If you’re not a fully paid up member of the SUV club but still need to combine refinement with rugged driving ability Subaru’s new Outback crossover might be the best 4x4 for you.
Look past the Outback’s modest visual updates and there’s clear evidence that Subaru has been busy making its crossover-style wagon more competitive. The Japanese firm has made a number of welcome tweaks to the driving experience, with changes to the car’s steering and suspension resulting in sharper and more engaging on-road behaviour.
Subaru has also been busy in the Outback’s cabin, as the overall ambience has been improved thanks to a significant uplift in quality. New trim materials, a new fascia and seats help boost the car’s premium class credentials. And alongside revised engines Subaru is rolling out a trick suite of active safety measures, including an auto brake function, intelligent cruise control and a lane departure warning system.
Admired among the Subaru faithful for its no-nonsense personality, practical cabin and easy-on-the-eye looks, the Outback offers an interesting blend of (almost) go-anywhere abilities plus durable mechanicals. This revised Outback is closer to its European rivals in the refinement and quality departments than ever before, although it remains a niche consideration for most buyers.
The Outback’s generously sized cabin ensures that all occupants benefit from a decent amount of head and legroom – especially in the back. Oddment space in the cabin is also good, while the car’s boot is large enough to cope with the demands of most owners. Thanks to the Outback’s elevated ride height, cabin entry and loading, the boot is made that bit easier, too. And it wouldn’t be right to omit reference to the car’s 4x4 system, which is likely to be just as useful in the dry as in the wet.
As part of the Outback’s update programme Subaru’s engineers have made some welcome improvements under the car’s skin. Tweaks to refine how the Outback behaves on the road have resulted in a more engaging and refined driving experience, while the diesel-CVT auto combination proves to be a smooth and predictable combination. Factor in all-wheel drive and the Outback is a robust, all-weather package that’s also brisk yet imparts a high level of confidence and security.
Aside from the basic act of driving, Subaru has pushed the boat out with an all-singing, all-dancing active safety package, which combines intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning and an auto brake function to better protect you from the outside world than many of the Outback’s pricier rivals.
No longer a cheap and cheerful alternative for rough and ready farmers, Subaru’s Outback delivers a high level of refinement, comfort and practicality on a par with its premium European competitors. Although well equipped in standard trim, you’ll need to pick an auto transmission car if you want to benefit from Subaru’s trick active safety package. Furthermore, diesel remains the smart choice if you want to reduce your tax and fuel outlay.
If the current crop of fashion-led SUVs bring you out in a rash, Subaru’s polished yet no-nonsense Outback offers a good blend of versatility, useful technology, all-weather practicality and understated style.
Model Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic
ENGINE 2.0-litre diesel unit producing 150bhp
TRANSMISSION CVT auto driving all four wheels
PERFORMANCE Top speed 124mph, 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds
FUELECONOMY 46.3mpg combined