2015 Subaru Outback road test review
THE 2015 Subaru Outback has come in from the wilderness with a swagger.
Better looking and cheaper than ever before, the family favourite is primed for an assault on the sports utility vehicle market.
Leading the renewed charge is the price-leading diesel that starts form $35,490, while the previous 2.5-litre petrol base model will begin at $35,990 - which is $3k less than its predecessor.
Yet the biggest news comes at the top end of town. The range-topping 3.6R variant is down a whopping $10,000 to $47,990.
Price reductions are, in part, due to the upcoming free trade agreement with Japan and a more favourable exchange rate.
Key criticisms have also been addressed, with improvements in cabin comfort and a vastly improved infotainment set-up.
Giant strides have been made with materials and cabin quality.
Subaru needed to make ground in this area, and the improvements are up there with the Europeans.
Across the dash is a noticeably upmarket, and thankfully the touch-screen system has been overhauled. Whereas the old entertainment unit was clunky and difficult to navigate, this latest inclusion is intuitive, more smartphone-like by swiping, pinching and flicking to find your way around the audio, phone, apps and sat nav settings.
There are 15.7 and 17cm (up-spec models) colour touch-screens which raise the tone, and premium variants also come with a choice of ivory or black.
Driver visibility improves with the A-pillar moving forward (which has also contributed to aerodynamic gains).
The driver has an uncomplicated set-up, with two analogue instruments flanking a colour display which can be changed to feature various trip information along and a digital speedometer.
Longer, wider and higher than the outgoing model, four adults will find there is ample space and you can fit three across the back seat if required.
On the road
Drivetrain changes are limited, with lower fuel consumption across the two petrol and one diesel engine range.
Most notable is the stiffer performance and agility in the corners. Across some nasty corrugations the Outback impressed with limited reverberations felt through the steering wheel.
Cornering relatively flat for an SUV, the Outback benefits from technology shared with the sporty WRX. Active Torque Vectoring applies the brake to inside wheels, distributing less torque in the process while those on the outside get more.
Drivers don't need to shy away from the twisty stuff, although the base diesels running on 17-inch rubber do squeal more when pushed hard than the rest of the range which runs 18s.
With 213mm of ground clearance it's no mug off road, although the large overhang at the front means the Outback is restricted to rocky paths and gravel tracks.
Most drivers would be satisfied with the 2.5-litre four cylinder's performance. It's not as polished as the diesel or six-cylinder, but it gets the job done with ease.
Probably the best pick is the diesel, which is the new price leader, and its maintenance costs are surprisingly on par with the petrol. Tough and burly, it has ample torque on tap to pull you out of corners with enthusiasm.
One of the stand-out features is the updated continuously variable transmission.
We lauded Subaru for its CVT work in the Forester, but this is better. Computerised ratios make it feel like a conventional gearbox with limited flaring under hard acceleration.
What do you get?
Concentrating on improving the value equation, Subaru has thrown a whole heap of kit at the Outback. Base models come with Bluetooth and MP3 compatible six-speaker CD stereo with voice command, dual zone air con, leather steering wheel with various controls, paddle shifters on automatic models, 18-inch alloys (17 on diesels) with full-size spare along with automatic lights and wipers.
The 2.5i Premium gets upgrades including sunroof, leather trim, power cargo door, heated front seats, sat nav with in-built Pandora internet music app and push-button start.
All models, other than the diesels, also come with the brilliant EyeSight safety technology. That includes radar cruise control, lane departure warning and autonomous braking, which can ultimately help avoid or reduce the impact of an accident.
The diesels are most frugal and should achieve less than seven litres for every 100km, the 2.5-litre petrol is slightly higher. Those wanting the burly six will have to pay more at the pump for the privilege, slurping about 10 litres/100km - although it will take standard unleaded.
Capped price servicing is available at dealers, but the intervals are at six months when many other car makers have stretched it to one year.
With a sizeable boot, the Outback is a perfect fit for families of all sizes. The 60-40 split of the rear pew is aided by handles in the boot and there is also another button on the seat-tops.
Other key inclusions are rear air vents, a pair of cup holders front and back, along with bottle holders in each door.
Stowage points aplenty, there is a large centre console, as well as a spot for phones in front of the shifter close to a pair of USB slots, auxiliary port and 12 volt plug,
Profile perspectives are far more flattering for the Outback. A new contour over the waist line provides some interest, although from the front and rear things are typically conservative. There are nine exterior colours, but you don't have to pay extra for metallic options.
Family driving doesn't come much better than the Outback.
While the styling remains conservative, it's hard to look past the value equation - along with Subaru's outstanding reputation for longevity, service and reliability.
Probably the best buy is the Premium diesel, although you have to go without the EyeSight safety suite.
Prepare to see a whole lot more of the Outback, the features and complete package at these prices will be too hard for Aussies to refuse.
What matters most
What we liked: Infotainment system, outstanding pricing proposition across all grades, spacious cabin with improved finishes, Eyesight functionality.
What we'd like to see: Longer servicing intervals, interior and exterior styling improved but still conservative, Eyesight on diesel models.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing is available for the life of the car, and prices are listed for the first five years or 125,000km. Intervals are every six months or 12,500km. Average price is 2.5i - $429, 3.6R - $516 and 2.0D - $425 (m), $422 (a).
Verdict: 4.5 stars
Model: MY15 Subaru Outback.
Details: Five-seat five-door all-wheel drive large sports utility vehicle.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual (diesel only) or continuously variable automatic.
Engines: 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer petrol generating maximum power of 129kW @ 5800rpm and peak torque of 235Nm @ 4000rpm; 3.6-litre six-cylinder boxer petrol 191kW @ 6000rpm and 350Nm @ 4400rpm; 2.0-litre boxer turbo diesel 110kW @ 3600rpm and 350Nm @ 1600-2800rpm.
Consumption: 2.5i - 7.3 litres/100km (auto, combined average); 3.6R - 9.9L/100km (a); 2.0D - 5.7L/100km (m), 6.3L/100km (a).
CO2: 2.5i - 167g/km; 3.6R - 230g/km; 2.0D - 148g/km (m), 165g/km (a).
Bottom line: 2.5i (a) $35,990, 2.5i Premium (a) $41,490, 2.0D (m) $35,490, 2.0D (a) $37,490, 2.0D Premium (m) $41,490, 2.0D Premium (a) $43,490, Outback 3.6R (a) $47,990.