Road test review: Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium
WITHOUT doubt, this is one of the best family wagons on the market.
Although we won't call the Subaru Outback a wagon. For all those fashion savvy buyers, it's an SUV.
But really, it's essentially a high riding estate (see, that's European and far fancier).
Whatever you want to call it, the Outback presents as impressive value for money in a reliable package. While Mazda recently updated its CX-9 to provide new competition, the Subaru has been one of the key offerings to tackle the segment's dominance of Toyota with the off-road-focussed Prado and bitumen-friendly Kluger.
With a retail price just below $43,000, this Premium variant gets all the goodies without having to go aftermarket or tick option boxes.
Remarkably quiet for a diesel, from inside the cabin rarely do you hear any typical oil-burner clatter.
The sizeable cabin ensures four adults find ample space, and you could squeeze in three across the rear bench.
Leather trim comes standard which is brilliant for families. Messes from grubby kids are easily cleaned, although the seats can be somewhat flat for some tastes.
Straightforward operations mean there is little chance of getting confused or baffled by the buttons and knobs. The steering wheel is typically Subaru-busy, where you have stereo, radar cruise control, phone, drive mode and trip computer buttons and toggles.
The central touch-screen is simple and easy to navigate, with red and white backlighting adding some personality to an otherwise black dash colour scheme.
On the road
Granddad was among the passengers during our tenure and the BMW 3 Series-driver was impressed with the Subaru's ride quality and limited road noise.
While there is also a 2.5-litre four-cylinder and 3.6-litre cylinder petrol version, we think this diesel is the pick.
Strong and efficient, its continuously variable automatic performs admirably and remains a benchmark setter for this transmission.
Most notably with an update this year came Subaru's EyeSight technology. Originally missing from diesel variants, it now comes with radar cruise control and automatic braking if sensors detect an oncoming collision. Also included is blind spot monitoring and lane change assist, auto dimming rear view mirror, auto high beam assist and the rear cross traffic alert which detects passing vehicles when reversing from parking spaces.
That's all life-saving stuff. Some companies using Subarus with EyeSight have seen a dramatic reduction in collisions.
Ground clearance is not massive, so rough and ready off-roading is out of the question, but gravel roads, fire trails and beaches are well within the Outback's capabilities.
What do you get?
Your basic Outback is pretty well equipped with the likes of a Bluetooth and MP3 compatible six-speaker CD stereo with voice command, dual zone air con, leather steering wheel, paddle shifters, alloys, full-size spare as well as automatic lights and wipers, yet these Premium models also get a sunroof, leather trim, power cargo door, heated front seats, sat nav with in-built Pandora internet music app and push-button start.
Competition in the large diesel realm includes the outgoing Ford Territory TX ($46,740), Hyundai Santa Fe Active ($41,490), Kia Sorento Si ($44,490) and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX ($45,000).
Space comes in spades and the Outback is perfect for growing families, or those who enjoy active lifestyles.
With 60-40 split folding rear seats, made easier via handles in the boot and on the seat-tops, throwing in bikes and boards is a cinch.
Subaru also has some excellent genuine accessories, and we have recently seen a good pack including cargo tray, mats, weather shields and a tow bar for $1741 fitted.
Those in the back have air vents, cup holders, while there are also bottle holders in each door.
In the front is another pair of cup holders, along with ample stowage areas including a large centre console, as well as a spot for phones in front of the shifter close to a pair of USB slots, auxiliary port and 12-volt plug.
Delivering consumption just above seven litres for every 100km, the Outback impressed during some heavy-duty family duties.
Capped price servicing offers peace of mind for upcoming costs but Subarus, like many Japanese manufacturers, require maintenance every six months or 12,500km. That contributes to a lot of preventative measures, which is one of the reasons why the marque is so well regarded in reliability.
While not the prettiest, the Outback is no ugly duckling. With some wheel arch and cargo step accessories it does toughen the look somewhat, but it is essentially a utilitarian machine.
Analyse the performance and specifications, the Outback offers brilliant value for money.
At that price, it beats most rivals who usually start their diesel range for similar coin.
Throw in the Subaru reputation and the internal flexibility, and it stacks high on the list for consideration.
What matters most
What we liked: Impressive fuel economy, outstanding space, doesn't feel like a large SUV.
What we'd like to see: Some funky factor with the interior.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing is available for the life of the car, and prices are listed for the first five years or 125,000km. Intervals are every six months or 12,500km. Average price is $422.
Driving experience 17/20
Features and equipment 18/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 18/20
Style and design 15/20
Model: MY16 Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium.
Details: Five-seat all-wheel drive large sports utility vehicle.
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.
Engine: 2.0-litre boxer turbo diesel generating maximum power of 110kW @ 3600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1600-2800rpm.
Consumption: 6.3 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line: $42,990.