Subaru looks to bag more buy

The Press and Journal (Inverness) - - NEWS -

Subaru has pulled out all the stops with the lat­est Out­back.

Yes, this stal­wart ruggedised es­tate might look sim­i­lar to the old car, but it’s a fresh de­sign with a more amenable price tag, a bet­ter qual­ity cabin and a great war­ranty. The good news for Bri­tish buy­ers is the fact that you can now buy a diesel ver­sion that’s paired with an au­to­matic gear­box.

Have a guess at how many cars Subaru sold on the UK last year. To help you with some ball­park num­bers, Ford sold over 326,000, Vaux­hall shifted al­most 270,000 and even a pres­tige out­fit like Porsche reg­is­tered more than 9,000 cars. You’re prob­a­bly not even close. The Ja­panese com­pany sold a mere 2,793 cars here, and that was 23% bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous year. It has strug­gled to over­come the strength of the Yen, which al­most killed Subaru as a vi­able en­tity in the UK but, the com­pany has vowed to come back stronger than ever be­fore.

To that end, say hello to the re­vised Out­back. The fourth-gen­er­a­tion car launched here back in 2010 and this fifth-gen­er­a­tion model moves the game on in sev­eral key re­gards.

Me­chan­i­cally, the big news with this ver­sion of the Out­back is that Subaru has de­cided that it’s time to stop shoot­ing it­self in the foot with petrol-only en­gine ranges and diesel man­ual mod­els. In­stead, the brand plans now to de­liver what cus­tomers want, namely the ex­cel­lent boxer diesel en­gine paired with an au­to­matic gear­box. Well, when I say ‘au­to­matic’, it’s strictly speak­ing a seven-step Lin­eartronic con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion, but you get the idea. There’s no clutch pedal. The en­gine’s good for 147bhp and if that’s not enough, you can still buy a 2.5-litre petrol with 162bhp. We’ll stick with the diesel if it’s all the same.

This be­ing Subaru, the en­gi­neers have tweaked the car’s sus­pen­sion for sharper han­dling. As be­fore, you get a healthy 200mm of ground clear­ance, and Subaru’s Sym­met­ri­cal All-Wheel Drive (AWD) sys­tem fea­tures on all mod­els. Choose the man­ual trans­mis­sion and there’s also an Ac­tive Torque Split, and for those with the Lin­eartronic CVT there’s a cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial with vis­cous lim­ited slip dif­fer­en­tial; just two ways to achieve trac­tion in all con­di­tions.

The changes to the Out­back’s ex­te­rior look de­cid­edly mod­est. Then you speak to the Subaru peo­ple and they tell you that the body is all new. Ev­ery­thing.

The cabin, usu­ally a Subaru Achilles heel, is much im­proved. It’s far sim­pler look­ing than be­fore with a more up-mar­ket sheen. There’s one of the best steer­ing wheels in the class and even the touch screen sys­tem is easy to op­er­ate. The boot mea­sures 512-litres to the ton­neau cover, with 2,000-litres avail­able when the seats are folded. That’s way big­ger than Volvo’s XC70 which can only muster 1,600-litres. Choose a diesel and it’ll eas­ily pull a two-tonne caravan as well.

Subaru reck­ons it can shift 800 of th­ese Out­backs per year, with 60% of them be­ing diesels. While we wouldn’t take is­sue with the ex­tent of their am­bi­tion, it’s hard to see four out of 10 Out­back cus­tomers turn­ing down the econ­omy and torque of the diesel-en­gined ver­sion. Prices start at around £28,000 for the 2.0D SE vari­ant, which is very rea­son­able given that an en­try level Volvo XC70 opens at over £34,000. That buys you a man­ual Out­back diesel: you do need to add £2,000 (which is quite an ask) for the Lin­eartronic box. The petrol model starts at around £28,500 with a Lin­eartronic trans­mis­sion.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the en­try SE and the SE Premium trim is £3,000 and we sus­pect that most will be con­tent with the more af­ford­able ver­sion. Af­ter all, SE cus­tomers still get au­to­matic LED head­lamps and head­lamp wash­ers, cruise con­trol, Ac­tive Torque Vec­tor­ing, 17-inch al­loy wheels, heated front seats, elec­tri­cally-ad­justable driver’s seat and pri­vacy glass, as well as a 7in touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, in­cor­po­rat­ing satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, au­dio, smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity and a rear view park­ing cam­era. Petrol SE mod­els also fea­ture an emis­sion­sre­duc­ing start-stop sys­tem and Subaru In­tel­li­gent Drive, which al­lows driv­ers to se­lect dif­fer­ent en­gine modes depend­ing on road con­di­tions for im­proved econ­omy and per­for­mance.

Go for a 2.0-litre diesel model and it’ll re­turn 48mpg with a man­ual gear­box and 45mpg with the Lin­eartronic CVT. This trans­lates to emis­sions fig­ures of 145 and 159g/km re­spec­tively which isn’t bad at all. The 37mpg fig­ure for the petrol model (161g/km) isn’t quite so clever.

Subaru has learned some harsh les­sons in re­cent years. It has learned to lis­ten to its cus­tomers. It’s been forced to re­act to mar­kets that change quickly. It’s been taught a hum­bling les­son in global eco­nomics and has seen that clever en­gi­neer­ing alone no longer sells cars. All of th­ese learn­ing points have been in­cor­po­rated into the lat­est Out­back.

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