A Wheel Thing greatly appreciates the support that Subaru Australia has offered since mid 2012. As an independent reviewer, A Wheel Thing survives on that support, so when a company offers up two new examples of their much respected Outback, to do a back to back review, that support is deeply appreciated.
As the vehicles are almost identical, this review will focus on the main difference (the engine) and the minor accompanying differences. For the overview, please click: http://awheelthing.com/2016-subaru-outback-3-6l-car-review/
The diesel tested was the entry level, non Premium version.
It’s Subaru’s 2.0L diesel, connected to their Lineartronic CVT. Power is 110 kW at 3600 revs, torque is the same as the 3.6L petrol, at 350 Nm. Delivery of that torque, however, is between 1600 and 2800 rpm. There is a manual available; Subaru quotes 9.7 seconds to reach 100 km/h with that and just 0.2 seconds slower for the CVT.
Subaru quotes 5.7L per 100 kilometres covered on a combined cycle, from the 60 litre tank, with highway and urban as 5.0L/100 km and 6.9L/100 km. A Wheel Thing finished with 6.4L per 100 km, with an expected range of 340 km after covering 602 km. Theoretically, once could make it from Sydney to Melbourne, via the Hume, on a full tank with a little to spare.
The consumption is aided by the diesel’s seven ratio CVT (preprogrammed shift points), with a final drive ratio of 4.111 to 1. The CVT is, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, its sole flaw, in a driving sense.
On The Inside.
The interior in the diesel is virtually identical to the 3.6L tested. Of note is the lack of the award winning Eyesight radar system and the tabs for Subaru’s iDrive system are missing from the steering wheel. Yes, you do get a sunroof.
The exterior is almost identical, except for a minor trim change for the polycarbonate on the flanks, being all black and not highlighted with a chrome flashing. Otherwise, the diesel is indistinguishable for non “trainspotters”, the only other difference being 17 inch alloys and 65 profile tyres (from Yokohama, not Bridgestone), instead of 60’s on 18’s. Wheel design is identical.
The design strong point of the Liberty sedan and Outback wagon is the wide opening doors, to almost 90 degrees to the bodywork. This makes for exceptionally easy entry and exit, plus loading into the back seat as well.
On The Road.
Ride quality is seats of the pants different to the 3.6L with its 18 inch wheels and 60 profile rubber. There’s a hint more….liveability, in that the ride itself feels just that little more compliant without losing the tautness in the suspension.
Taken on a good Mother’s Day drive to a well known spot in the far north west of Sydney, Wiseman’s Ferry, with the composite of urban, rural driving on a varying mix of road surfaces, along with straights, corners, off camber curves and tightening radius turns, there was never any sensation of feeling undeterred or unsettled.
Again, however, the brake pedal felt “long” constantly, with, for A Wheel Thing’s peace of mind, too much free travel at the top before the brakes felt as if they “bit”. With some blind turns needing some good braking due to traffic ahead doing the same thing, the brakes were the part that lacked confidence.
The steering never felt as if it wasn’t communicating with the driver; the 3.6L talked a lot but the diesel Outback seemed, oddly enough, more an extension of the driver’s arms, with point and shoot directionally becoming virtually instinctive. Although a slightly bigger turning circle than the newly released 2016 Outlander, it never gave anything other than an impression of being tied down.
The CVT, when mated to the right engine, can be a great way of taking engine power and torque and transferring that to the road. The CVT with the diesel gave a very strong impression, under acceleration, both light and not so, of a slipping clutch for a manual gearbox. It rarely felt as if all of those torques were being sent to the ground yet seemed to rarely trouble ONCE the Outback was under way. It simply lacked that sensation of the lonnnnnnnnnng seamless wave of acceleration diesels and autos should have.
The revs for speed, when under way, were a good match for the torque delivery, with freeway speed seeing the tacho sitting just under where maximum torque was delivered, meaning overtaking and mid range acceleration were safe enough. Oddly, however, was the occasional transmission of torque steer, with those moments quickly passing as either the engine came off boost or the electronics intervened.
Off boost, the engine is, like most diesels, unwilling to do much in the name of performance and with the CVT there were times when a more rapid response was not just needed but badly needed. There’s still also a delay between Reverse to Drive, not a good thing when reversing onto a road and a speeding driver suddenly appears.
Subaru have done a sensational job with the Outback range, it would seem, especially with the sales numbers so far. The diesel is, certainly, a much more economic proposition to drive and, again, a seats of the pants feel says a touch better ride overall. There’s a great level of trim available, although the lack of the Eyesight system could be seen as a retrograde step. However, that then should involve the driver to drive, not be a passenger…
Subaru’s pricing calculator says the driveaway price will be around the $39K to $40K mark, depending on suburb. That puts the diesel Outback well into the reach of most people. A Wheel Thing would like to sample the manual (A Wheel Thing’s preferred gearbox!) to see if the drag of the CVT, the flat spot of the driving, disappears or if it’s a characteristic of the engine in regards to the feeling of running through mud at low revs but accelerating.
For specific information on the Outback range, go here: http://www.subaru.com.au/outback/specs