Fam­ily mat­ters

Subaru sure do build fan­tas­tic sporty com­pacts, but they also know a thing or two about ac­com­mo­dat­ing a brood. The Outback is as spa­cious and ca­pa­ble as ever – and now, safer too.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Driving Impression - Text and pho­tos Kyle Kock

It doesn’t hurt to try new things. Take Subaru, for in­stance. A few years ago they dipped their toes in the diesel pow­er­train pond and of­fered a 2.0 ℓ tur­bocharged oil-burner in their range, which in­cluded drop­ping one into the Outback sta­tion wagon. Fast for­ward to 2018, and the com­pany has de­cided to drop that en­gine al­to­gether, in­stead fo­cus­ing on their petrol range along with the Outback’s mid-life­cy­cle up­dates. This means you can now pur­chase an Outback with one of two en­gines: an en­trylevel 2.5 ℓ hor­i­zon­tally op­posed four-cylin­der mo­tor, and a range-top­ping 3.6 ℓ six-cylin­der boxer. We had the lat­ter for few days in win­ter, to see just where Subaru’s made im­prove­ments to the model.

New nose

The most no­tice­able as­pect of the facelift, of course, is the Outback’s new nose. Subaru’s opted to let go of the old, large, swept-back head­lamps in favour of a sleeker de­sign. The old grille didn’t make the cut ei­ther, and has been re­placed by a unit with a more pro­nounced hexag­o­nal shape. The chrome bar that cuts across the grille and holds the badge has also been low­ered slightly. Along the pro­file noth­ing much has changed ex­cept that the al­loy wheel de­sign is new; but at the rear, the tail­light fog-lamp de­tails have been al­tered and the chrome strip above the tailgate grab han­dle has been re­moved. In­ter­est­ingly, from the out­side you’d be hard pressed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate this range-top­per from the lesser model. Both fea­ture mi­nor dif­fer­ences to the plas­tic cladding on the lower end of the body pan­els, help­ing them ap­pear a bit more ready for rough roads.

Auto this, elec­tric that

If you’re the type who doesn’t care too much for driv­ing with both legs, and likes all the cru­cial fea­tures to be just the touch of a but­ton away, then the Outback will def­i­nitely ap­peal to you. From the mo­ment you walk up to it, the big Subaru wagon is an ef­fort­less af­fair. Entry is key­less, so you can leave the key in your pocket and just yank the door han­dle. Slide your back­side into the large and com­fort­able leather-wrapped driver’s seat and ad­just the back­rest, cush­ion and lum­bar sup­port via tog­gles at the seat’s base. Open and close the tailgate us­ing one of the but­tons to the right of the starter, so your spouse can load the kids and gro­ceries (this is also where you can ad­just the bright­ness of the in­stru­ment panel; set a pre-recorded height for the tailgate to open; and turn off the blind-spot de­tec­tion sys­tem, for­ward-col­li­sion warn­ing sys­tem, lane-de­par­ture warn­ing and sta­bil­ity con­trol). The fas­cia is dom­i­nated by a 7-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen, which is where you can find in­for­ma­tion on the sta­tus of the Outback, a TomTom-aided GPS sys­tem, and the ra­dio and me­dia sys­tem. Un­der the APPS tab you’ll also find that Ap­ple’s CarPlay and Google’s An­droid Auto have been pre-loaded. Ev­ery­thing plays through an 11-speaker Har­mon Kar­don sound sys­tem, which in­cludes an am­pli­fier and sub­woofer tucked away in a nook of the lug­gage bay. The Outback is also spa­cious. Both sides of the rear bench have Isofix child-seat mount­ing points, so the tini­est mem­bers of your fam­ily are ac­com­mo­dated as well. Once the tailgate’s up you have ac­cess to 512 ℓ of lug­gage space, which can be in­creased to 1 801 ℓ when you drop the back­rests of the rear bench.

Plea­sure to drive

It’s a large mo­tor, but it’s needed be­cause of the Outback’s size. This mo­tor makes 115 Nm more than the entry-level 2.5 ℓ model, and you feel it im­me­di­ately un­der throt­tle. Many mo­tor­ing pub­li­ca­tions give CVTs heat be­cause of­ten they make a car feel lazy, but this trans­mis­sion and en­gine com­bi­na­tion is prob­a­bly the bet­ter choice for the Outback. There’s also 191 kW of power, which is ex­ces­sive for a fam­ily ve­hi­cle but makes for stress-free over­tak­ing of trucks and slow traf­fic on the open road. Un­for­tu­nately, you pay the price for com­mut­ing with the Outback, be­cause stop-and-go sit­u­a­tions make the big Subaru quite thirsty. Af­ter a week of en­dur­ing Cape Town’s ever-in­creas­ing grid­lock, we recorded an eye­brow-rais­ing 12,78 ℓ/100 km. Some open-road driv­ing dropped the fig­ure down to 10,45 ℓ/100 km, though.

Should you get one?

If you’re look­ing for a ve­hi­cle big enough to swal­low the kids and your mother-in-law and all the gear that comes with them, the Outback should def­i­nitely be on your radar. Par­tic­u­larly if your hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion can only be ac­cessed via some rough gravel B-roads. That, and the peace of mind of an ex­tend­able main­te­nance plan and an im­pres­sive host of safety fea­tures, makes the new Subaru Outback an op­tion you shouldn’t ig­nore.

Subaru Outback

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