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Road test: New Subaru Outback CVT marriage will win hearts

The Subaru Outback with a CVT automatic transmission.
The Subaru Outback with a CVT automatic transmission.

THEY say good things come to those who wait. Personally, I prefer instant gratification - that first glass of wine, that last piece of cake …

But Subaru is hopeful the long wait for the auto diesel variant of the popular Outback has made its arrival all the sweeter with the chunky wagon finally able to truly make inroads into a segment that accounts for 30% of all car sales in Australia, 90% of them with automatic transmissions.

This is the first time a Subaru CVT unit has been teamed with a high-torque turbo-diesel with the Japanese manufacturer forced to undertake a host of mechanical changes to enable the pairing to work.

The result proves an excellent marriage, one that will serve Subaru well in such a competitive market.

Comfort

The only real changes to the Outback's interior have been improvements to all-round comfort and style details on the seats and LCD display.

There is a look of controlled efficiency about the dash with the dials and buttons most called-upon within easy reach and the switchgear of an applaudable quality.

The steering is adjustable for height and reach and the driver's seat in our Premium test car had electronic controls.

The leather seats were comfortable rather than luxurious yet contain enough bolstering to perform well on long journeys.

The second pew is a pleasure to be in with room enough for tall adults to stretch out in and will hold three with ease. The boot is remarkably spacious, swallowing up both the weekly shop and loads to the charity shop with aplomb. The drop-down bag holders are pretty flimsy though and awkwardly placed - almost like an afterthought.

On the road

This Outback diesel offering is all about the CVT coupling and it is easy to say that Subaru has done a sterling job in delivering a product that offers excellent performance, enviable economy and a rather pleasant ride.

The transmission doesn't miss a beat with none of that agonising whining during deceleration - especially in downhill stages - that can be found in so many CVTs on our roads.

There is power when needed, application around sharp corners and nimble feet when manoeuvring in tight traffic. If there is some criticism it is the Outback's slowness to get going and its lazy turning circle but it impressed with minimal cabin noise - thanks to the reinforced soundproofing - and an assured outing off the bitumen.

What do you get?

Inside the Subaru Outback Premium.
Inside the Subaru Outback Premium.

The Outback diesel comes in two models both of them suitably equipped. The base model sports 17-inch alloys, multi-information in-dash satellite navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, reverse camera, dual-zone climate control and auto-off headlights. The

Premium ($3000 more) adds leather trim, electric sunroof, eight-way power driver's seat with dual memory and lumbar support and rear-seat air vents.

A five-star ANCAP rating comes courtesy of seven airbags, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Vehicle Dynamics Control System and a ring-shaped safety cell to help protect occupants in the event of an accident.

Other options

The Subaru Outback straddles the line between a large SUV and a wagon and competition comes from a variety of sources including the Volkswagen Passat (from $47,790), Skoda Octavia Scout (from $42,490), Hyundai Santa Fe (from $39,990), Kia Sorrento (from $38,990) and Holden Captiva 7 (from $35,490)

Practicality

With its ability on and off-road, spacious interior and safety package the Outback diesel will generate interest across the spectrum but in particular from growing families and retired couples.

The one-touch electronic brake has found a more sensible place on the centre console while the 60:40 seats - with their three child seat anchor points - are easy to tumble flat.

It is, however, difficult to see over the nose which can make judging distances when parking quite awkward.

Running costs

Subaru claims the Outback diesel can do more than 1000km on a single tank which is impressive news indeed.

We managed slightly more than the official 6.5 litres/100km but not enough to grumble about.

Subaru offers a three years/unlimited kilometre warranty with insurance costs about average and excellent resale value.

Funky factor

The exterior of the Outback has its critics who say it is ungainly, cumbersome and fussy and lacks the modern looks which bring appeal.

But we don't mind it and can appreciate the line of its curves and the revised grille and bumper which identify it as part of the Subaru family.

What matters most

What we liked: On and off-road ability, DataDot technology to help prevent theft.

What we'd like to see: A more dynamic take-off, features like Eyesight technology available in other Subarus.

Warranty and servicing: Subaru offers a three-year/unlimited kilometres warranty. Servicing intervals are at 12,500km or every six months (whichever occurs first).

Vital statistics

Model: Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium.

Details: Five-door AWD large SUV.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged horizontally-opposed four cylinder diesel generating maximum power of 110kW @ 3600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1800-2400rpm.

Consumption: 6.5 litres/100km combined average.

CO2: 172g/km.

Bottom line: From $42,490.

The Subaru Outback.
The Subaru Outback.

Topics:  motoring road test subaru outback


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