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2019 Subaru Outback Review – Is It Better Than an SUV?

If you’re in the market for an SUV – like pretty much every car buyer these days – chances are you scratching your head deciding which of the segment’s 15 or so models to pick. But there’s one car that often gets overlooked by SUV buyers and it’s not an SUV, it’s a wagon. The Subaru Outback has been hauling families long before the birth of the first SUV, and today you still see it tracking the interstate highway, climbing snow mountains and ploughing through urban traffic.

The Subaru Outback has got everything on the SUV, and in some areas even better. So let’s explore them.

Practicality

It would come as a surprise to many just how spacious the cabin of the Outback is. Based on the Subaru Liberty mid-size sedan, the Outback inherently offers heaps of room for all occupants. The rear is especially spacious, putting many SUVs to shame. Adults seated in the back would be treated to generous leg and headroom, even with the front seats pushed back to accommodate taller passengers up front.

The space behind the passenger cell continues to impress. Pop the tailgate and you’ll find 512 litres of boot space, larger than that of many SUVs. With a flat boot floor that is positioned lower, you won’t obliterate your lower back when handling bulky items. If that space isn’t enough, the easy to drop 40/60 split folding rear seats open up to a massive 1,801 litres of cargo carrying capacity.

Drivability

The Subaru Outback tested here is the 2.5i Premium variant, which as its name suggests is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer petrol engine. A more powerful 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine is also on offer for those who do frequent towing.

The 2.5L is still a workhorse. It produces 129kW at 5,800rpm, supported by 235Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. While the figures aren’t in any way astronomical, nor are they greater than what you’d get in SUVs, the Outback does offer a more planted and secured driving experience than its high-riding counterpart.

Thanks to a lower centre of gravity, the Outback impresses with a sharper turn in and tighter body control. It just feels less cumbersome and more confidence inspiring.

Naturally, Subaru’s renown symmetrical all-wheel drive system provides all the grip in the world once you’re putting the power down and can handle far more savage terrain than most SUVs.

Another Outback drawcard is its excellent all round visibility. While SUVs generally have a more commanding view thanks to its higher seating position, they can’t beat the Outback’s large windows and windscreens and slim A pillars, which make navigating tight car park spaces just that much easier.

Safety

A 5-star ANCAP safety rating and comprehensive list of safety feature drive home that this is a family oriented package which makes you question the need for a SUV. Subaru’s excellent EyeSight Driver Assist is included as factory standard on every Outback variants and includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning and lane keep assist. Helping mitigate a collision are pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management and brake light recognition.

Our Outback 2.5i Premium also came with Subaru’s Vision Assist as standard which adds rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, side view monitoring and auto dipping high-beams along with a reverse view camera. Everything is well calibrated and integrated, with the only concern being the lane keep assist getting overly sensitive at times.

Value and Economy

Priced at $42,640 plus on-road costs, the Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium matches the sticker of any mid-spec SUVs. However, the mid-spec Outback is packed to the brim, with standard features including dual-zone climate control, rear air vents, heated seats, keyless entry and pushbutton start and an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with built-in satellite navigation, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. What’s lacking though is DAB+ digital radio.

The interior surrounds you with plush materials for maximum comfort, including full leather upholstery throughout. Both the door and centre console armrest are extra soft and the double stitched leather brings some style points to the party.

In the long run, the Outback 2.5L is fairly economical, too, considering the task at hand involves moving 1,639kg around. Our real world fuel economy figure averaged out to 8.0L/100km which isn’t far off from the rated 7.3L/100km factory figure, and thriftier than many petrol-powered SUVs. Helping the fuel economy is the idle stop start system though it still requires some refinement as the restarts can feel jerky at times.

Verdict

Design & Comfort

8.0/10

Performance & Handling

7.5/10

Quality

8.0/10

Economy

8.5/10

Equipment & Features

8.5/10

OUR SCORE

4.1/5

Our Score: 4.1/5

+ Plus

  • Excellent ride / handling balance
  • Roomy interior
  • Packed with safety features
  • Capable AWD

Minus

  • Generic looks
  • Lack of digital radio

Overall

The Subaru Outback mixes the right balance of practicality, comfort and handling. Top it up with a comprehensive suite of active and passive safety features, the Outback makes so much sense for families with an adventurous streak. You’ve got all the practicality of an SUV with capable AWD underpinnings and a refined interior to wrap it up. What’s not to like?

2019 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium Pricing and Specification

Price (Excl. on-road costs):From: $42,640

As tested: $42,640

Warranty:3 Years/Unlimited Kilometers

1 Year Roadside Assistance

Country of Origin:Japan
Service Intervals:6 months/12,500km
Engine:2.5-litre horizontally-opposed boxer 4-cylinder, petrol engine

129kW @ 5,800rpm, 235Nm @ 4,000rpm

Transmission:CVT auto
Drivetrain:All-wheel drive
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):80.7
Turning Circle Radius(m):11
0-100km/h (s)Claimed: 10.2
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):Claimed: 7.3 / Tested: 8.0
RON Rating:91
Fuel Capacity (L):60
Body:5-door wagon, 5 seats
Safety:5-star ANCAP, 7 Airbags, Seatbelt Pre-Tensioners/Load Limiters (front), Reverse Camera, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Emergency Stop Signal Function, Hill Start Assist, Automatic High Beam, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parking Sensors, Collision Mitigation (low/high speed), Collision Warning, Hill Descent Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Anti-Lock Braking System, Brake Assist, Traction Control, Stability Control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution.
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:4820/1840/1675/2745
Kerb Weight (kg):1,639
Ground Clearance:213mm
Entertainment:8.0-inch Infotainment System, 6 speakers, Satellite Navigation, CD player, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, USB and AUX

Competitors:

Ford KugaHolden Equinox, Honda CR-V, Hyundai TucsonKia Sportage, Peugeot 3008Mazda CX-5Mitsubishi OutlanderNissan X-TrailRenault Koleos, Subaru Forester, Fiat 500X, Volkswagen Tiguan, Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, Skoda Kodiaq, Suzuki VitaraToyota RAV4Jeep Cherokee

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