At the risk of repeating myself, I like a Subaru. With the possible exception of the XV, there isn’t a car in the range I wouldn’t be pleased to own. It’s not easy to pinpoint why. They are not noted for their cutting edge design and the like, it’s just that they feel solid and dependable, as if they could motor on forever.
They come with either a manual gearbox or – pause to shudder – a CVT alternative. Continuously Variable Transmission is the work of the devil. Again, it is hard to put into words the sensation. It is as if the gearbox is always chasing the revs and sounds, and feels, a bit like a slipping clutch. Nevertheless manufacturers are offering this transmission more and more presumably for emission and economy reasons.
Fortunately Subaru have made strides in this area. The Lineartronic ‘box on the test Outback effectively creates seven ratio ‘steps’, especially noticeable when you press harder on the throttle, thus removing the hated CVT idiosyncrasy of sprinting for high revs and desperately clinging to them. It is much, much better – nearly, almost, like a regular auto – and I absolve Subaru of the sin of continually vacillating transmission. As a driver aid the CVT also comes with paddles behind the steering wheel. They don’t add much if I’m honest and after a couple of test runs I left them alone.
Our test car came with a naturally aspirated 2.5L petrol engine, which I liked very much but which only comes with CVT. Most buyers, I suspect, will go for the 2.0L turbo-diesel when the option of a six-speed manual gearbox is available in addition to Lineartronic. The manual is what you need for a tow-car.
Subaru’s collision avoidance technology, EyeSight, is available on the new Outback and is fitted as standard to Lineartronic (CVT) models. EyeSight employs an advanced stereo camera system (see image), which operates a range of driver assist features and contributes to making the this car one of the safest cars in its class, according to the company. I’m inclined to agree.
The system’s two cameras, located either side of the rear view mirror, effectively act as a ‘second pair of eyes’ for the driver, monitoring the road and traffic ahead to detect the presence of vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other potential hazards.
EyeSight includes autonomous Pre-collision Braking Control and Pre-collision Throttle Management, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure & Sway Warning. Should the system detect a hazard, EyeSight is able to take control of the throttle and braking to help the car avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision. EyeSight also works with the illuminated rings on the instrument dials to warn the driver of potential dangers, changing the look of the instruments’ rings to act as a powerful visual warning in addition to audible bleeping.
This feature comes with two modes: Intelligent Mode for immediate driving response and more environmentally friendly performance. Sport mode delivers smooth engine performance at any driving speed. The effect is an immediate linear response that brings to life the refined, torque-rich response. In other words, it adds more beans.
As well as the new EyeSight system, the Subaru Outback offers a range of active safety technologies to provide world-beating hazard avoidance and maintain Subaru’s reputation for class-leading stability. The Vehicle Dynamics Control system – now including a new Active Torque Vectoring system – Subaru’s equivalent to electronic stability control, complements the superior driving stability offered by the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive drivetrain – both VDC and All-Wheel Drive are standard on all Outback models.
On The Road – And Off
ATV endows the Outback with even greater stability by braking the inside wheels under heavy cornering, allowing the big estate to maintain a neutral line through corners aided by the Boxer engine which is located low in the engine bay, giving a lower centre of gravity thus minimising body roll and improving road holding. It all works well on the Outback. It’s easy to park too thanks to a reversing camera, the image of which is shown in the 7” touchscreen, making for easy manoeuvring.
Power from the 2.5L petrol engine has been increased to 173bhp, with torque at 174lb/ft. Subaru reckon that 40.7mpg is on the cards but I only saw 32mpg. To be fair, this was mostly for shorter trips. CO2 emissions are 161 g/km and the Outback 2.5i will go from 0-62 mph in 10.2 seconds and achieve a top speed of 130 mph. Automatic start-stop is fitted as standard.
This feature helps reduce potential wheel slip on slippery surfaces, climbing steep inclines, and navigating rough roads. While X-Mode can be activated at speeds below 25mph, it becomes operational at 18mph and below. When speed exceeds this X-Mode stops functioning. Hill Descent Control is operational up to 12 mph. Hill Descent Control helps maintain vehicle starting speed for safer manoeuvring when travelling down a steep incline. By keeping the vehicle from increasing speed when heading downhill, Hill Descent Control helps maintain better control.
So, the Subaru Outback Estate 2.5i SE Premium Lineartronic is a no-nonsense, roomy and off-road-capable estate. The interior is much improved over the previous version and includes the Subaru StarLink infotainment system which is clear and easy to use.
The car feels rugged, and with 200mm of ground clearance, has real off-road ability. Power is acceptable for overtaking although it won’t set the seat of your pants alight. It is however very comfortable with minimal wind noise. Subaru seem to be a bit of an outsider and always found in the kitchen at parties whilst frankly lesser cars gain the plaudits. If you are in the market for a great all-rounder you could do a lot worse. A personal favourite. Geoff Maxted