Car Reviews

2021 Subaru Outback Review

Review of the 2021 Subaru Outback in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.

What is the 2021 Subaru Outback?

The Subaru Outback is a five-seat wagon that manages to stand out by virtue of its longevity, some decent offroad capability, full-time all-wheel-drive powertrain, and fantastic safety credentials. A nameplate that is iconic in Subaru’s stable of AWD wagons – not least because it’s synonymous with Australia’s landscape – it has a loyal following of owners, even if it’s not a ‘regular’ type of SUV. It’s an all-roader to many, blending off-road ability with urban wagon panache, in a way not even the likes of VW Golf Alltrack approach thanks to a more rugged utilitarian feel. 

MY21 Subaru Outback AWD range, Sport, Touring and Outback AWD.

What does the Subaru Outback cost and what do you get?

The new Outback is built on the latest Subaru Global Platform (SGP) that is safer than before, with a number of unique improvements. Unlike the previous generation Outback, no diesel drivetrain will be available, with only a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder boxer engine fitted to every model. The new motor is improved, producing 138kW and 245Nm, mated exclusively to a CVT auto transmission. Unlike before, the transmission has a higher 8.1 ratio for improved acceleration and eight stepped gears, accessed via paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

As always, every model has all-wheel drive and is also equipped with dual-function X-Mode for off-road duties. Braked towing capacity is also the highest it has ever been for an Outback at 2000kg.

Inside is a revised cabin with more sophisticated materials and trims, including a large 11.6-inch digital display screen mounted vertically between the front two seats, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and other applications. New for this generation, the Outback also incorporates an airbag underneath the front passenger’s seat which moves the occupant upwards in the event of a collision, helping to prevent the torso from slipping under the seat belt.

On the safety front, this new Outback is also the first Subaru to be designed to withstand collision impacts under new Mobile Progressive Deformable Barrier (MPDB) testing. It is fitted with active safety via Subaru’s Eyesight and has a list of comprehensive aids, such as Lane Centring Function, Autonomous Emergency Steering, Emergency Lane Keep Assist, Speed Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel vibration, Lane Departure Prevention, Pre-Collision Braking System with expanded support for collision avoidance at intersections, Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), Lane Change Assist (LCA), and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB).

Outback AWD

The base model Outback is priced at $39,990 plus on-roads.

Outback AWD Sport

The mid-spec Sport is priced at $44,490 plus on-roads. In addition to the base model is receives:

  • Water repellent sports seat trim
  • Heated front seats
  • Heated rear outboard seats
  • Front View Monitor (FVM)
  • Side View Monitor (SVM)
  • Black exterior highlights (exclusive to the Sport AWD variant)
  • Handsfree powered tailgate with memory height function
  • Roof rails with green highlights
  • Satellite navigation
  • Dark metallic finish for alloy wheels

Outback AWD Touring

The flagship Touring is priced at $47,790 plus on-roads. In addition to the Sport model is receives:

  • 9-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with subwoofer and amplifier; CD player located in centre console box
  • Nappa leather-accented seat trim
  • Electric sunroof
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Silver roof rails, with integrated stowable cross bars
  • Gloss finish for alloy wheels

What’s the Subaru Outback interior like?

It is a very practical interior with thoughtful additions such as cargo containers, hooks and luggage holding – so it’s great for getting away and stowing a lot of gear. Tech is catered for with 12v and USB charging ports, including two for the second row and one 12v in the boot which has four tie-down points. The second row folds flat with a 40:60 split for carting both extra people and equipment from the 522L boot.

 
Upfront is a departure from the square, landscape infotainment with a larger 10.1-inch portrait screen though the dash itself is familiar. It’s actually quite nice to use and similar in some part to the Volvo setup, which is clear and easy to read. It allows for stacking multiple pieces of information and the screen itself is quite responsive. The sound system in the top-spec Touring – a 9-speaker Harmon Kardon – provides extra bass and clarity, but all have a good sound and quick connection to the phone via USB cable for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
 
The front seats offer a nice blend of comfort and support and the electric adjustment is quite good. Heated seats fire up quickly too, and there is also heating for the rear outer pews (Sport and Touring). Fitting a car seat in the rear is easy with isoFIX and importantly there is a great amount of legroom between the rear seat base and seats in front. 

