Australia has had a love affair with station wagons for decades; sadly, new Aussie made wagons will cease in 2017 when Holden closes local manufacturing. Happily, there’s still wagon options available and Subaru’s evergreen Outback is a classy choice for the discerning driver. A Wheel Thing’s garage had the company of this classic for a week.
3.6L. Horizontally opposed “boxer” engine. 191 kilowatts at 6000 revs and 350 torques at 4400. Economy levelled out at 8.5L per 100 in predominantly suburban driving (Subaru quotes 7.5L highway, 9.9L combined and an exceptionally unhealthy 14.2L per 100 km urban, from a 1700 kg wagon!) The fuel tank is 60L in size and can be filled with 91RON.
The transmission is a CVT, a constant variable tranmission, allowing the Outback 3.6L to run to 100 klicks in around eight seconds. You can choose to shift manually via paddles at the rear of the steering wheel, with six programmed shift points to choose from.
There’s just over 21 cm of ground clearance to play with; the wagon body has been given the polyurethane add-on treatment, with front, rear and sill panels copping a lashing of black, allowing some good softroading thanks to the height and extra panel safety.
The extra sheetmetal at the rear allows some usable cargo room, at 512 litres with the seats up and a gargantuan 1801 with the seats down. Staying with the rear, the tail light design echoes the sedan’s design plus continues the curve on the leading edge of the cluster. Both ends also get a aluminuim strip in the centre.
The front features the Outback’s traditional look, with globe lit driving lights pushed to each bottom corner and surrounded by acres of plastic. The redesigned front features a smaller (and far better looking) head light cluster, with a more integrated shape, trimming the overly edgy shape the previous model suffered.
Atop the Outback is a pair of rails, giving the wagon a total height of 1675 mm; with a total length of 4815 mm and width of 1840, sitting on a wheelbase of 2745mm, it’s a larger car than the metal makes it look.
On The Inside.
Subaru have taken a soft broom to the interior; soft touch plastics, supple leather and its usual ergonomic approach add up for a classy look. Starting at the rear, there’s that aforementioned cavern for a cargo space, accessed via a powered tailgate. Adding to the class is a memory function, to store the level of height the ‘gate opens to.
Although heated (not cooled) and comfortable they lack support, to the side and underneath. There’s a feeling of sitting on, not in, them, and the lack of bolstering leaves an average sized person feeling as if they may slide left or right. Both driver and passenger seats are electrically operated in eight directions. At the Premium and 3.6L level, the squabs are perforated for that luxury look.
There’s a flat fold and 60/40 split ability, with the folding operated by a simple pull lever mechanism. The centre section naturally offers a fold out arm rest and drink holder. All four doors also have a bottle holder, as does the centre console.
The driver and front passenger face a dash and upper console that is a subtle yet effective revamp of the previous (fifth) generation. Subaru have amortised costs by giving the same look across the range, immediately inviting a sense of familiarity. The driver’s display is clean, highlighted by that cobalt blue backlighting. An information screen shows on the fly fuel economy, any warning systems such as Lane Departure or Collision Avoidance (via the much vaunted Eyesight system), trip and distance.
The aircon system works and works well, with the Mode button cycling from defrost to footwell without the need, as in another brand, to press the same button to deselect the airflow direction. The quibble with the display is the oversized, in comparison, temperature display to the clock and outside temperature.
It’s a black look to the lower half of the cabin, yet it’s neither claustrophobic or excessively dominated by the colour, as the upper half is an off white shade, providing a pleasant contrast and airy feeling, plus a sunroof gives that little bit extra.
Subaru offer, depending on model, two different interior trims for the plastics, in this case the Premium is loaded up with piano black with silver highlights. For accessories to be powered up, there’s two 12V sockets to utilise, plus there’s Bluetooth streaming for music, voice command recognition, handsfree phone calling whilst the audio system in the 3.6L is American icon, Harman Kardon. It’s clear and punchy, with a well defined sound stage.
The steering wheel is chunky enough to give a decent surface area for the hands to wrap around on the leather, without stretching the fingers. There’s no sense of overloading the spokes with the various tabs and buttons for Cruise control, audio and information selection tabs on the lower left.
In the upper centre console is Subaru’s integrated touchscreen navitainment system; it’s a true delight to use in its simplicity and offers a wide range of information and features, accessible from the Home screen and sub-menus embedded within. Above that is the stereo camera installation for Eyesight: http://www.subaru.com.au/eyesight-technology.
On The Road.
Compared to the sedan tested previously, it’s much more composed, stable and feels much more planted on the road. There’s a sensation of less body roll, more grip, with just a hint of understeer, easily controlled by a gentle prod of the right foot. The brake pedal is a touch soft at the beginning of the travel, with no feel of bite. To me, it needs to start earlier, to alleviate any feeling some drivers may have of the brakes not gripping.
The splendid looking 18 inch alloys hold onto 225/60 Bridgestone Dueller tyres, a dual purpose semi offroad and tarmac oriented design. They’re quiet across the coarser chip roads and add to the confidence in handling the Outback offers up. Rid equality is possibly more oriented towards the sporty style, with a touch of initial compliance before firming up but not uncomfortably so.
Subaru quotes 7.8 seconds to reach 100 kilometres per hour with the 3.6L, it certainly feels capable enough indoing so, however, as good as the engineering is on their current crop of CVT’s, there’s still that seat of the pants feeling that a traditional auto could utilise the engine’s torque and power a touch more effectively. For the Outback, there’s also Hill Descent Control and a lockable centre diff.
Underway the car is mostly silent, bar the muted throb from the dual exhaust. Move too close to the centre or kerbside lines and you’ll trigger the Lane Departure warning system, with chimes aplenty. Thankfully, it’s a noise you can turn off. The Eyesight system offers adaptive cruise and a nifty feature alerting you if you’ve stayed still but the car ahead has moved on.
Although seeming pricey at just over $50K, Subaru immediately passed on the dollar savings that a newly signed Free Trade Agreement brought to it. The Outback 3.6L comes with a solid features list, a comfortable interior, sweet ergonomics, plenty of family room but suffers from an excessively thirsty engine, from Subaru’s figures. The upside is that it’s a better looker than its predecessor and the increased sales figures reflect this.
For further details and pricing for your area: click here: http://www.subaru.com.au/outback/features