Isaac Bober’s 2014 Subaru Outback review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

In a nutshell Subaru has added some plastic cladding and underbody protection to the Outback to make a practical car a little tougher looking and a little more practical for those living in the bush, or those that like bush bashing.

Practical Motoring Says We tested the Outback 2.5i Premium which is a very well equipped and good to drive vehicle. A huge cabin makes it a practical family vehicle and the standard all-wheel drive give it sure-footed handling in all conditions. Our only gripe is the fuel consumption, our suggestion would be to go for the diesel.

SUBARU VOCIFEROUSLY CLAIMS its Outback, released around the world in 1996, is the original cross-over, a claim that Toyota often disputes, stating the RAV4 was the first SUV. Subaru claims its Outback was exclusively all-wheel drive, while the RAV4 was available as a part-time all-wheel drive.

Whoever the originator is, there’s no doubting the success Subaru has had with the Outback, particularly in Australia where the thing is a favourite. While this current generation Outback had initially eschewed the model’s famous plastic cladding, Subaru has, based on customer feedback, put the cladding back on.

In a statement to the media, Subaru Australia Managing Director, Nick Senior, said: “We’ve had a lot of customer feedback suggesting owners would like a slightly tougher-looking Outback with greater body protection, which is especially useful on rural roads where this wagon rates highly.”

The MY14 styling upgrade to the Subaru Outback saw the all-wheel drive wagon receive: roof rails with integrated cross bars; side sill and cladding; wheel arch guards; front and rear underbody protectors; front mud flaps; dark grey alloy wheels; sporty headlights with black background. Subaru says this is $2500 worth of equipment, however the list price has increased by only $500 to (from) $38,990(+ORC).

New Subaru Outback

The model we’re testing is the Outback 2.5i Premium with CVT auto which lists from $43,490 (+ORC). Well equipped, your money gets you all-wheel drive, obviously, dusk-sensing headlights, electric sunroof, front fog lights, 17-inch alloys, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power seat for the driver, Bluetooth, sat-nav, rear vision camera, and EyeSight.

The interior carries over unchanged and while you could never accuse Subaru of being at the cutting edge of interior design, the Outback is a more premium-feeling place to be than ever before. But, more importantly for the intended market, the interior is well screwed together, crafted from solid hardwearing, but mostly soft-touch, plastics, with big, easy-to-use-on-the-fly buttons. Our only criticism is that Subaru is persisting with its fiddly-to-use and basic-looking sat-nav unit.

It’s a big spacious cabin and taller drivers and passengers will have no problem finding a comfortable position in the front. In the back, there’s loads of head, shoulder and leg room for three adults. We fitted two child seats across the back of the Outback and there was room to spare. The top tether points on the roof of the boot are annoying to use and we’d recommend Subaru switching to mounts on the back of the seat.

Subaru Outback interior

The boot, with the back seats in position, is decent at 490 litres and grows to 1690 litres with the back seats folded down. The towing capacity for the Outback 2.5i is 1500kg with a towball download of 150kg.

Under the bonnet is a 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder Boxer engine which makes 127kW (at 5600rpm) and 235Nm (at 4100rpm). This is mated to a CVT auto with manual mode, and fuel consumption is a combined 8.0L/100km while CO2 emissions are 185g/km.

Despite Subaru’s best efforts, the Outback engine and transmission combination don’t exactly deliver benchmark fuel economy, although in our week of testing we managed to average 7.0L/100km. That said, most of the journeys we made in the Outback were relatively long ones (averaging around 100km), and the vast majority of our travel was along the motorway. Drive the Outback 2.5i around town, with the kids on board, and you can expect the consumption to jump to around 10L/100km.

The diesel-engined Outback is better, averaging a combined 6.0-6.3L/100km depending on the transmission. So, if you’re travelling longer distances, or you live in the country, we’d suggest side-stepping the petrol-powered Outback in favour of a diesel model.

New Subaru Outback

Despite the fairly conservative power and torque figures and the relative weight of the vehicle (1533kg), the Outback 2.5i Premium never left us wanting more. And the CVT is easily one of the best on the market (regardless of what Jeremy Clarkson recently said in an article about the Outback), it’s smooth 90% of the time only resorting to a high-revving default when you’re giving it full power. And, the seven-speed manual mode (via paddles on the steering wheel) offers near seamless shifts.

The Outback offers a fairly stiff ride, chattering across broken surfaces and the low speed ride can be a little noisy too, but there’s minimal wind noise at highway speed which is impressive for such a big car. Thanks to all-wheel drive the grip is impressive in all conditions and, when you need them, the brakes are nice and progressive. The steering feels very good, with decent weight off-centre and good stability in the straight-ahead at highway speed.

The Subaru Outback 2.5i gets a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating and gets as standard, all-wheel drive, stability and traction controls, four-wheel disc brakes, electronic parking brake, hill hold switch and a reversing camera.

Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium

Price $43,490 (+ORC) Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder Boxer engine (petrol) Power/Torque 127kW/235Nm Transmission CVT (seven-speed manual mode) Body 4790mm (L); 1820mm (W); 1665mm (H) Weight 1533kg Thirst 8.0L/100km


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