I do like the current design language that Subaru has employed on its latest models. However, some people might find the Outback a bit odd-looking. It doesn’t really have the height of a conventional SUV but looks more like a raised station wagon. This is what Subaru was aiming for, though. The designers toned down the SUV styling cues on the Outback, to distinguish it from the Forester, which is an SUV but I do like what they’ve done - especially from the front. The new grille and headlights, now with LED day-time running lights, really give the car a fresh and more European look.
The car looks good, different and unique. The added 18-inch wheels and black plastic cladding along the lower edges of the bodywork also help to give the car an added sense of presence and rugged appeal.
Inside, it’s Subaru business, as usual. Good quality plastics have been used and there’s plenty of head and shoulder room. The sunroof adds an extra bit of airiness to the big cabin. Subaru has done a lot to lift the appeal of the cabin and the materials used are of a higher quality than those used in older models. The addition of gloss black inserts also give the car a premium feel inside.
As for infotainment, Subaru makes use of a new 6.2-inch touch screen system. All the common features can be operated from here, such as: Bluetooth, FM/AM radio, phone connectivity, USB and iPod connectivity and a CD player, are all controlled here. The Outback that I drove was also fitted with a reverse camera; imagery is displayed on the centre screen as well.
If you need more space, then the Outback definitely has you covered. There are numerous storage compartments for bottles and snacks. The boot is huge and can easily swallow up 512 litres of luggage. Drop the rear seats and that number increases to 1 800 litres of flat floor space. The rear seats have a 60:40 split function and the car’s tailgate is electronically powered for convenience.
Moving on to the drive, the Outback has been made for the open road. It offers a comfortable and relaxing drive. The added benefit of the symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, afforded added ease on the road. The Outback is also quite good off the road. Look, it’s not a bundu-bashing 4x4 but it will deal with most gravel roads quite easily. Remember… Subaru did rallying.
As for the engine, I guess this is my biggest criticism regarding the Outback. I was given the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre boxer engine model, which was fitted with the brand’s Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Unfortunately, the engine’s 129kW/235Nm output just doesn’t seem to be enough for this rather large car. On a road with many hills - the N4, in fact - the car kept changing down a gear the moment the road had any form of elevation. It’s also not the most reassuring thing when trying to overtake a slower vehicle. The engine revs and makes a lot of noise but the actual “go” just isn’t there. Around town it worked well and once on a straight road, the engine and gearbox work in harmony - just don’t expect any rally performance from it.
My overall verdict on the R489 000 Subaru Outback is that I do like it; I like the practical advantages as well as the comfort levels. It’s a great car for families who are looking for something less imposing than an SUV, but still able to fit with their active lifestyles.
My only concern is the engine; it needs a turbo and I don’t know why it hasn’t got one because Subaru are masters at forced induction. Sure, there is a more powerful 3.6-litre model available but there’s also a 2.0-litre turbo diesel model, which will most likely be the one to go for, in my opinion.