Subaru has a long history of making capable AWD SUVs, starting in the 1970s through to the top of their range the Outback 3.6R that we are testing here today.
In Australia, the SUV segment accounts for close on 50% plus of all passenger vehicle sales and Subaru has maintained its presence in that market. We are testing the latest version of the Subaru Outback 3.6R which was updated early in 2018.
Outback goes against the current trend of high body SUV styling with the more traditional wagon style. This lends itself to a sophisticated style that has a presence about it.
Both the bonnet and chrome surround grill exude purpose without being overbearing. New design LED high and low beam headlights are integrated with Steering Responsive Headlight (SRH) and the Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) functions. The bi-functional LED lights allow switching between high and low beam with a single bulb.
The LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) are integrated into the headlights and from the side, there is a high and again subtle hip line and 18 inch alloy wheels. The colour coded mirrors and door handles blend into the body work.
Adjustable roof rails are a clever idea as is the rear door-space step that makes roof loading and unloading of the integrated crossbars easier. These negate the need for after-market rails and work extremely well.
From the rear, the wagon doesn’t have the slab back appearance that can prevail in other wagons. The wheel arches add a bolder, more muscular appearance.
Subtle is a theme that runs through the interior design as well with an elegant ambiance, soft touch surfaces and user friendly ergonomics that convey a luxurious impression for the occupants.
Drivers are spoiled with an electronically adjustable heated leather seat that is not only very comfortable but also enjoys plenty of seat travel. Along with the height and reach adjustable leather steering wheel, it is simple to arrange a desired driving position.
For my ageing back there is also an electronic lumbar support. Even with the sunroof there is adequate head room for taller drivers. The driver’s foot rest for the left foot is comfortably positioned. Wider opening doors and higher seats allow easier access.
Driver ergonomics include the familiar two dial style instrument binnacle with a practical and informative dual multi-function display in-between. The centre stack contains a feature-packed 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system with a wide array of functions plus speech recognition, in addition to the reversing camera display. Housed in the Multi-Function Display screen above the infotainment is a side and front view camera which is very handy for parking.
Comfortable rear seats feature a cool recline function. There is adequate head, shoulder, knee and leg room for normal sized passengers. There are two a/c vents in the rear but no USB ports.
Storage front and back is plentiful with door bottle holders, cup holders, centre console and a handy spot below the centre stack that holds wallet, phones keys etc.
The automatic boot lid is a nice touch and the boot space with automatic 60/40 split fold down seats provides a relatively large and versatile cargo space.
Other features include Apple CarPlay™ and Google Android Auto™ , Bluetooth/voice command, compatible six-speaker audio touchscreen system, climate control air conditioning – dual zone with rear vents – electric parking brake, dual map lights, rain sensing auto windscreen wipers, light sensing headlights with auto on/off, DataDot security technology and a cool front wiper de-icer. Sound is catered for by 11 harman kardon® speakers, subwoofer and amplifier.
Drive and Engine
Outback is powered by a 3.6 litre horizontally opposed 6 cylinder Boxer engine that produces 191 kW/350 Nm. Transmission is a 6 speed Lineartronic™ CVT that is matched well to the engine characteristics to extract the best efficiency and provides enough real world power. There is also a two mode SI-Drive system. Fuel economy is just ok and on test we achieved around 12L/100Km with a mix of urban, freeway and off road driving.
On-road, the Outback is a relaxed, capable family wagon which transports its passengers in safety and comfort with stability and on-road handling that is amongst the best for this class of vehicle.
Off-road, the Outback is ideally suited to the adventurous family. Driving on forest trails, beach driving, trips to the snow, around the farm etc. are all easily accomplished. If the mood takes the driver, more adventurous off-road driving can be undertaken with extreme care.
Subaru’s active torque split Symmetrical All Wheel drive system has been perfected over a number of years now and works a treat. It provides active safety and a degree of off road capability that is impressive
There is the usual airbags complement including: curtain airbags – full length, driver’s knee airbag, dual front airbags, and dual front side airbags.
Every new CVT Outback is also equipped with the award-winning third generation EyeSight® driver assist system, which can help reduce fatigue, avoid accidents or reduce impact. Key functions of EyeSight® driver assist system include Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking, Pre-Collision Braking Assist, Pre-Collision Steering Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Front Vehicle Start Alert.
Vision Assist features are also added to Outback, comprising: Blind Spot, Monitoring, Lane Change Assist, Auto dimming rear view mirror, High Beam Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Other handy features are Emergency Stop Signal (ESS), and the unintended start prevention.
Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) constantly monitors vehicle movement. It flexibly controls the Antilock Brake System (ABS), Traction Control System (TCS) and VDC. VDC is also tuned for towing with the Subaru tow bar.
- Build Quality / design
- Value for money
- AWD Capability
Not so Good Bits:
- Front seat squab a little short
- A little heavy on fuel
- No head up display
Subarus have always been for the sophisticated buyers that appreciate build quality and innovation along with an adventurous spirit. There are a lot of Outbacks every year at the ski fields as well as forest camping grounds and around the beach. All these areas are where the Outback excels.
Good design dictates subtle luxuries and safety features are not intrusive but become apparent as time progresses. This allows the vehicle to grow on you the more you drive it, with ride, handling and quietness that is amongst the best in class.
The Subaru Outback should definitely be near the top of your list for a AWD SUV wagon that has the level of luxury and sophistication of many European vehicles that cost many thousands more.
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Facts and Figures: 2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R
- Engine: 3.6L H6 petrol producing 191kW/350Nm
- Transmission: CVT 6 Speed
- Warranty: 5 years/ unlimited km
- Safety: Five Star ANCAP
- Origin: Japan
- Price: from $49,140 MLP*
*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.