Subaru says this is the first time a diesel has been mated to a CVT gearbox. We say it creates the best new Outback you can buy.
Tested by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith | Gloucestershire | October 2013
Power comes from Subaru’s 2.0-litre ‘Boxer’ diesel engine, which develops 150hp and 258lb ft of torque. The 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds only serves to highlight that performance is more leisurely than sporty. That said, the CVT gearbox is excellent, working in complete harmony with the engine.
The ride is firm, yet never uncomfortable and there’s only a small amount of body roll through the corners. The steering is sharp and direct, whilst only some diesel clatter and excessive road noise manage to put a dent in the Outback’s impressive dynamics.
Subaru has sharpened up the Outback’s act by delivering a number of small yet significant exterior upgrades. The fog lights are larger, which should help on those early morning dashes across a ploughed field. The black cladding is now body-coloured and the headlights are now finished in gloss black.
The 17-inch alloy wheels now have a gunmetal finish as standard. The result is that the Outback retains its rather conservative styling, but it still has a genuine look of intent.
The 200mm of ground clearance is just enough for the country lanes and fields in which the Outback will tend to be used. The boot will swallow 526 litres of country luggage, extending to 1,677 litres with the rear seats folded down.
At the front, there’s a useful amount of storage space, although the door bins are a little on the shallow side. That said, the glovebox and centre console offer enough capacity for 53 compact discs. CDs – remember them?
This is the area where the Outback still lags behind its competition. The plastics and finish remain a notch or two down on what we’d expect from European models. Or to put it another way, about ten years behind the accepted level of quality from a £31,495 car.
That said, there’s a genuine feeling of robustness about the way the interior has been put together and a proper sense of honesty about it. The revised dashboard and dials are now much clearer too.
Subaru proudly boasts about the new 3.5-inch LCD display, which looks woefully inadequate compared to modem standards. It’s simple enough to use, but it feels like it’s been lifted from the 1980s.
Satellite navigation is an option, where it should come as standard, but the head unit does offer USB and AUX input sockets, helping to ease the Outback into the new millennium. Aside from that, the Outback has a good level of standard specification, including cruise control, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, heated sports seats and HID self-levelling headlights.
The Subaru Outback has been awarded the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Front, side and curtain airbags come as standard.
Subaru’s Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) stability control system has been upgraded and of course, you get to take advantage of Subaru’s almost-legendary Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.
Fuel economy of 44.8mpg in an Outback would have been unheard of in the past, but as the Passat Alltrack will return nearer 50mpg and the Volvo XC60 around 60mpg, it still lags behind its competition. CO2 emissions are 166g/km.
The value for money
The Subaru Outback 2.0D SX Lineartronic costs £31,495, which considering the level of standard specification is terrific value for money. Spec adjusted, the XC70 and Alltrack will cost a few thousand more.
The dealer support
Subaru currently has 50 dealers in the UK, but there are plans to add a further 20 in 2014. With a new Forrester, upgraded Outback and the sublime BRZ sports car, Mr Subaru Dealer should have plenty of reasons to be cheerful right now.
The subjective review
The Subaru Outback will always be an enthusiasts or niche choice in the UK, but that’s very much part of its charm. It’s the thinking man’s Allroad, where practicality and charm are placed above image and style. And the CVT gearbox is surprisingly very good, too.
MR Index: 73%