Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium MY14 : Road Test
Review by Michael Tancredi - 16 January 2014
The Subaru Outback is the original cross-over vehicle and with this latest model it still retains some of the wagon look but with a lot of the SUV feel and driving style. This latest make over contains all you'd expect from a classy vehicle including their highly regarded EyeSight™ technology, plus, it looks pretty tough and rugged.
The Outback can be driven comfortably over both suburban/highway roads and the rough country dirt track. In essence, it can take smooth or rough in its stride.
Although the Outback is not the longest vehicle (at 4.79 metres), it is pipped by the Tribica by 75mm, it has by far the largest cargo capacity at 1690 litres with the back seats down. This long and large cargo area is where you most readily recognise its wagon heritage.
The Subaru Outback is a smooth and effortless car to drive. Given the length and height of the vehicle the Outlook handled extremely well and displayed little sway or wobble during hard steering on both sealed roads and unsealed/gravel roads. Stopping was a breeze and the car held up well under hard braking and maintained a straight line with minimal wheel lock on sealed and unsealed roads.
The transmission on the Outback was one of its standout features and is based on their Lineartronic™ CVT system, the CVT stands for Continuously Variable Transmission. The transmission, in effect, doesn't have gears in the traditional sense but is based on two pulleys, that can vary in width, and a steel belt that connects them. The pulleys are able to vary their width infinitely (i.e. continuously variable). So when you put your foot down the transmission raises the engine speed and applies more acceleration and when you ease off the throttle the transmission lowers the engine speed, hence better fuel economy.
What this means is extremely quiet and smooth acceleration and deceleration. It's next to impossible to hear or feel the transmission at work.
You can swap to Manual mode using the paddles on the steering wheel. Doing so allows you to run the engine at higher revs to attain greater acceleration or to drop down quickly. Remember there are no "gears". A fail safe feature prevents you from dropping down before the engine reaches the approriate revs. Also when the car comes to a stop the transmission drops back to first without having to be manually set.
The second outstanding feature is their EyeSight™ system which comes standard on the Outback 2.5i Premium and is available on a number of other vehicles in the Subaru range. The EyeSight™ system is basically two small cameras mounted either side of the rear view mirror that processes stereo images and monitors and tracks the vehicle in front of our vehicle, obstacles ahead of our vehicle and movement of our vehicle within the traffic lanes, among other things. Although the Eyesight™ system is not infallible (read the manual for the full list of do's and don't's) it is an extra safety feature that could prove invaluable.
We did run the Adaptive Cruise Control feature through some loops to see how it would perform and was duly impressed. We set the cruise control to the speed limit (70kph) and we sat at the set distance behind the vehicle in front. As it slowed we slowed. When it stopped we stopped without applying the brake. When it accelerated away we did too without using the accelerator and we accelerated up to the set Cruise Control speed. In another counter test we set the cruise control to 60kph behind the car in front on a busy winding road. We accelerated as the car in front went around the bend and slowed down when we met another car coming in the opposite direction. This second test was one of the "not advisable" times to use the feature.
Eyesight™ is clearly a feature that will improve the safety of vehicles and over time it will (or some derivative thereof) become, more or less, standard. It will be interesting to see what improvements are incorporated in the new version of Eyesight™ due for release later this year.
The Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium MY14 and the 2.5i are powered by a horizontally-opposed Boxer 4-cylinder, petrol engine which has a power output of 127kW@ 5600rpm and generates torque of 235Nm @ 4100rpm. All Subaru models have the Boxer engine. With the Boxer engine the pistons move in a horizontal plane which keeps the weight of the engine down low meaning it's able to maintain a low profile and a low centre of gravity.
In comparison the 3.6R Premium is powered by a Horizontally-opposed Boxer 6-cylinder, petrol engine has a power output of 191kW@ 5600rpm and generates torque of 350Nm @ 4400rpm. This six cylinder version put our a lot more grunt for your dollar. The two other models in the range are the 2.0 Diesel and 2.0 Diesel premium powered by a turbocharged horizontally-opposed Boxer 4-cylinder that puts out 110 kW @ 3600rpm and 350Nm @1600-2400rpm & 350Nm @1800-2400rpm depending on the model, also quite a bit of bang for your buck.
