRL adap­tive corner­ing head­lights, new grille, bumpers and wheels, with the 3.6R also get­ting sil­ver fold-out roof racks. And iden­ti­fy­ing not just the 2018 model, but the 3.6R model be­comes al­most its own prob­lem. There isn’t enough vis­ual dif­fer­ence be­tween the new 3.6R and the 2.5i and as good as it is, the 2.5i of­fers up quite an ap­peal­ing and $10,000 cheaper op­tion. It may only get 129kw/235nm, but it’s 7.3l/100km does sound more ap­peal­ing, though there is a size­able per­for­mance gap, with 0-100km/h served up in 10.2 sec­onds. And if bud­get is an is­sue, there’s al­ways the 2.5i Sport at $44,990, with all three Out­back vari­ants of­fer­ing good value for money.

Of course for the ef­fort­less power de­liv­ery and smooth­ness, it’s hard to ig­nore Subaru’s sweet six-cylin­der. En­joy it, be­cause with the way en­gines ca­pac­i­ties and cylin­ders are re­duc­ing, it may not be around for­ever.

1. Pre­mium in­te­rior of­fers lots of space, com­fort and tech.2. Eight-inch touch­screen uses Tom­tom guid­ance for nav­i­ga­tion, and the op­tion of Ap­ple Carplay/an­droid Auto, plus dual-zone cli­mate and heated seats.3-4-5. Plenty of tech on­board the 3.6 Pre­mium, such as adap­tive cruise con­trol, and Si-drive, with the abil­ity to choose be­tween three driv­ing modes. Blind spot warn­ing, ad­justable power tail­gate height, lane as­sist and au­ton­o­mous brak­ing add to the menu, along with Hill Hold, off-road X-mode, man­ual cam­era ac­ti­va­tion and elec­tric park brake.6. A hall­mark of Out­back, boot space is cav­ernous, with slid­ing cover, seat-fold­ing han­dles, and op­tional cargo dish tray.

Pre­mium 3.6 is iden­ti­fied by its wheels, and sil­ver roof racks, which fold-out across the roof.

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