2013 Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic Launch Review

Tim O'Brien | 19 Comments


What's hot: Lots of room, robust feel and good ground clearance
What's not: More steady than swift, won't win a beauty contest
X-Factor: The style, space and dynamics of a larger wagon with the versatility of a lighter-duty four-by-four.

Model classification: Large SUV
Price: 2.0D CVT: $42,490 (MLP) | 2.0D Premium CVT: $45,490 (MLP)
Engine/transmission: 2.0 litre DOHC diesel/ 'seven-speed' Lineartonic CVT (with manual mode)
Power/Torque: 110kW/350Nm
Fuel consumption l/100km listed: 6.5 | tested: 7.8 (lighter duty); 10.0 (high-speed run)


Wait long enough, and you'll be back in fashion again. Like Subaru's Outback SUV.

It's more a wagon - well it is a wagon, always has been - but it's classified an SUV since someone decided that anything that sat up high and could call on all-wheel-drive, even if only for some models, deserved the words 'sports-utility' as a genre prefix.

So it is an SUV, kind-of, because it's all-wheel-drive, and it sits up higher: that's all it takes.

But now the SUV market is splitting. There are still the big square-rigged heavy-duty 'trucks', like the Landcruiser, the Nissan Patrol and various Jeeps, but there are increasing numbers of SUVs that look like a slightly raised wagon-thing.

Like the BMW X1, the Dualis, Honda's new "lower" CR-V, the Outlander, Skoda's Octavia Scout, the VW Passat Alltrack, and a whole lot more.

It's like the market has had an epiphany, like: "Hey Subaru, you were right all along... now we're all gonna make AWD wagon-things just like you've done for the past 30 years."

Sure, the Outback might not be the last thing in style (it's a bit Harry High-pants), but it's now at the leading edge of a gathering trend. Funny that.

And with an understressed diesel and 'seven-speed' CVT under the bonnet, it's a very appealing crossover wagon with more than a little off-road versatility.

It's also pretty good buying - the Outback 2.0D is one of the cheapest in the large SUV segment (hard to believe that's where it's slotted).

Straight off the bat, it's a better buy and more robust purchase than the VW Passat Alltrack, it can take the game to the CX-5 and Territory diesels, and you'd easily rate it over an up-specced Captiva.


Nothing to report here. Look around and you'll see a typical Outback interior.

The new model comes in only two spec grades, just $3k apart. The lower-specced Outback 2.0D gets high-quality cloth trim, the 2.0D Premium gets leather.

I like a Subaru interior; no nonsense, most things in their place, simply designed, quiet and comfortable.

There is a certainly an air of quality and solidity to the Outback 2.0D, but, everything in black, it might be a bit cheerless and funereal for some tastes.

It looks like it can take a fair pounding though, and, aside from the thin cheap-feeling metal gearshift-surround, all materials have an appealing feel and the fit is first class.

There is also long list of standard features at the price. Both spec-levels come with Bluetooth (and audio streaming), standard sat-nav and reverse camera, climate control air-con, electric parking brake, foglights, height and reach-adjustable steering, iPod/MP3/CD six-speaker audio with USB and aux-in, map lights and cargo lights, and a host of other features.

The Premium also gets a sunroof, electroluminescent guages, rear air-vents and an electrically adjustable captain's chair, but, otherwise, they're entirely the same car - even down to the 17-inch alloys.

At the price, each, both the 2.0D and 2.0D Premium, is well-kitted.


On start-up, cold, there's a fair old racket typical of a Subaru boxer engine, just louder in this Outback because it's a diesel.

It soon disappears as things begin to warm though, and, once on road, it's particularly quiet.

The 2.0 litre turbo-charged diesel under the bonnet of the Outback is very well-matched in this case to the 'seven-speed' (virtual ratios) CVT.

There is an understressed feel to the diesel - it's redlined at a relatively low (by modern standards) 4500rpm - and, when driven in full auto mode, the CVT seamlessly keeps things in the 'meat' of its torque-band.

Some CVT automatics are simply awful - this one isn't. You'd hardly pick it as a CVT.

Drive the Outback diesel hard and it switches from variable mode to 'stepped gears', rattling off gear changes like a conventional 'cog' automatic.

We mucked around with the paddles in manual mode but found, as we often do with other cars, that the Outback CVT's adaptive logic operates fine without driver intervention.

