What is it?

SUBARU’S Outback has been ahead of the game ever since it first arrived way back in 1989. For 2018/19, it has had engine, suspension and transmission upgrades, more safety features added, a bit of cosmetic work fore and aft and a new infotainment system — all for an increase of only a handful of shekels.

Based on the Liberty sedan, Outbacks come in standard and premium grades and with 2.5 or 3.6-litre engines and one 2.0-litre diesel, all with a smooth continuously variable transmission (CVT).

It’s still fairly low-key in looks, with none of that in-your-face stuff of some other designs, but it goes about its work efficiently and demurely, like a motorised Clark Kent.

What’s it cost?

Prices start at $36,240 and top out at $45,640. Our testmobile was the 2.5 Premium, nicely positioned midway at $42,640, and probably the pick of the fleet.

It’s a fully featured vehicle, with all manner of good bits, among them powered and heated front seats, a sunroof, powered and heated side mirrors, keyless entry with push-button start, leather trim, piano black interior finish and Subaru’s impressive EyeSight driver assist system — the latter now standard on all models.

There’s also adaptive cruise control and auto emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assist, a reversing camera, cross traffic alert, traction control, an 8.0-inch media screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satnav, auto-on lights and wipers, a quartet of USB points and dual-zone climate control aircon.

The new front end has LED headlights with auto high-beam and those wonderful ‘bending’ or steering-responsive lights, plus a powered tailgate.

Also appreciated were the front and side view monitors, great for parking and seeing what’s on the left side of the car.  

The Outback is a spacious beastie, as big inside as most SUVs without the clumsy styling and, due to its lower stance and constant all-wheel drive, has much better roadholding and driveability.

The tailgate pops open at the touch of the key fob to reveal 512 litres of cargo room, with can be expanded to an elephantine 1801 litres by folding the back seats flat via the handy levers in the boot.

In the event you need even more space, the vehicle comes with roof rails.

There’s also a full-sized, 18-inch alloy spare wheel and tinted rear glass is standard.

What’s it go like?

The Outback can take five Big Mac occupants with ample head, leg and shoulder room front and back in comfortable and body-supportive seats.

The driver gets comprehensive information from the analogue and digital display and needs to spend some time learning all of the myriad functions available on the dash and steering wheel.

Diehard drivers who think they know better than the CVT can select six cogs via paddle shift.

It’s unlikely the paddles will be used, since the Outback is not that kind of vehicle.

With all that stuff inside and out, one would hope the mechanicals match the safety and comfort items – and yes, they sure do.

The 2.5i four-potter produces 129kW and 235Nm and runs pretty well for a non-turbo with a mass of 1639kg — 60kg heavier than the sedan version — though it’s not going to break any performance records. It has a modest sprint time of 10.2 seconds to 100km/h.

But it will trot along stress free at the national limit with enough zip in reserve to quickly get past slower traffic, and it’s not too thirsty either, with an average of 7.3L/100km.

It’s a pleasant thing to be in on all kinds of roads, equally adept at soaking up those awful shopping centre speed humps and providing a secure, level passage through fast bends on the open road.

Another plus is its quiet ride and exceptional visibility for all occupants and its tall (213mm) ground clearance makes it easy for older folk to slide in and out of.

It naturally comes with the full electronic safety kit du jour and you can get yours in any of 10 different colours without having to pay anything extra.

What we like?

  • Space
  • Comfort
  • Economy
  • Build quality
  • Standard equipment

 

What we don’t like?

  • Basic 3 year/unlimited distance warranty

outback

The bottom line?

Versatile, spacious, and with sure-footed all wheel drive on road or off, it’s a hard one to ignore in its class.

 

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Subaru Outback Premium, priced from $42,640
  • 7.5/10
    Looks - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Safety - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8.0/10
  • 9/10
    Practicality - 9.0/10
  • 8.5/10
    Comfort - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value - 8.5/10
8.3/10

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.