The name “Subaru” is the Japanese name for a cluster of stars called the Pleiades and is reflected on their logo with the six stars. Originally called Fuji Heavy Industries, they started out making aircraft for World War 2, and when the war was over, they used the spare parts to build the Fuji Rabbit , the first motor scooter made in Japan. The first Subaru car was the 1500, which went into production in 1954, and the popular Subaru boxer engine first entered production in 1965.
While only the twenty-second largest automaker by volume, Subaru has an almost cult following due to its fantastic build quality and reliability. Over the years they’ve released many iconic cars including the famous Impreza WRX and WRX STI, with its rallying pedigree. Apart from building good cars, Subaru famously likes to do things their own way with their boxer engine and all-wheel drive systems being some of their most famous hallmarks.
The Outback was first introduced in 1988 as part of the station wagon version of the popular Legacy, and in fact, kept the name Legacy Outback name in many markets until the current fifth-generation was released. For a car that was once a pure station wagon, the Outback has moved with the times, as well as public tastes to become a mashup of a crossover mixed with a station wagon. The current Outback offers all the space and convenience associated with a traditional station wagon while having the ground clearance and versatility of an SUV. The Outback is Subaru’s flagship model and the most expensive car it offers in South Africa, sitting above the Forester. We take a look at the current Subaru Outback to see what it’s all about and whether it’s worth the price.
- Price: Base price R617 000 (2.5i-S) R688 000 (3.6R-S)
- Engines: Boxer 2.5L Flat 4 petrol, 3.6L Flat 6 petrol
- Transmission: CVT
- Fuel Consumption: 7.7L/100km (2.5L) 9.9L (3.6L)
- Power/Torque: 129kW/ 235 Nm (2.5L) 191kW/ 350 Nm (3.6L)
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- Warranty: 5-year/150 000km
- Maintenance Plan: 5-year/120 000km (special offer)
The interior of the Subaru Outback is upmarket but feels a bit dated compared to some of the more modern competitors including its own smaller sibling, the Forester. However, it still has clean lines and the usual Subaru solid feel to it. The dashboard has a bit too much matte black plastic that's thankfully broken up with faux aluminium trim accents. Subaru has been thoughtful enough to include many well-placed and user-friendly dials for the infotainment system and climate controls within easy reach of both the driver and passenger. The steering wheel and gear knob are both leather-wrapped and give the car a premium feel. Speaking of a premium feel, the seats in both the 2.5-litre and 3.6-litre models come in leather with the rear seats able to fold in a 60/40 configuration for more effortless loading. Overall the Outback has a spacious interior with more than enough space for both front and rear passengers on long journeys.
Watch our 2019 Subaru Forester Review.
The front of the Outback has stylish upswept LED headlights with the DRL’s reminiscent of some of the recent Audi models. The Subaru "star emblem" sits in the centre of the three-blade grill that's surrounded with thin chrome accents. Below the grille sits a set of fog-lights sitting in black plastic holders that would greatly benefit from being colour-coded. There are multiple cameras to be found on the Outback, including the front and rear, as well as the side-mirror mounted cameras. The side profile makes it evident that the Outback has station wagon roots with a long, stretched out body sitting on 18-inch alloy wheels. Despite the station wagon-like profile, the raised body has excellent ground clearance and should be comfortable on both on and off-road. Another prominent feature of the side-profile is the nifty roof-rack holders that can swivel to run both vertically along the car, and horizontally across it. Apart from the large spoiler, the rear of the Outback has conservative styling with a slightly chunky look. The LED taillights look quite ordinary, and so does the thick moulded bumper.
The Subaru Outback has an 8-inch touchscreen with a crisp and fast-responding screen. Like most modern cars, it also has Apple CarPlay compatibility and Android Auto, which come at no extra cost. Sound aficionados will love the Harman Kardon 576-watt sound system which comes with 12 speakers including a subwoofer, and an amplifier. Additionally, the Subaru Outback also has satellite navigation with TomTom mapping, voice recognition, and AUX input port, and multiple USB ports and of course AM/FM radio. Overall the infotainment unit in the Outback stacks up well, even against some more expensive cars and it’s refreshing to see that Subaru isn’t charging extra for Android Auto and Apple Carplay, unlike many competitors.
Read our Subaru WRX review.
Subaru prides itself on its terrific safety record, and the Outback is jam-packed with both active and passive features that can easily match some more expensive cars. The Subaru Eye-sight system is second to none and features pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert, and lane departure and sway warning. If that isn't enough, there's also front, reverse, and side-view cameras in addition to rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and lane change assist.
Apart from the driver aids, there are also the usual airbags, 4-wheel ABS brakes, traction control, stability control and ISOFIX child seat anchors. There’s no doubt that the Subaru Outback punches above its weight when it comes to safety and is perfect for a family.
The Outback 3.6 R-S we tested is capable as a family car but has average performance. While the acceleration is linear, especially compared to the turbocharged rivals, it still takes time to build speed. At least the accelerator is responsive, and the CVT is smooth and unobtrusive, with the option of manual mode for off-road situations. As with many SUVs, the steering is moderately heavy with a bit of numbness. Obviously, the Subaru Outback isn't a performance car and is more geared to comfort, and as a result, the ride is very soft. There is pronounced body roll around the corners, especially at speed, but this is expected in a car like the Outback.
Driver’s will be thrilled with the high visibility, not to mention the fabulous driving position offered by the large, comfortable seats. There is also minimal wind noise and the drive feels premium and quiet. The Outback is equally at home on the road and for mild off-roading and has a torque-vectoring system to deliver power to the wheels that need it the most. The Outback is perfect for exploring remote campsites, but it definitely isn’t a serious offroader
The only issue we experienced was grating sound coming from the brakes during the hill-descent using the X-mode. According to some forums , this is the sound of the ABS working to limit wheel-slip.
The Outback is well put together and is a great all-round package. There's more than enough space and it is filled with the latest safety features and infotainment features. Despite the dated interior, the build quality is still high, and it feels like it could last for many years to come.
The station-wagon styling might not be to everyone’s tastes, and while the 3.6 L engine isn’t bad, it doesn’t really stand out. The sixth-generation Outback has already been released in the US, and it remains to be seen when it will be released in South Africa.
Subaru has never been a mainstream brand, and while many of its followers will find the Outback to be a solid option, most people will find it hard to justify spending between R617 000 and R688 000 to get one when there are more popular options available in the same price range. The Ford Everest starts at R509 900 going up to R 776 500, while the Toyota Fortuner starts at R 495 700 going up to R737 500. There are also smaller, more luxury SUVs available in that price range like the Volvo CX60 starting at R692 600 and the VW Tiguan starting at R 445 300. Even the Outback smaller sibling, the Forester represents excellent value at R451 000.
The Outback is never going to be a contender for the best-selling crossover in South Africa, but for those who want something different to stand out from the crowd that is packed with amazing features, it is undoubtedly a solid option.
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