February 20, 2015

Latest Outback returns to its roots, in a sophisticated sort of way

Yes, 4wdNewz is breaking its "no low range, no coverage" rule again to give a nod of approval to the latest Subaru Outback. The Outback, which first rolled from the production line in 1994, principally for the American market, was one of the first "soft" off roaders and, in original form, one of the best. Successive versions softened it to the point that there seemed little point buying it over the similar Legacy. However, the newest version, now in the showrooms, seems to have returned the Outback to its roots, especially the diesel version we drove.

True, it'll never form the basis for a tough club truck, but as a vehicle without low range gearing and without a lot of ground clearance, it's very good and would almost certainly be 4wdNewz's soft off roader of choice. First, the 213mm of ground clearance (quoted by the manufacturer) is good enough for most tracks you'd want to take an Outback on, although overhangs compromise the approach and departure angles somewhat. A pair of ladders, like the Treds could be useful for those wanting to be adventurous. Second, the 1998cc turbo diesel produces 350Nm of torque from as low as 1600rpm and is also well suited to the upgraded Lineartronic CVT transmission, which is the best of its type available. The transmission has a seven "speed" manual mode on diesel versions.

The electronically-controlled 60:40-split drivetrain has been substantially overhauled to make it tighter and more responsive, a bonus off the road. X-Mode, engaged via a console switch, sets up the Outback's engine and drivetrain for backroad and off-road driving. As one example, the AWD clutch locking power is increased by 25 per cent to lessen rotational differences between the front and rear wheels to improve traction. The setting also activates hill descent control. Tyres on the test wagon were 225/60 Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sports; very road oriented, but with just enough bulge to offer some protection to the 18 inch alloys.

On road, the Outback diesel is comfortable, quick, handles well despite the added ride height and 4wdNewz was able to almost match the overall fuel consumption rating of 6.3 litres per 100km. Our 2.0D Premium, which has all the fruit, costs $54,990; the non-fruit costs $47,990. Petrol versions start at $44,990 for the 2.5 Sport. If you drive a "proper" 4WD but need another all-rounder for general family duties, the new Outback is a box ticker.

  • Meanwhile, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd has announced that production of its horizontally-opposed Boxer engines has topped 15 million units, 49 years after the water-cooled four-cylinder aluminium unit was first fitted to the Subaru 1000 compact car.


  1. I drive a Defender and was looking at a 2013 Outback as a second family car, but it sits so low. Wouldn't something like a RAV4 or even a Forester be better?

    1. Pretty well anything short of a truck might seem low after a Defender. There's actually not that much difference between the seat height of an Outback compared to most of its SUV-like rivals and none will replicate the high view of a Defender, or similar