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.
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.
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 The old grille didn’t make the cut either, and has been replaced by a unit with a more pronounced hexagonal shape.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.