Its 'downshift control' has the transmission changing down into corners to put the right gear underfoot on exit (it sharpens up when being driven quickly); similarly, it downshifts automatically on inclines.

You can also use the paddles in full auto mode if you really want to kick-down quickly, but the transmission then defaults to 'drive' when you've finished playing with them.

Both power and torque from the diesel are adequate; 110kW and 350Nm won't have it barrelling off the line like a rugby back but it's quick enough when overtaking and ample for family drivers.

When pulling out of a slow corner, or accelerating from 60kmh to 100kmh it can feel a tad doughy, but, once rolling at highway speed, the Outback diesel is swift and effortless.

It will see in the old ton, 160km/h, without breaking into a sweat and sit there equally effortlessly (but we don't know anyone who'd want to do that).

Being essentially a wagon, it's a MUCH better drive on the highway than its more upright SUV competitors.

I'd put it ahead of the Santa Fe for relaxed comfortable driving, though it doesn't have the diesel grunt of the Hyundai, and it's also more composed than the CX-5 (but which also has a more willing diesel).

Over each, the Outback 2.0D feels the more classy transport. Its long wheelbase and better inherent balance gives it a more settled and comfortable highway feel.

The suspension, struts up front and double wishbone rear, provides an elastic but progressively firm feel with the road. It is quite well-sorted and, though running on 'full-size' rubber (not low profiles), the Outback 2.0D corners pretty well.

Being higher, there is a tendency to push wide at speed, but it's all well-controlled and, as we found, can be hustled along on both tarmac and dirt in a most un-SUV-like way.


Our test route took in some long gravel sections of road, but nothing that approximated an off-road workout.

It was unfazed though by corrugations and its high ground clearance (relative to the Passat Alltrack and other more 'wagon-like' SUVs) would let the Outback in and out of some pretty marginal tracks.

Interestingly, Subaru has rural buyers - stock and station agents and the like - in its sights for its Outback sales.

Unlike the Alltrack and, say, Audi Allroad, this is a car that has been engineered to run every other day to Tibooburra and back, without complaint.

It does feel very robust and understressed.

The front end has been strengthened, the CVT has a reinforced transmission case and has been strenthened internally to handle the torque loads of the diesel, and the engine is a lazier understressed unit (redlined quite a bit lower than similar light modern diesels).

On the face of it, the Outback 2.0D feels engineered to last.


It has to be said Subaru has been off the pace for a few years. But that's changing: the XV is a good thing, the new Forester much improved (and one of the best in its segment), and now this - the 2.0D Outback CVT.

It's not quite 'there', a few more ergs under the bonnet wouldn't go astray, but it's a very robust family wagon at a very good price.

And besides feeling bullet-proof, on and off-road, it also feels classier from the wheel than most of its SUV competitors - it feels a more expensive car than its sticker price suggests.

Put it on a dirt road and it will swallow corrugations and larger washouts with ease (that ground clearance gives it a lot more versatility than most), and its equally adept on the highway.

It surprised me, I haven't driven the larger Subarus for a while. As an all-rounder wagon, it's hard to think of a better buy right now than Subaru's Outback 2.0D CVT.

Filed under: Featured, review, wagon, Subaru, diesel, awd, suv, subaru outback, automatic, launch, CVT, family, large, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, tim o'brien, 5seat, available, subaru outback diesel, 40-45k, 45-50k, 2013my, 2013 subaru outback, 2013 subaru outback diesel

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  • DC says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    The boffins at Subaru are starting to note what buyers really want in a SUV which is a good thing. They however have got a long way to go to bring back their loyal customers. After all, they created the SUV craze.
    • matt says,
      3 years ago
      1 like
      XJ jeep Cherokee was out first, subaru's loyal customers want a manic WRX or class leading liberty to come back.... lol myself, id want an AWD 2.0 diesel modern day brumby laugh
  • Grumps
    Grumps says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    Have had two Outbacks, 1996 model which was brilliant, 2001 model which I hated.

