The Subaru Outback is an incredibly popular range of vehicles that are technically under the SUV banner but in the real world, can probably better be described as a station wagon. In fact, it’s the second highest selling car model in the SUV category behind the ever-popular Toyota Prado – and for very good reasons.
But what, exactly, makes the Subaru Outback rank consistently high in the sales charts? And does the latest model have enough under the bonnet – and in the interior – to match its much-lauded past? Let’s take a closer look by getting up front with the Subaru Outback.
What’s on the menu?
There is a reasonably large amount of choice when it comes to the Subaru Outback, although you can only select a single style – all of your options come in the same, wagon-shaped shell. Every Outback is also all-wheel drive, which is something to bear in mind if you aren’t used to driving such vehicles.
But there the similarities end. You have your pick of three different engine sizes – a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel version; a 3.6-litre six-cylinder edition, and a 2.5 litre four cylinder model – both of which are petrol engines. It’s also worth knowing that both the diesel version and the smallest petrol version are available in two different levels – buyers have a choice of Standard and Premium models.
For lovers of six-speed vehicles, however, you only have one choice – the diesel model is the only version that comes with it, and the rest make do with Subaru’s Continuously Variable Transmission.
What are the options?
There are a few options to consider with the latest Outback, although it’s fair to say that Subaru hasn’t overwhelmed us with choice. Whether that’s a good thing or not is down to the individual, of course, but those seeking out a super premium option are likely to be left disappointed. That said, because of the standard equipment and features, all the prices are relatively reasonable, and there isn’t too much difference between the highest rated 3.6R model – coming in at under $49,000 – and the $35,000 2.0 Diesel.
The real difference is that the upgrades are clearly trying to appeal to those who enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. For example, if you are willing to pay for the extras, the 3.6R model comes with Thule luggage pods that can slot on the roof, cargo barriers, nets, and even has an awning that comes out from the roof racks. Bikers will love it, too, as the latest outback can also be equipped with cycle racks.
How much do they cost?
As we touched on above, the Subaru Outback is reasonably priced. The cheapest – the 2.0D is a shade under $35,000, with the 2.5i version a little over that at around $36,240. The 2.5i Premium and 2.0 Premium are equally priced at $42,240, while the top of the range, all-singing-all-dancing 3.6R is the most expensive.
However, as everyone knows, the asking price is only part of the price story when it comes to buying a new car. With regards to maintenance and servicing, you can get a three-year or 75,000 km warranty for each of the new models. It’s a reasonable sounding offer, but buyers should also be wary of the fact that you will need to get two services a year, whereas many of Subaru’s industry rivals only require the single visit.
Plus, you will need to pay for a check-up after you have driven 500 km – so leave aside an extra $250 or so from your budget. So, over those first three years, things aren’t going to be massively cheap – if you do all the services, it will cost you somewhere in the region of $2200 for the petrol engines, and over $2500 for the diesel editions.
What’s it like to drive?
There is a lot to love about the Outback, and anyone who drives a lot through the winding and rocky terrains will get a lot out of it. Most SUVs have a tendency to leave you feeling high in the seat, but in the Outback, you feel much closer to the floor. It makes sharp turns a lot nicer to drive, and you can really feel the grip on the road.
The all-wheel-drive system might take some a while to get used to, but once you are up and running, it’s something of a dream. It’s an even drive that gives you a lot of confidence, and there is rarely a hint of trouble as you try and negotiate tight corners.
It’s reasonably quick, too – the 2.5i is probably the best value weapon of choice for acceleration lovers – particularly in Sports Mode – although the Sport Sharp mode in the 3.6R has far much more power – for a price, of course. Its diesel alternative can’t match it regarding maintaining speed. However, where the diesel wins out is – without a doubt – in its comfort and smoothness on the highways, so it depends on your car use with regards to which edition is best for you.
What is the interior like?
The Subaru Outback is exceptionally comfortable, with plenty of head and legroom in both front and back. The dash is elegant, the touchscreen is simple to use and attractive, and the steering controls are all where you expect them to be.
You get excellent support from the seats – even when cornering – and the suspension is strong enough to stop you from getting barracked by rougher terrains. However, at slow speeds, the suspension is a little on the firm side. It’s disappointing, to be honest, as the Outback is designed for rough terrain and the great outdoors, but isn’t quite at the top of the range regarding bumpiness and noise.
There’s plenty to enjoy with the Subaru Outback, and you can see why it’s so popular with the mainstream market. It’s not without its problems, for sure, but for those of you with a spirit of adventure, the Outback is definitely a car that will get you across all kinds of terrain with reasonable comfort. Is it worth the money? We say yes – although you might want to wait until the 2018 Outback launches before buying, to pick up a better deal.