What’s Hot: Great looks, better interior style, a spacious rear seat, practical and very nicely made.
What’s Not: Diesel models miss-out on ‘EyeSight’ safety.
X-FACTOR: The already popular Outback is now better all-round, especially at these sharper new prices.
Vehicle Style: Mid-size SUV/Wagon
Price: $35,990-$47,990 (see list at bottom of article)
Engines/Trans: 129kW/235Nm 2.5 4cyl petrol | 191kW/350Nm 3.6 6cyl petrol | 110kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl diesel
Fuel Economy Claimed: 2.5 CVT 7.3l/100kms | 2.0D manual 5.7l/100kms | 2.0D CVT 6.3l/100kms | 3.6 CVT 9.9l/100kms
A decade ago, European rivals for the Subaru Outback were scarce. But the scene in the mid-size SUV/wagon segment has now changed with Volkswagen, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all in there and capturing sales.
Subaru knew the fifth generation Outback model had to improve and the focus was on crucial areas like styling (including the interior), infotainment technology and fuel consumption.
The all-new Subaru Outback does all that and more - fuel consumption for the more powerful 2.5 litre, four-cylinder petrol model is 8.8 percent better, for the 2.0 litre turbo-diesel it has improved by 5.0 percent (six-speed manual) and for the 3.6 litre six-cylinder petrol model, it’s 3.9 percent better.
Smartly, Subaru has also turned its attention to fleet and government sales with the entry-level 2.5i available with factory-fitted items like a cargo barrier.
The exterior styling is certainly much-improved.
Also, current Subaru Outback owners will be pleasantly surprised when they see the upmarket new interior with improved ergonomics, a better infotainment system and plenty of soft-touch materials.
Likewise the exterior where the all-new Subaru Outback debuts a five-window side view and raked A-pillars which are 50mm further forward - hence improved all-round visibility for the driver.
And it’s a similar story of improvement on the road.
Subaru Australia is confident the all-new Outback will deliver sales of around 400 vehicles per month - double the current rate. It has the car to do it.
First impressions inside the all-new Subaru Outback are impressive - design, instruments and trim quality are noticeably improved.
Driving comfort is also good with height adjustment for the driver’s seat and rake/reach adjustment for the nice leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel.
That said, we found the seats across the range a little lacking in side-bolstering (but really only noticeable when pushing harder).
Premium models add leather and piano black trim highlights, and the impression inside is of a smart and robust interior.
Instrumentation sees dual gauges separated by a colour LCD display. The centrestack boasts a new infotainment system with a wide, flat display that is more intuitive to use (Subaru says the controls are similar to a smartphone/tablet) with a larger seven-inch screen.
Audio is a six-speaker system or 12-speaker Harman Kardon set-up.
There is also an impression of spaciousness - always a Subaru Outback strength - that is missing in some SUVs.
There’s an extra 10mm between the front seats, 42mm more shoulder room, 43mm more elbow room and 35mm more hip room.
Cargo space has also been boosted by 22 litres to 512 litres and the cargo area is higher (up from 387mm to 407mm).
ON THE ROAD
- 129kW/235Nm 2.5 petrol four
- 191kW/350Nm 3.6 petrol six
- 110kW/350Nm 2.0 turbo-diesel four
- Six-speed manual or CVT auto
- MacPherson strut front, double wishbone independent rear suspension
TMR sampled three Premium-grade Subaru Outbacks: the 2.5i, 2.0D and 3.6R.
We had them on the roads in East Gippsland in Victoria on a winding route from Sale to Metung, including a couple of varying-speed dirt road sections.
Immediately obvious is the improved refinement of the Subaru Outback (NVH down by 10 percent) and also an improved steering response (the ratio improved from 16:1 to 14:1).
However we definitely preferred the 3.6R in ‘S#’ mode for the SI-Drive.
New for the fifth generation Subaru Outback is ‘X-Mode’ for the CVT automatic which includes a hill descent function and active torque vectoring.
Off-road, the hill descent operation, while not in the league of Range Rover, performed as expected when we encountered a steep, rutted downhill section - very impressive.
All three engines are nicely responsive at all speeds and ride and handling is excellent.
For a genuine crossover wagon, which can take the family effortlessly quite a way off the tarmac, the Outback is quite refined over bumps and responsive and predictable when cornering.
And, with braked towing capacities unchanged at 1500kgs (2.5i), 1700kgs (2.0D) and 1800kgs (3.6R), you can put to a bit of work without too many concerns.
We’ll have to wait until early next year for a full test, but first impressions of the fifth generation Subaru Outback are certainly positive.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars
Safety Features: ‘EyeSight’ camera system standard in all petrol models (omitted from diesel models), curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, dual front airbags, dual side airbags, reversing camera, three-point A/ELR rear centre seatbelt, electronic stability control, and the added security of all-wheel-drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
A solid day driving both petrol and turbo-diesel Outbacks confirmed Subaru has made crucial improvements in key areas of its solid and respected SUV-cum-wagon.
Overarching everything else is value-for-money: at $47,990 the range-topping Outback 3.6R is very good buying as is the entry-grade turbo-diesel 2.0D manual at $35,490.
Similarly, improvements in fuel-efficiency address an area where the previous generation was open to criticism.
Certainly, the configuration of the Subaru Outback - a crossover SUV/wagon - hits the sweet spot for many Australian buyers, and the all-new model maintains the Outback’s strengths of interior space and practicality with the expected Subaru build-quality.
It’s true the lack of ‘EyeSight’ safety cameras in the diesel-powered models is a setback, but one that is being worked on and will come.
So the all-new Subaru Outback looks better, has more features, drives well and is great value-for-money - Subaru hasn’t missed a thing.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 2.5i CVT - $35,990 (down $3000 / 7.7 percent)
- 2.5i Premium CVT - $41,490 (down $2000 / 4.6 percent)
- 2.0D manual - $35,490 (down $5000 / 12.3 percent)
- 2.0D CVT - $37,490 (down $5500 / 12.8 percent
- 2.0D Premium manual - $41,490 (down $2000 / 4.6 percent)
- 2.0D Premium CVT - $43,490 (down $2500 / 5.4 percent)
- 3.6R - $47,990 (down $10,000, or 17.2 percent)
Subaru’s lifetime capped price servicing program is included, and the Outback comes with a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
MORE: Subaru Plans For Autonomous Driving With EyeSight Upgrade
MORE News & Reviews: Subaru | Outback | Wagons