Tough and hunky family estate that'll take you anywhere…
- Unstoppable in poor weather and conditions
- Tough and undoubtedly reliable, five-year warranty
- Practical, spacious and comfortable seats
- Interior design looks straight from the 1990s
- Infotainment system feels equally archaic
- Diesel engine might be punchy, but it's noisy
The Subaru Outback is now in its fifth generation and has really come of age – and for those looking for a capable semi off-road estate with bags of character, this is well worth considering. It represents a genuinely strong proposition in a growing sector of the UK car market.
It's not short of rivals, which include the Audi A4 Allroad and the excellent Volkswagen Passat Alltrack. But the Outback is less of an estate-on-stilts than these cars, with a near-purpose-built style that shouts SUV without the compromises that come with these cars.
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.
Subaru Outback: Interesting appeal
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 current 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.
It's not a big seller in the UK, but that's no reason not to consider one of these cars – you'll not only stand out from the crowd, but you'll also benefit from the company's legendary reliability, long warranty and general air of unstoppability.
Strong and stable drivetrain and engineering
Subaru has stuck to its guns with the engine and gearbox options with the Outback. As with all previous generation Outbacks (and the Legacys it's based on) the company has plumped for a Boxer four-cylinder engine, both in diesel and petrol forms.
It's also available with 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 Subaru's excellent symetrical 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.
Well-made interior, but a lack of beauty
As mentioned before, the Japanese manufacturer has given the Outback’s interior a major uplift in quality compared with previous-generation models. 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 over older Subarus. There's some 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. Since 2017, the Outback has been made available with the firm's Eyesight forward assist system, which works well when combined with the car's adaptive cruise control.
The seats are excellent as well, feeling well-bolstered and supportive yet comfortable enough for long-distance motorway slogs. In a typical long day's driving in the UK, an Outback driver will remain comfortable and ache-free at the end of the day – quite an achievement.
The Parkers Verdict
Overall, we’re very impressed with how the Outback has evolved, and how it simply feels fit for purpose. It shrugs off all that the worst conditions UK roads will throw at it, and comes back for me. It's rough, tough, and good to drive.
The Outback is also a worthy flagship for Subaru, and although it hasn't sold in huge numbers in the UK (Subaru reckons it's less than 1,000 a year) it’s an important car. But more than that, it's a grower – the more time you spend in it, the more you'll learn to respect its wide range of abilities.
To find out why we rate this car so highly in such illustrious company, read on for the full Subaru Outback review.
What owners say about this car
The best aspects of this car are: the symmetrical 4 wheel drive, the 2.5 boxer petrol engine, the gearbox, the... Read owner review
This is the 4th Subaru I have had. Not one has let me down. It takes my mountain bike, rubbish... Read owner review
As a high mileage driver (around 50k per year) I was looking for a strong vehicle to cope with the... Read owner review