Is the Subaru Outback good to drive?

The new Outback is built on the latest Subaru Global Platform (SGP) that is safer than before, with a number of unique improvements. Unlike the previous generation Outback, no diesel or six-cylinder drivetrain will be available, with only a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder boxer engine fitted to every model. The new motor is improved, producing 138kW and 245Nm, mated exclusively to a CVT auto transmission. Unlike before, the transmission has a higher 8.1 ratio for improved acceleration and eight stepped gears, accessed via paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
 
The engine is fine for cruising and around town duties. It doesn’t offer oomph but it does offer good driveability, and enough to overtake a truck on the highway safely. It wouldn’t be our first choice if you wanted to tow (up to a maximum 2000kg braked), but without the six and diesel on offer, it’s all we have. That said, Subaru claims 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle and it achieves around 8.0L in real life, which isn’t bad. 
 
Where the Outback shines though is in ride and handling, which is lovely and composed yet reactive and lively when you want it. It is a similar feeling and composure that the Forester provides but with a less top-heavy roll; it’s really quite well executed. Add in quiet NVH and it’s a very nice car to lap up the kays in.
 
When you push on around a twisting mountain ride the quality of the platform underneath and suspension setup shines – no, it’s hardly a sports car, but it feels solid and secure, and the all-wheel-drive system keeps the body very tidy over mid-corner bumps.
 
Further out of town, the Outback continues with its rugged attitude, touting X-Mode that has settings for mud, snow, sand and the like. It helps to pick the right traction control settings to boost grip on those conditions and does help in our testing. But you’ll be restricted by the ride height if anything and a serious adventure-setter would want a lift with better all-terrain tyres for getting into slightly more remote areas, which we would think it is capable of.

How safe is the Subaru Outback?

The safety standard in modern Subarus it top notch. This Outback is yet to be tested by ANCAP, though. However, Subarus other new models on the same platform and with similar active safety tech all have five-star ANCAP ratings.
 
Subaru has packed in a lot of safety features such as driver monitoring, lead vehicle start alert, brake light recognition, distraction warning, high beam assist, front/rear sensors and cameras, and a side camera on the left. There’s also a very good blind spot monitoring system, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, along with adaptive cruise control and AEB with pedestrian protection.
 
There are three child restraint points on the back of the seat, and two sets of ISOFIX anchor points for the outer seats. There’s also adaptive cruise and lane safety systems, that work very well.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the value?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?

2021 Subaru Forester Outback pricing and spec

Engine 2.5L petrol engine Power 138kW Torque 245Nm Fuel 91RON Combined fuel consumption 7.3L/100km Dimensions length 4870mm, width 1875mm, height 1675mm, wheelbase 2745mm Ground clearance 213mm Spare Full-size Drive constant all-wheel-drive with X-MODE Transmission CVT gearbox Towing 2000kg braked towing 750kg unbraked Tare mass 1661kg ANCAP Not test Price From $39,990 plus on-road costs.

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wayne phillips
wayne phillips
4 months ago

2021 Subaru Outback has a full size spare .

Dennis
Dennis
4 months ago
Reply to  wayne phillips

That unreliable?

lol

remus
remus
3 months ago

Underpowered, needs to 190kw as the previous model.

Robert Hamilton Gavin
Robert Hamilton Gavin
3 months ago
Reply to  remus

What for?

Ben Tate
Ben Tate
3 months ago
Reply to  remus

Remus. Agreed. It’s a shame they don’t offer a turbo model. Extra grunt helps with towing, overtaking, and more relaxed driving. I’ve been driving a 2.2L turbo diesel Santa Fe and the 400nm makes for very relaxed cruising (less need to rock backwards and forwards in the driver’s seat when overtaking trucks ; – ).

Bill
Bill
3 months ago
Reply to  Ben Tate

It’s ridiculous the comments about speed and overtaking trucks. The Outback is a great car for the money and the flexibility of driving mostly wherever you want. The equipment inside is first class. Safety is first-class. If you want wily fun get a go-cart and drive in circles

Alex Rae

Alex Rae