Subaru Out­back 3.6 Pre­mium

Damien O’car­roll finds the 3.6-litre Subaru is much more than some­thing to take a sec­ond glance at when he finds a cou­ple of ex­tra pots makes all the dif­fer­ence.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

As a mo­tor­ing journalist, I quite of­ten drive dif­fer­ent mod­els of the same car back to back, as that is of­ten how the sched­ul­ing works. Rarely though do I ex­pe­ri­ence such an eye-open­ing “Oh, that’s bet­ter” mo­ment, as I did go­ing from the Subaru Out­back 2.5i Pre­mium into the 3.6R Pre­mium. Why ex­actly? I mean, af­ter all, they are pretty much iden­ti­cal in terms of equip­ment, with the only dif­fer­ences be­ing the 3.6R gets a slightly dif­fer­ent in­te­rior trim, a 12-speaker Har­mon Kar­don au­dio sys­tem and sil­ver roof rails. But the big­gest dif­fer­ence comes un­der the bon­net, with the ad­di­tion of two ex­tra cylin­ders, 62kw of ex­tra power and 115Nm more torque. And that trans­forms the Out­back. Okay, so at 191kw of power and 350Nm of torque, the 3.6R still isn’t ex­actly bristling with power and the sim­i­larly raised up Holden Com­modore Tourer eas­ily out­mus­cles it with 235kw and 381Nm, while even the 2.0-litre Com­modore matches the Out­back’s num­bers. But while that ex­tra power doesn’t ex­actly turn the Out­back into a per­for­mance mon­ster, what it does do is trans­form it into a thor­oughly su­perb, bar­gain-priced lux­ury car. The big, hor­i­zon­tally-op­posed, six-cylin­der en­gine is won­der­fully smooth and re­fined and brings more than enough mus­cle to pull the beau­ti­fully com­posed Out­back along at a more than sat­is­fac­tory rate on the open road. Per­haps the big­gest im­prove­ment the six brings, how­ever, is to the be­hav­iour of the con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion. The pre­set “gearshifts” are bet­ter de­fined and the health­ier torque out­put re­duces the need for it to flare un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion. You could al­most be fooled into think­ing it was a con­ven­tional auto. That is “al­most” by the way, be­cause the trans­mis­sion still has its mo­ments where it re­minds you what it re­ally is. While it doesn’t have a tra­di­tional boxer bur­ble, the en­gine does pro­duce a pleas­ing and dis­tinc­tive growl un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion, but when tick­led along on a light throt­tle, is re­mark­ably quiet, adding to the Out­back’s over­all re­fine­ment. Like the 2.5i, the 3.6R’s ride is beau­ti­fully com­pli­ant and its chassis nicely con­trolled, but the 3.6R brings an ad­di­tional mode over the four-cylin­der car for some added sporti­ness. Well, sort of – the 3.6R gets the Sport# set­ting which sharp­ens up throt­tle and trans­mis­sion re­sponses, but you still won’t be head­ing to a track day in it any time soon. Although it would make an ex­cel­lent choice to tow some­thing more suit­able to a track day on a trailer. As an added bonus, the 3.6R can haul 300kg more than the 2.5i, 1,800kg ver­sus 1,500kg. At $59,990 the 3.6R Pre­mium rep­re­sents ex­cel­lent value for money for ei­ther a six-cylin­der SUV or a tra­di­tional sta­tion wagon, it’s only when you re­mem­ber that the equally well equipped 2.5i Pre­mium is $10K less that you start won­der­ing. That said, spend any time be­hind the wheel of both and the 3.6R quickly shows why it is def­i­nitely worth the pre­mium.

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