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Subaru Outback engines, drive and performance

2021 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 2 out of 52.0

Written by Chris Williams Published: 31 August 2022 Updated: 5 September 2022

Petrol engine

  • Sole engine not very punchy
  • CVT gearbox doesn’t help matters
  • Off-road ability better than immediate rivals

As we mentioned on the last page, there’s only one non-turbocharged petrol engine on offer here. Unfortunately, along with its inclination to chew through a fair amount of fuel, it’s not very powerful either.

What you get is 167hp and, more worryingly, only 252Nm of torque, which isn’t available until 3,800rpm. To say the Outback struggles would be untrue, but its performance is certainly lethargic. It will quite happily cruise at motorway speeds and climb steep hills, for example, but strong acceleration and low-down power are not this car’s forte. A Volvo V90 Cross Country feels far punchier.

Compounding the problem is the gearbox. It’s a CVT, which in principle is supposed to make the most of an engine’s power and efficiency. In practice it’s slow to ‘kick down’ and then holds onto revs unnaturally when you put your foot down, just like most CVTs.

2022 Subaru Outback
2022 Subaru Outback

What’s it like to drive?

  • Well-weighted steering
  • Surprisingly little body roll
  • Fantastic traction and stability from the four-wheel drive system

Despite being a larger car, the Outback doesn’t weigh too much relative to today’s standards because of the absence of any hybrid system or batteries. Depending on trim level, the Outback weighs in at between 1,641 and 1,674kg. This is part of the reason the Outback doesn’t have much body roll and handles the bends so well for a car of this size and height. However, road-biased alternatives such as the BMW 3 Series Touring or Seat Leon Estate handle even better.

It’s a very smooth and relaxed car to drive with a fantastic ride quality. Like the engine options, with wheels there is one size on offer: 18 inches fitted with 225/60R18 tyres. Through a combination of well-sorted suspension and fat tyres, bumps are soaked up nicely.

Ultimately, the Outback is more pleasant and capable than most SUVs on and off road. When the latter takes your fancy, or circumstance necessitates it, the Outback is likely to far exceed your expectations of what it can do.

Wet grass and gravel are a given, but the Outback can push on into snow and mud thanks to 213mm of ground clearance and the impressive X-Mode off-road software with automatic hill-descent control. It isn’t as capable as a Land Rover Defender or Jeep Wrangler, for example, but we’d bet it’d prove far more capable than other jacked-up estates and even some road-biased SUVs.