Rugged but sophisticated Outback rules

Subaru Outback

By Bill McCarthy

LONG seen as virtually indestructible, the Outback is not a car that you see a lot of in the UK, so it provided a lot of interest while parked up. Firstly the relative novelty value, secondly the number plate Su13aru and third, it looks pretty good.

It has been around for a long time, 25 years in fact, and has become a staple for those who love full fat off-roaders or those in semi-rural locations, who may need that kind of capability in remote country lanes when the weather closes in.

Subaru says the latest version is simply, the toughest, most rugged, most capable SUV ever produced. It certainly looks the part.

So, rugged and to be honest a little bit agricultural in the past, the latest model is something else altogether. It is the most refined model yet with sharp exterior design and an upmarket interior, dominated by a tablet-style touchscreen, very much in the Volvo mould.

There are three versions, Limited, Field and the range-topping Touring. All are packed with equipment with this mid-range Field model offering goodies such as the latest version of the Subaru Eyesight safety technology, which features facial recognition that detects tiredness in the driver. It can also remember the driving preferences of five users.

Sitting on the Japanese car maker’s new global platform it looks like an estate car on steroids, with it’s high ground clearance and 18-inch alloy wheels, it has a rugged yet sophisticated appearance.

It has coupe-like styling featuring smart lights clusters with LED daytime lights and privacy glass, offset by large wheel arch protectors and protection to sills and bumper and featuring integrated roof bars. It looks more European than ever, which is clearly what Subaru is hoping for.

It is a big car, easily seating five occupants in comfort, and with good head and legroom and good all round visibility.

It is powered by a 2.5 litre Boxer engine mated with the now familiar Lineartronic transmission. Economy is not what this is about, although at around 33mpg for a 2.5 litre engine pulling such a hunk of metal is not too shoddy. That power also gives it a two-tonne towing capacity.

Acceleration is brisk for this kind of vehicle and it hits 60mph in just over 10 seconds, and although I am not a huge fan this type of transmission, the shifter paddles behind the steering wheel give the chance for a more sporty drive.

Though much more sophisticated, it has a dual role as a workhorse with features such as fatigue-reducing water repellent leather-style seats on this model and hard-wearing and washable boot space. But there are plenty of creature comforts including eight-way powered and heated front seats with lumbar support, climate control, heated and powered door mirrors, and aluminium pedals.

In practical terms,  stowage space is huge with 60/40 split rear seat operated by a release lever and accessed via a powered, hands-free tailgate.

As before, the car features Permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and X-MODE. Using the touchscreen, the driver can switch modes to negotiate snow, dirt, or gravel, or a mud mode for soft conditions where lesser vehicles get stuck. When X-MODE is activated, hill descent control automatically maintains a constant speed when travelling downhill.

Inside the car, the cabin offers a  commanding driving position that ensures optimum visibility. It has a high-end feeling and is much improved on what went before. The touchscreen is very much the brains of the car and controls major functions like navigation, connectivity for smartphones and infotainment.

Today’s vehicles are so safe, but the Outback is one of the safest with the EyeSight Version 4.0 which includes adaptive cruise control, lane assist and centring assistance, plus lane sway and departure warning.

Factfile

Subaru Outback Field AWD

Price: £37,995

Mechanical: 169PS, 2498cc, 4-cylinder, petrol engine driving all wheels via Lineartronic CVT transmission

Max Speed: 120mph

0-62mph: 10.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 32.8

Insurance Group: 17

C02 emissions: 193g/km

Bik rating: 37%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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