You’d be hard put to find an estate car that can comfortably cruise for hundreds of miles, tow a caravan, transport a bookcase and tackle seriously challenging terrain. The Subaru Outback is one such vehicle.
It’s hard to know where to start with the Outback, which has been with us since 2015, but is still something of a hidden gem.
I certainly didn’t need any convincing about its off-road ability. I was recently invited to a Subaru driving day where I got to drive the 4×4 range on a special course with deep mud, steep hills, rivers and lakes.
The Outback took it all in its stride, which is phenomenal for an estate and a testament to the Japanese company’s tried-and-tested Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system.
And here’s something you probably didn’t know – Subaru has sold more than 15 million 4×4 vehicles since 1972, making it one of the world’s biggest makers of off-roaders.
As you’d expect from an estate, there’s plenty of room in the boot (559 litres) rising to 1,848 with the back seats folded down, which is why my trip to IKEA to buy a Billy bookcase was no problem. The cabin is spacious too, with loads of space for adults in the front and back.
Subaru has also worked hard at boosting comfort and quality levels, though it stills errs on the side of durability. It would be stretching it to say the Outback is plush, but it’s much classier than Subarus of old with more soft-touch plastics and leather seats.
The Outback is only available in top spec SE Premium trim, which means it’s generously equipped with automatic LED headlamps and headlamp washers, Active Torque Vectoring, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, electronically-adjustable driver’s seat and privacy glass.
There’s also a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, incorporating satellite navigation, audio, smartphone connectivity and a rear view parking camera. It’s not the best system out there, but it’s perfectly useable and gets the job done.
Perhaps more importantly, the Outback is safe too. It was awarded a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring especially well in the key areas of adult occupant protection (85%) and child occupant protection (87%).
This high safety rating is partly down to Subaru’s EyeSight collision avoidance technology (available in Lineartronic cars), which utiliises stereo camera technology to monitor the road and traffic ahead for potential hazards. I’ve tried it in controlled conditions and it’s very effective, automatically stopping the car at lower speeds. Adaptive cruise control (it keeps a distance between you and the vehicle in front) and land departure warning are also available.
The Outback is available with two engines – a 2.5-litre petrol engine developing 175PS and a 150PS 2.0-litre turbo diesel. The diesel is available with either a 6-speed manual or Lineartronic CVT automatic gearbox, while the petrol can only be bought with the auto box.
Priced from £32,995 to £34,995, I tested the diesel with Lineartronic gearbox. Many CVTs (Continuously Variable Transmission) tend to over rev, but thankfully the Outback’s box is restrained, unless the throttle is floored. And anyway, there’s no need for that because the punchy boxer diesel has plenty of mid-range pulling power, and is remarkably refined, meaning that it’s a relaxed motorway cruiser.
What’s more, the diesel is pretty economical, especially for a permanent all-wheel drive car. The manual is good for up to 50.4mpg, while the Lineartronic can return 46.3mpg. And during my week with the Outback I averaged 40+mpg, which is pretty impressive considering the wide range of driving it was subjected to.
For the record, the Outback can reach 62mph from standstill in 9.7 seconds (manual diesel), 9.9 (auto diesel) and 10.2 (auto petrol), while CO2 emissions range from 145-161 g/km.
The Outback handles surprisingly well too with controlled body roll and, naturally, plenty of traction.
The car is also rated to tow 2,000kg (diesel 1,800kg), which ticks yet another box for many potential buyers.
Subaru has a good reputation for reliability, but just to put your mind at rest, the Outback comes with a five-year/100,000-mile limited warranty and three years’ UK breakdown cover. In fact, Subaru claims that 99.3% of all its cars in the UK are still on the road after 10 years.
The Outback is up against some good rivals in the increasingly competitive rugged estate sector, including the Volvo V90 Cross Country, Skoda Octavia Scout and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack. And while it may be outclassed by them in some areas – infotainment for instance – the Outback is a great all-rounder and definitely the most capable off-road.
Verdict: The Subaru Outback is something of a revelation. A remarkably versatile package, it’s safe, competitively priced and should see years of reliable service.