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First drive: Subaru completes Outback puzzle

The one they’ve waited for: Subaru expects Outback sales to increase from around 220 units per month in the early part of this year to 350, thanks to the addition of a diesel/automatic drivetrain.

Big sales jump expected for Subaru Outback crossover as diesel CVT hits the road

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Subaru logo23 Mar 2013

SUBARU Australia projects an appreciable sales jump for its Outback all-wheel-drive crossover following the addition of a $2500 CVT automatic diesel option.

With the lion’s share of the Outback’s rivals sold in Australia comprising diesel/automatic powertrains, the belated addition is seen by Subaru as ‘the final piece of the puzzle” for the car here, which was launched in current-generation guise in September 2009.

The Outback 2.0D CVT is available in both regular and Premium specification levels, priced at $42,490 (plus on-road costs) and $45,490 respectively ($2500 more than the manual).

As ever, the Subaru stalwart continues to be pitched against taller, family oriented rivals such as the Kia Sorento and Ford Territory, as well as conceptually similar high-riding wagons such as the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.

The continuously variable transmission is similar to the unit fitted to the smaller Forester compact SUV, and also features a seven-speed manual mode with paddles.

Power comes from the same 110kW/350Nm 2.0-litre Boxer engine as the regular Outback D, which until now has been available only with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Subaru continues to offer two boxer petrol Outback options – a 2.5-litre four-cylinder and a 3.6-litre six-cylinder.

Fuel consumption for the CVT diesel is half-a-litre per 100km higher than the manual, at a claimed 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle (emissions of 172 grams of CO2 per km).

Towing capacity is the same as the manual, however, at 1700kg.

Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said the new addition would allow the Outback to at last compete in the largest section of the local large SUV sales race (industry bible VFACTS classifies the Outback as a ‘large SUV’).

“The Outback diesel CVT plugs a gap in our model line-up,” he said. “A significant proportion of large SUV sales are automatic diesels and we have not played in this space.

“In some months, the manual diesel has accounted for up to 20 per cent of Outback sales, so pent-up demand for the auto is likely to see our diesel success story soar even higher.” As such, Subaru Australia expects sales of its five-door crossover staple to jump from the average of 220 units per month so far this year to around 350 sales.

While Mr Senior said the company was after buyers in both urban and country areas alike, the large rural focus is evident, with stock and station agents cited among several targets.

Along with the new transmission, Subaru has tweaked the front suspension to counteract the extra weight of the automatic, which it says irons out any potential for “front-heavy” dynamics.

Subaru has also “fined-tuned” the electronic power steering to make it sharper on centre than the manual by putting harder mounts on the steering box.

The company has made efforts to remove clatter by adding sound-deadening insulation to the front under-cover or upper front guards.

Both CVT variants get standard safety equipment such as seven airbags, front fog lights, reversing camera, child-seat anchor points and a five-star ANCAP crash rating.

Standard interior features include Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, an electric parking brake, satellite navigation with voice control, iPod and USB connections, a leather steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons and 60/40 split-fold rear seats.

On the outside are 17-inch alloy wheels (with a full-size spare), chrome grille, automatic headlights, a roof spoiler and DataDot security.

The extra $3000 outlay for the Premium variant nets an electric sunroof, electroluminescent gauges and colour LCD information display, leather seats, an electric driver’s seat with memory and rear air vents.

Subaru projects around 80 per cent of all buyers will opt for the Premium.

The Outback also comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

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