- Easy to drive
- Highly capable
- Five-year warranty
- Rivals nicer inside
- Expensive to run
- Noisy Diesel
The Subaru Outback is now in its fifth generation and has really come of age. It represents a genuinely strong proposition in a growing sector of the UK car market.
Built for those who demand the versatility and reliability of an off-roader, along with the space and comfort of a large estate car, it’s styled to look rugged, and Subaru claims the general idea for the new model was “more Outback”.
And what a practical, capable car this is. It’s Subaru’s flagship vehicle, selling in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, and it’s one that perfectly reflects the brand’s core values. It’s hugely able on the road, nearly imperious off, has acres of space inside and cabin quality has moved up a notch too.
While it doesn’t earn full marks in our Parkers review, that’s no reflection on the car itself. It’s more an indication of the strength of its rivals, which include the venerable Volvo XC70, Audi A4 Allroad and the excellent Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.
Vauxhall’s Insignia Country Tourer probably deserves a mention here too, though none of the above can hold a candle to the Subaru when the going gets tough. The Skoda Octavia Scout - while cheaper, smaller and slightly less capable off-road - is probably closest to the Outback in essence, simply in terms of its rugged, utilitarian character.
Classic Subaru drivetrain
Subaru has stuck to its guns with the engine and gearbox options too, plumping for ‘Boxer’ four-cylinder engines – both petrol and diesel – and a choice of CVT automatic or manual for diesel models. The 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol is available with the automatic only.
Of course, all of the engines and gearboxes connect to an all-wheel drive system which puts most other firms’ attempts to shame.
We’ve driven both petrol and diesel auto models, and can report they’re both highly capable machines. In fact, we’ve driven on road, off road, on snow, on the motorway and in traffic. In all situations the Outback simply takes it in its stride.
You can find out more about the car’s engines and chassis performance in the Performance and Handling sections of this review.
Major improvement inside
As mentioned before, the Japanese manufacturer has given the Outback’s interior a major uplift in quality. It’s a common issue with cars from Japan – their dash materials often feel on the cheap side and while they last forever, at this sort of price point customers expect a touch more finesse. We’re pleased to report a major improvement here. It’s got a way to go to meet Audi standards of quality of materials and sheer style, for example, but the latest Subaru attempt is admirable, and furthermore it’s plainly obvious the cabin is going to stand up to incredible abuse. It's also packed with standard kit - including some very impressive safety systems - and even though hard-wearing, many of the plastics are pleasingly soft to touch.
The seats are great as well, feeling well-bolstered and supportive yet comfortable enough for long-distance motorway slogs.
Overall, we’re very impressed with how the Outback has evolved. It’s a worthy flagship for the brand, and though it’s not going to sell in huge numbers in the UK (Subaru predicted it would sell less than 1,000 in 2015) it’s an important car internationally for Subaru.