The Subaru Outback 2.5i & 2.5i Premium are claimed to consume, on average, 8.0l/100km with 136g/km CO2 emissions with, in comparison, the 3.6R at 10.2l/100km with 242g/km CO2 emissions and the Turbo models 6.0 or 6.5l/100km with 158 or 172g/km CO2 emissions depending on the model.
The Subaru Outback is quite a chunky looking vehicle, in line, I guess, with the association, developed over the years, of being driven off the beaten track across the dry, harsh, hot, red earth of outback Australia. The chunkiness may have been accentuated by the side cladding running the lengths of the body under the front and rear doors, the wheel arch guards and the front and rear bumper lower covers. If you'd prefer a more streamlined and sleeker and less chunkier look, a factory fitted option is available.
It is a longish vehicle and looks it. Several people commented on how "big" it looked. This may only be perceptual, as it's not the longest, widest or highest in the Subaru range. That distinction goes to the Tribeca. The dimensions of the Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium are: 4790mm long, 1665mm high and 1820mm wide. It's ground clearance is 213mm, so there is a bit of a "step up" into the vehicle, and it has a 11 metre turning circle.
All models come standard with roof rails with integrated cross bars which looked sleek and blended well into the lines of the car.
An electric sunroof comes standard with the Outback 2.5i Premium & 3.6R Premium models.
One annoying feature of our test vehicle was the vibration in the bonnet. It didn't appear to be speed related and was compounded when driving over rough terrain. When I first noticed it I thought I'd not closed the bonnet properly and stopped the car to get out and check. The bonnet had two ridges running full length. I didn't like like this as I felt it interrupted the smooth shape and lines of the bonnet but later concluded they must be there esentially not for looks but to provide rigidity to the bonnet.
The Subaru Outback was awarded a 5-star ANCAP safety rating with a score of 34.8 out of 37.
All models are fitted with dual front, dual front side and curtain airbags. Also a knee airbag is fitted for the driver on all models.
Other notable standard safety features include; anti-braking system (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) to improve the vehicle's stability and reduce skidding and a traction control system (TCS) to prevent loss of traction of driven road wheels, electronic differential lock (EDL) to brake a wheel and direct power to the wheel with greater traction, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) to distribute braking power according to which wheels are braking most effectively and Hill Holder to hold the vehicle steady on an incline.
All models have an electronic parking brake with a light indicator in the button to show clearly if it has been applied. Rear view reverse camera is also standard.
The interior of the Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium is extremely comfortable and roomy. There was lots of leg room for rear seat passengers even when front seats were positioned a fair way back. The car seats five. Three medium sized passengers would fit comfortable in the back without feeling restriced or with having the personal space too badly intruded upon.
The layout of the instrumentation was simple and all important dials and screens were unobstructed and in clear view of the driver. Also all were in easy reach.
The steering wheel felt comfortable in the hands with the controls for audio and mobile phone and to engage Adaptive Cruise Control/Convential Cruise Control well space and simple to use with their respective thumb.
For 2.5i Premium & 3.6R Premium models the standard air conditioning was dual zone climate control with rear vents. For the other Outback models stand was dual zone climate control but without with rear vents.
A range of performance information, such as, eco gauge, driving time, gear select indicator, cruise control set speed, odometer and trip computer were available via the Colour Multi-Information Display (MID) and all viewable in the centre of the dash.
For sound and navigation the 2.5i Premium comes with a multi-information in-dash satellite navigation system which features AM/FM radio (although I wonder how far we are from Digital AM), 6 speakers, MP3/WMA/iPod/DIVX compatibility, single CD player and a seven inch touch screen.
Driver seating was comfortable and came with an easy to manipulate 8-way power seat with dual memory and electric lumbar support.
The pièce de résistance was the enormous cargo space once the back seats were lowered a whopping 1690 litre area. Almost enough for moving house. And for a bit of magic - the back seats were lowered by the action of two simple levels located just inside the tail gate. No more having top open each rear passenger door to lower each seat.
The Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium is a great vehicle to drive. It's comfortable with loads of features. It is high on safety and drive-ability. Although it's promoted as an off-road vehicle for country driving and the like, it fits equally well into the city dwelling lifestyle.
At $43,490* it's not the cheapest in the Subaru Wagon/SUV range but it definitely not a good move to dismiss it on price alone.
* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Subaru dealer.
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