Get in touch ...

Know of something happening in
us on

E-mail your contributions to:

We are on Facebook at

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Outback: still pulling its weight despite its age

Subaru Outback drive by Steve Rogers

Long before we became addicted to crossover SUVs there was very little around for people wanting something more than a bog standard family estate.

Hauling a horsebox, pulling a trailer, or just towing a caravan off a muddy field, the answer was a big old 4x4, capable but noisy, and uncomfortable on the open road. could buy a Subaru Outback, the car that looked like a normal family estate but with a secret stash of hardware. Twenty five years ago Outback was no ordinary estate. It had the company's renowned permanent all wheel drive system, raised suspension and bits of plastic body armour. It could paddle through streams and tackle the same off-road challenges normally the domain of Land Rover and the like.

I'll bet you didn't know that Subaru, a company fairly anonymous on our roads, is a world leader in all wheel drive sales. Good pub quiz question that.

Outback started a trend and big hitters followed with Audi's Allroad, Volvo's Cross Country, Volkswagen's Alltrack and Skoda's Scout.

They have all faded, replaced by SUVs, but the Outback is fighting on and made a comeback with a big upgrade last year. It got a new platform to improve ride and handling and a bunch of tech upgrades, yet it is difficult to place Outback in today's world of motoring.

Marketing speak would say Outback does not fit today's customer profile, and it doesn't.

In fact it is all wrong. It is not the SUV everyone wants, it has an ageing petrol engine with high exhaust emissions, lousy economy and is bereft of hybrid technology.

It was for those reasons that my expectations for Outback were in the medium to low region.

If you are expecting me to say how could I be so wrong, forget it. But I was pleasantly surprised, it exceded expectations and any notion that Outback is just hanging on like an ageing sportsman living only on past glories can be kicked right out of the park.

The facelift breathed new life into the old girl, a freshened up front grille and headlight signature giving it a bit more street cred while inside is even more impressive. There is nothing to make you shout wow, it is still a bit old style with good old fashioned needles in the speedo and rev counter dials, but trim and build quality are high grade giving the cabin a real classy feel.

What does provide a fashionable lift is the near 12in high portrait style touchscreen. Not my favourite piece of new world tech but this one is actually easy to use with helpful quick keys to get to the 11 menus. They open in a flash to reveal clear directions in big type. Nothing is difficult to find which is as well because getting into the menu to activate auto brake hold and turn off lane departure for every journey is annoying.

Outback does redeem itself with no fuss voice control, responding easily to commands to adjust heating, radio selections and navigation destinations.

As a forerunner to the sports utility Outback is a substantial family car with plenty of legroom front and back. The transmission hump is a bit of a nuisance but three adults across the back is a given. The boot is cavernous and stretches to around 1700 litres with the seats folded flat.

Compared to speedster hybrid rivals Outback is a bit of a plodder but with enough grunt for safe overtaking and smooth motorway cruising. The less said about economy the better, mid thirties on a good day, otherwise be happy to get past 30mpg.

The photograph shows Outback doing something it does best; this is a safe as houses towcar and hovered between 24-25mpg on a 400 mile round trip which is surprisingly efficient.

Subaru offers three trim levels and has thrown just about everything at the entry Limited, even powered front seats, and heated seats in the back as well as the front. Extras for my top of the range Touring include nappa leather seats, memory function for the driver seat, sunroof, deafening 11 speaker quality audio, hands free powered tailgate, and digital all round camera with jet wash.

All models get the Eyesight safety system which is world beating and with more improvements is about as good as it gets.

What does the future hold for Outback? There are no immediate plans to replace it so it has to keep plugging away and hope that substance over modern day styling wins the day.

Fast facts

Outback Touring AWD

£42,595 (starts £36,990)

2.5 litre petrol; 8sp automatic


0-62mph 10.2secs; 120mph

32.8mpg combined

193g/km. 1st tax £1,650

Boot: 561 litres

Insurance group 30

No comments:

Post a Comment