Make / Model Search

Car reviews - Subaru - Outback

Our Opinion

We like
CVT suits the laconic diesel engine, well-equipped cabin, quiet on the road, spacious inside, sharper dynamics than most taller SUVs
Room for improvement
Constant tyre squeal, diesel not particularly punchy, cheap cabin plastics


Click to see larger images

22 Mar 2013

THE Subaru Outback is one of the true originals – a high-riding crossover, based on a family wagon (the Liberty), that competes against passenger cars and SUVs alike.

And it was these passenger car underpinnings that were in evidence on the variable country New South Wales road surfaces we tackled earlier this week – few traditional jacked-up SUVs match the Subaru’s flat cornering and sharp (ish) handling.

Soft-roader sales are going gangbusters, and naturally Subaru wants a bigger piece of the pie – even if the Outback offering does without the commanding driving position many buyers find so appealing.

The main problem for the company is that the majority of larger SUVs sold in Australia are diesel-powered – got to keep those fuel bills down, remember – matched to automatic transmissions, and Subaru until this point simply hasn’t had one.

Until now. The company has belatedly fitted a slightly larger version of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the smaller but taller Forester to the Outback, and as such expects a sales boost of more than 50 per cent.

At $42,490 (or $45,490 for the up-spec Premium), the Outback matches high-end diesel compact SUVs or entry versions of larger SUV models. In terms of cabin and storage space, its closer to the larger members of the SUV set, so we reckon it represents decent value.

On the road, the Outback benefits from Subaru's long experience with all-wheel-drive – the wagon feels balanced and neutral in the bends, with a hint of tail-happy oversteer on gravel. The all-wheel-drive system can modify torque delivery to all four wheels independently.

The lower centre of gravity naturally minimises bodyroll, with the Outback staying nice and flat through the bends, while Subaru has fitted harder mounts on the steering assembly, lending more sharpness from centre. This version in fact steers better than its petrol siblings.

Where things fall down a touch is in the choice of tyre. The Yokohamas have an irritating tendency to squeal, and not just when the car is pushed to the limit.

The hoops certainly play their part in reducing road noise, though – the Outback is an exceptionally quiet cruiser, with tyre and wind noise kept to a minimum. Subaru has added sound insultion, and it shows.

The ride remained composed over a variety of surfaces, including nasty corrugated gravel and back-county roads. The all-round independent suspension fairly ate up the country miles.

Subaru has altered the dampers to counter the extra weight of the CVT over the manual, and on first impression the car feels equally languid at speed as its manual cousin.

Now, a languid disposition may be fine in terms of ride, but perhaps not so much in terms of engine performance.

With 110kW of power at 3600rpm and 350Nm between 1800 and 2400rpm, the 2.0-litre diesel is beaten on paper by SUV rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Ford Territory – and so it feels on the road.

The CVT does a decent job keeping the engine ticking over within the optimal torque band, and irons out the annoying 'drone' so synonymous with this type of shifter, but the small engine has a lot of weight to lug around (a tick over 1600kg).

Once up and running it's fine, but swift overtaking requires a degree of consideration.

With five occupants, their gear and a trailer or van hitched to the back (towing capacity is just shy of 1800kg), the Outback may struggle.

We'll await full judgement until a more comprehensive road test.

The cabin is unchanged from other variants, meaning heaps of space in the rear (both headroom and legroom are SUV-like) and a comfortable driving position.

There is also a decent list of standard equipment, although in typical Subaru style the Bluetooth system is more complicated than most.

We don't have much time for the great swathes of cheap feeling, hard to the touch plastics that cover the dash – the old Liberty/Outback models felt European in their execution, but the latest generation feels a tad retrograde inside.

It's odd, but the Outback offers soft-touch door trims with a hard dash, while the Forester has a soft dash and hard door trims.

Subaru may wish to consider doing both in future.

Still, small gripes. The Outback remains, as ever, a bit of a niche proposition. Most prospective buyers will likely opt for higher-riding models such as Subaru's own Forester, but the Outback is really just as practical and better than most to drive.

We don't really rate the diesel donk, and the cabin feels cheap in parts, but it gets more right than wrong. And the new CVT is one of the better ones we've driven.

We reckon being different isn't so bad.

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

GoAuto can help you buy a new Outback

Customer Terms and Conditions – New Car Lead enquires


This is an agreement between GoAutoMedia Pty Limited ACN 094 732 457 of PO Box 18, Beach Road, Sandringham, VIC, 3191 (“we/us”), the owner and operator of the GoAuto.com.au website (“the website”) and the person wanting GoAuto.com.au to provide them with a lead for the purchase of a new car (“you”).

By completing a New Car Lead Enquiry, you agree to the terms and conditions and disclaimers and acknowledge the policies set out below.

Terms and Conditions

  • In order for us to effect a lead you must you must complete a New Car Lead Enquiry (“Enquiry”).
  • We will call you as soon as possible after you complete the Enquiry and certainly no later than the next business day. When we call, we will discuss with you your new car requirements.
  • You consent to our passing on the Enquiry and your requirements to an appropriate authorised motor car dealer as a lead.
  • We will contact you again in approximately eight days following your initial enquiry to check on the progress of the Enquiry.
  • While we will provide the dealer with the Enquiry and details of your new car requirements, we take no responsibility for what happens after passing on that material as a lead.
  • You acknowledge that we are a new car information service providing new car editorial information, pictures and prices to our customers as a guide only. Any new car prices published on the website are the manufacturers’ recommended retail prices and do not include delivery charges and on-road costs. Any authorized motor car dealer to which we pass on your Enquiry as a lead will provide you with full details of the price at which the vehicle will be sold to you.
  • You acknowledge that we do not sell motor vehicles. Any sale of a new car to you by a dealer after we have passed on your Enquiry to that dealer as a lead, is a sale by that dealer not by us.

Privacy Policy– New Car Lead Enquires

  • We take privacy very seriously. We understand that you will only complete an Enquiry if you can trust us to protect your personal information and use it appropriately. Our policy is to ensure that the personal information collected when you make an Enquiry is only used for the purposes of connecting you with an authorised motor car dealer.
  • We do not on-sell information collected from you or any other customer.
  • From time to time, we may email you with information or promotions that may be relevant for car buyers. You will continue to receive communications from us unless you tell us that you do not want to receive any advertising or promotional information in the future by unsubscribing from these communications.
* Denotes required field
** Australian inquiries only

Outback pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here