Over 97 per cent of Subaru Outbacks built in the last 10 years are still on the road, which is why it has a reputation as one of the most rugged and reliable crossovers on the market. Now in its fifth generation the Outback is sticking resolutely to its roots with a new exterior design that’s as pragmatic-looking as ever, while the interior has received a much-upgrade. We jumped behind the wheel of a US-spec car, to bring you an early verdict before the Subaru Outback’s early 2015 UK launch.
First things first, the new Outback is completely redesigned. Essentially a taller, estate version of the Legacy saloon, it benefits from a trapezoidal grille up front and less black plastic on the sides. A more laid-back A-pillar and windshield rake give the Outback a sleeker profile, while the more pronounced belt line and tidier rear gate also smarten things up.
Despite virtually identical dimensions – its just 60mm taller than its predecessor and a fraction longer - interior room has improved considerably. Maximum boot space climbs by around 50-litres to over 1,700-litre (exact figures are yet to be confirmed), while there’s acres of space in all directions for rear passengers.
There’s a significant improvement over the last generation’s dated cabin, too, with an all-new easy-to-use touchscreen entertainment unit, measuring 6.2-inches on entry-level models and 7.0-inches on top-spec cars. Soft-touch materials are everywhere across the dash and center console, while knurled finishes on the hard plastics improve their look and feel. Having said that, the Outback’s interior is still workmanlike and not the last word in luxury.
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Nearly 50 kg was added to the new model – normally a bad thing – but since most of it is sound deadening materials, there’s an audible improvement in refinement on the move and a supple suspension makes it right at home on long cruises. Engine options mirror its predecessor, so expect a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel and 2.5-liter four-cylinder petrol to be offered in the UK – both with a choice a six-speed manual or a Lineartronic CVT, the latter costing around £1,500 more.
We only had the chance to drive the 2.5-litre petrol model, which felt sluggish and in need of turbocharging. However, we know from experience that the smooth 2.0-litre diesel engine model should be much better to drive, although it lags behind rivals in terms of fuel economy. Surprisingly, Subaru’s updated CVT is relatively good when you stamp on the throttle, with simulated “steps” that do a good job of mimicking a traditional automatic.
To improve the driving experience, Subaru has quickened the steering ratio to 14:1 and added torque vectoring to help cornering. Considering its height body roll is fairly well contained and overall grip has improved slightly. Where the Outback excels though is in off-road conditions – thanks to 221mm of ground clearance and a standard “X-Mode” function, which controls throttle response and brakes for perfectly controlled hill descents.
It should be safer than its predecessor, too, with the addition of blind spot detection and Subaru’s EyeSight camera system - a safety package that includes everything from an auto brake system to lane keep assistance.
Price: £32,000 (est)
Engine: 2.5-litre flat four
Transmission: CVT auto, four-wheel drive
Power: 173bhp (est)
0-60mph: 9.3 seconds
Top speed: 123mph (est)
Economy: 33.6mpg (est)
CO2: 220g/km (est)
On sale: early 2015