While most rivals offer buyers a rich choice, Subaru prefers to keep things simple. There is only one equipment, the SE Premium, and only two engines, a 2.0-liter diesel or 2.5-liter gasoline engine. Both are four-wheel drive and both offer an automatic – only the diesel has a manual alternative.
Subaru was one of the first brands to launch a station wagon SUV crossover, and today’s outback continues to battle in what is now a growing sector: the Audi A6 Allroad, Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain and Volvo V90 Cross Country combine station wagon bodies with jacked-up off-road styling.
SUV-Combi-Crossover is worthy, but not class-leading
Subaru is known for its great driving cars, and even this outback is steeped in character. It may roll a little, but the grips are strong and the confidence in the traction of the four-wheel drive system is reassuring. It’s a pity that the ride is so rough at low speeds – it never really calms down, even at high speeds.
Wisely, most buyers choose diesel. It’s not very fast, but it’s strong at low revs and usually responds better than gasoline. Apart from some vibrations from the steering wheel, it is also sophisticated, except at high revs – something that highlights the characteristics of the CVT transmission. We would stick with manual shifting, although gasoline is still better if you want the ultimate refinement.
Compared to fancy models like the Audi A6 Allroad, the Subaru lacks flair in the interior. There are too many cheap-looking materials, and although a 7.0-inch touchscreen is standard, the system is not very intuitive or easy to use.
However, the build quality is excellent and the driver’s seat is very comfortable. The all-round visibility is good, and the dashboard is logically arranged. The Outback is also extremely spacious, both for two tall adults in the front and two lanky teenagers in the back. The Subaru also has many other installation spaces, such as large door compartments and a large storage compartment at the bottom of the dashboard.
Euro NCAP gave the Outback a full five-star rating for crash safety, and security experts rate its burglar resistance as excellent. The standard equipment is also very extensive: navigation system, leather seats, LED headlights, rear view camera, keyless entry, sunroof, air conditioning and cruise control, to name but a few. On the other hand, you also pay the price: it looks good next to a Volvo V90 Cross Country, but seems very expensive compared to cars like a Skoda Octavia Scout. The fuel consumption is also not very cheap and the CO2 emissions are high.
Further back, the trunk is very impressive – on paper it is as big as larger cars like the Volvo V90 Cross Country. It is cleanly shaped, with no interference, and the wide trunk opening is not too high off the ground, making it easier to load with heavy objects. The rear seats are divided in a 60/40 ratio, and fortunately they lie completely flat when folded.
This ultimately hinders the outback. It is spacious, well built and generously proportioned, but has shortcomings in areas such as ride comfort, economy and interior ambience. It’s a worthy car, but it lacks the full range of talents to take on some very impressive rivals.