ROAD TEST: Subaru Outback goes where SUVs fear to tread
1. OUTBACK IS A SMART CHOICE
Wagons increasingly are being replaced by high-riding SUVs. Yet the Outback shows extra height doesn't necessarily translate to better clearance off the beaten track - it rides and handles well in the rough stuff that pitches SUVs at perilous angles. You just have to put up with looking at the back end of a Ford Ranger or Toyota Prado (rather than sitting up high enough to see through their windows). The Outback's superior occupant comfort is readily apparent at higher speeds on country rounds.
2. LOOK BEYOND THE BASE MODEL
The updated Outback represents reasonably good value across the range but typical buyers - those who live outside the cities - won't be impressed by the default halogen headlamps on the base model. Step up to the 2.5i Premium and LED lamps are included in the price, which ranges from $46,900-$49,000 drive-away. The diesel, representing the best value for long-distance commuters, ranges from $42,800-$43,700 for the 2.0D to the 2.0D Premium at $50,000-$51,400. Stump up $53,700-$55,300 for the six-cylinder petrol.
3. SUBARU PUSHES SAFETY MESSAGE
All versions use Subaru's latest generation of active safety. The effectiveness of the software makes this among the best of the mainstream car brands but the Outback still has no front and rear parking sensors or semi-autonomous parking. You also need to buy a Premium version, or the top-spec 3.6R, to pick up blind-spot warning, which is one of the few blemishes on the safety scorecard. The upside is the autonomous emergency braking operates well beyond our legal speed limits but be aware at that pace it will mitigate the impact rather than avoid a crash.
4. SERVICING IS STILL AN ISSUE
Three-year warranty is sub-par for a brand that aspires to be something special in the mainstream ranks. Servicing intervals compound that problem. When Chinese brands have 12 months between visits, there's no excuse for Subaru not to follow suit. The cost isn't fantastic either but I'd be more irate over the inconvenience of having to turn up twice a year. Intervals are six months/12,500km and three years will cost $2282 for the 2.5-litre petrol, $2520 for the 2.0-litre diesel and $2712 for the range-topping 3.6-litre. The competition does better.
5. DEFAULT GEAR IS IMPRESSIVE
Outbacks are packed with features to impress mum-and-dad buyers. Think smartphone mirroring, alloy wheels (with full-size spare), adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, dual-zone aircon and CD player (yep, Subie is one of the few to persist with a physical device for audio playback). Cargo capacity is 512L, with low loading lip.