    I wouldn't buy another Subaru these days though because they have all been belted with the fugly stick sad
  • Stu says,
    3 years ago
    Will hopefully be picking up our new diesel auto outback in the next week or so, can't wait to offload the Territory it will replace. I drove the auto OB diesel about a month ago and while it lacked a bit of power it fits the bill for my family as a second car to my 200 series td Cruiser as it is functional, economic, has best awd system, well built and has a great safety rating. Can't wait to halve our fuel bill !!
  • Chest Rockjaw says,
    3 years ago
    I just checked with Subaru... The diesel has. DPF so if you do a lot of city driving, forget it. Also, if your DPF fails (they last around 200K) they are $7k! With these types of issues and ownership risks... No thank you Subaru.
    • Stu says,
      3 years ago
      1 like
      Yep, have heard about the DPF, should be ok for my use but I wouldn't get the diesel if I was a short trip city user, I hope the sales people tell potential customers about the type of driving you need to do to maintain a DPF.
    • riceboy says,
      3 years ago
      excuse to give your accelerator the big boot once in a while...,"officer, I was just cleaning my DPF"; seriously though... if everyone who bought a diesel thought this way, then our air quality would be up s*** creek...
    • Brian says,
      3 years ago
      1 like
      I've had a diesel outback for 3.5 years and do a lot of (mostly) very short trips around town. I reckon the warning light might come on briefly about once every 6-12 months - then goes off after a few Km down the freeway - so not a problem, IMO. Occasionally, if you floor it taking off, you'll leave an embarrassing black cloud behind - but the BMW X5s do the same thing.
  • Stu says,
    3 years ago
    Picked up our new Diesel Auto Premium Outback last Friday. On Sat we did a 320km round trip, mix of highway / country roads and it went beautifully, the auto was silky smooth which I was really happy with as I was not totally sold on the cvt. The auto kept the engine around 1800 to 2200rpm most the time which was perfect. Great on fuel - enough power - drove beautifully - very happy Subi owner.
    • ted riddle says,
      2 years ago
      can you please tell me how many litres to the 100 KLM you are getting from the Outback diesel
      • Stu says,
        2 years ago
        Hi Ted, we seem to average about 7 L/100km althoug we can get better if you try. We have done over 30,000km and it is going great.
  • Alfred Papallo says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    I like your review, and the vehicle is interesting to me as I have an Outback H6 at present and the fuel economy is twice as good with this model. I have a topic I would welcome some feedback on, and is to do with the pearl white paint available on the Subaru Outback diesel CVT, it costs two to three times the cost of any other colour to repair. Why cant they provide a semi off road vehicle with plain white?
    • bud says,
      2 years ago
      I would love to purchase a new outback w/diesel, however live in the US. Why can't Subaru bring their diesel here is beyond me.
  • Tetramethyl says,
    2 years ago
    I just purchased a 2014 Outback LTD. I bought it for a work vehicle hoping to drive the crap out of it for the next few years. PLEASE bring the diesel Outback to the USA...I will buy one tomorrow! I would give my gas Outback to my wife!!!!!
    • herbert goldsteinowitz says,
      2 years ago
      Can I buy a diesel Subaru outside the U.S. and have it shipped to my driveway?
  • Bill Owens says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Let's get dowmn to practical issues. Big problems with Outback are:-
    • 2.0 litre diesel lineartronic is plain underpowered. 0-100k in just under 10 seconds is ok for normal driving, but hopeless for overtaking on highway, especially on long clear rising slopes, typical of overtaking lanes.
    • Long front overhang means poor ramp angle. Front will hit sharp rise long before front wheels. Forester will go places Outback just can't, becsuse of this.
    • Seats fold almost flat but gap of 300mm behind front seats. Can get at stuff on floor behind front seats, but useless for carrying cartons, or for sleeping in back.
    • Trip computer display so dim, you csnnot read it in daylight. Worse if turn on lights.
    • Factory fit towbar pin is behind body panel. Access poor, and impossible to secure pin with padlock.

    That is just for starters.
    • craig says,
      2 years ago
      Very interesting. I was thinking of getting the upcoming 2015 Outback but am concerned about the pedestrian power output. Subaru's standard engines are always on the slow side and relatively high in fuel use and they take forever to tweak their engines for a slight power upgrade. They suck you into paying for a GT/XT etc just to get something that performs decently. I fell for it twice, a 2000 Forester GT and 04 Liberty GT.
      • Peter says,
        1 year ago
        Spend $1.5K and have it dyno tuned. You should pickup around thirty percent more torque.
    • George Glass says,
      2 years ago
      Sorry, Bill. Couldnt disagree more. Had mine 10 months. Love it.
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