Brian ‘The-Axle-Twister’ Bas­sett fear­lessly goes, well, just about any­where, in the Sub­aru Out­back.

BRIAN BAS­SETT takes the scenic route in the new Sub­aru Out­back

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

The Sub­aru’s CVT trans­mis­sion is one of the smoothest in the busi­ness and if you use the flappy pad­dles to gear down, the wagon achieves a cer­tain sporti­ness, which be­lies the ve­hi­cle’s size.

WHEN­EVER we drive a Sub­aru, my col­leagues re­mind me of a road trip over Namibia’s long dirt roads, which are where the Sub­aru sta­tion wag­ons shine best.

I was there­fore keen to ex­pe­ri­ence the Scooby’s leg­endary road hold­ing over KZN’s dirt roads in the new Sub­aru Out­back, kindly pro­vided by Howard Christie, dealer prin­ci­pal of the largest Sub­aru dealer in the coun­try at Camps Drift.

The new Out­back was re­designed in 2015 and launched in South Africa later that year. It prob­a­bly didn’t need a re­design and was still sell­ing some 120 000 units a year in­ter­na­tion­ally, one in four of which sold in the United States.

None­the­less the Sub­aru Legacy, with which the Out­back shares a plat­form, had just had a makeover and it was prob­a­bly the Out­back’s turn. The re­sult we found very pleas­ing and en­joy­able.

Styling

The 2015 styling re­vi­sion is cau­tious and stays close to the tried and tested Out­back for­mula.

The new model is sleeker, cleaner and has less plas­tic cladding, de­spite adding a few mil­lime­tres in length to make it just over 4,8 me­tres long.

This adds to the ve­hi­cle’s con­sid­er­able on-road pres­ence and there is no chance of other road users not tak­ing you se­ri­ously.

The front end with its dis­tinc­tive Sub­aru grille, flanked by wrap around head­light clus­ters and a smaller, grille be­low the built bumper flanked by re­cessed fog lamps, is more co­he­sive than the ear­lier model.

The car is sculpted at the sides and flows back­ward to a wide tail­gate and large tail light clus­ters, which to my mind is al­to­gether bet­ter look­ing than the pre­vi­ous model.

In­te­rior

The restyled in­te­rior shows a high­qual­ity fin­ish and de­sign.

The dash­board is sim­ple, with clean lines, two ana­logue di­als that are clearly vis­i­ble through the mul­ti­func­tion, and a fully ad­justable steer­ing wheel, with its flappy pad­dles for the sportier driver.

Sit­ting above the cli­mate con­trols on the cen­tral stack is a seven-inch touch screen, which shows the op­er­a­tion of the ra­dio, CD, AUX, cruise con­trol, cell phone pair­ing and Blue­tooth func­tions and re­vers­ing cam­era; to name but a few.

All the ba­sic func­tions are voice con­trolled, sim­ply press the prompt but­ton and say “call” or “mu­sic” to ac­ti­vate fea­tures.

The seats are cov­ered in fine leather and made for the fuller Amer­i­can fig­ure, which means I found them very com­fort­able.

The front seats are elec­tri­cally ad­justable, with an in­de­pen­dent mem­ory but­ton for each seat.

Rear space is bril­liant with enough room for three large adults to in­ter­act freely and loudly de­mand lunch on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

These days seven seats are the fash­ion, but to date Sub­aru have re­sisted putting in a third row of seats for half-size hu­mans, so the en­tire in­te­rior is spa­cious and com­fort­able.

The car has plugs and in­ter­faces for all your IT toys and the 12-speaker Har­mon Kar­don sound sys­tem is im­mensely en­joy­able.

The boot is eas­ily ac­cessed by the wide, elec­tri­cally-op­er­ated tail­gate and of­fers 512 litres of stor­age space with the rear seats in place and 1 801 litres with the seats low­ered.

Safety and se­cu­rity

The Out­back has five-star NCAP and Ja­panese safety rat­ings.

The frame is re­in­forced to pro­tect pas­sen­gers and the higher rid­ing po­si­tion in the cabin, although not as high as an SUV, pro­vides great all­round vis­i­bil­ity.

For the rest the Out­back has ev­ery­thing you could want in the safety field, like ABS with EBD, seven airbags in­clud­ing two un­der the front seat cush­ions, which take the place of dash-mounted knee airbags.

There is also a rear-vi­sion cam­era, blind spot de­tec­tion and lane change as­sist, which alert you to dan­ger by show­ing up, to­gether with a loud sig­nal, on your side mir­rors.

The Out­back also has Rear Cross Traf­fic Alert to tell you what’s com­ing from the side. It is a bril­liant and most use­ful fea­ture. There is a wide range of other safety fea­tures, too many to men­tion here, which make this one of the safest cars on the road.

Per­for­mance and han­dling

The Out­back han­dles like a Sub­aru should. The quick steer­ing ra­tio and elec­tric power as­sist pro­vides pre­cise and im­me­di­ate feed­back. The CVT trans­mis­sion is one of the smoothest in the busi­ness and if you use the flappy pad­dles to gear down, the wagon achieves a cer­tain sporti­ness, which be­lies the ve­hi­cle’s size.

We drove the Out­back on farm roads through de­light­ful scenery and found it sup­ple and eas­ily ab­sorb­ing of bumps and ma­jor im­pacts with­out bot­tom-de­stroy­ing jolts or shud­ders.

On tar the Out­back al­most floats along and it has no prob­lem on the N3, pass­ing long loads with ease.

I felt safe and se­cure in the Out­back and the per­ma­nent, Sym­met­ri­cal AWD pro­vides a level of sta­bil­ity I have not en­coun­tered since last I drove a Sub­aru. The X-mode but­ton al­lows the car to take over the en­gine and safely nav­i­gate very bad roads, which is a boon for driv­ers like me.

The 2.5i-S Pre­mium has the Boxer four-cylin­der, hor­i­zon­tally-op­posed en­gine, putting out 129 kW/191 Nm. Our 0-100 km/h run came up in around 10,5 sec­onds and top speed is a claimed 185 km/h, which we did not test.

Fuel con­sump­tion is dif­fi­cult to pre­dict given the ver­sa­til­ity of this car, but ex­pect around 8,8 l/100 km in the com­bined cy­cle.

Costs and the com­pe­ti­tion

The Out­back will set you back about R550 000 and comes with a three­year main­te­nance plan and a 100 000 km man­u­fac­turer’s guar­an­tee. The many Mid­lands farm­ers whose loyal cus­tom has made Pi­eter­mar­itzburg’s Sub­aru the busiest dealer in South Africa will tes­tify there is no real com­pe­ti­tion for a Scooby, but we can rec­om­mend a look at the Audi A4 All­road and Volvo V60 Cross Coun­try too.

PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

The Sub­aru Out­back han­dles like it is on rails, which is a good thing as the old Pen­trich sta­tion build­ing shows the rail­ways, which once trans­ported peo­ple around Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, have long been shut.

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