• Refinement, spaciousness, drivability, interior trim, audio system, sat-nav, bluetooth audio, safety
  • No rear or front parking sensors, no USB, poor bluetooth telephone audio clarity

OUR RATING
7 / 10



Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report

The Subaru Outback is an ideal family car if you need a rugged but civilised city-friendly SUV with bulletproof reliability and the benefit of full-time all-wheel drive.

Having given back our Hyundai i40 wagon long termer, we needed something else that could cater to our needs. Something with adequate space for a baby seat and pram plus all the things that come with having a one year old.

The Subaru Outback has always been top-of-mind, we’ve already had two in the family (and an XV) so when the opportunity came to take a brand-new 2.5-litre four-cylinder automatic Premium variant for a long term review, it was too good to pass up.

The Outback is classified as a large SUV, but it’s certainly not as high as a traditional SUV. In fact, it’s really just a higher-riding Subaru Liberty wagon with some physical enhancements to give it a more rugged look. In essence, it is to the Subaru Liberty what the Subaru XV is to the Subaru Impreza.

From the outside the Outback hasn’t changed much for the last few years, this current shape has been around since 2009 but it still looks fresh, thanks largely to its clean but sharp design.

Getting in is simple and that extra ride height over a traditional wagon (such as the i40) makes it much easier for putting the little one in his seat. It’s higher than your average car but not high enough to make it intimidating to park. It feels perfectly at ease in tight car park spaces and we’ve had no trouble getting it and out of small city parking lots.

Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report

It comes with a reversing camera (displayed through the large 8-inch central LCD system when the vehicle is in reverse gear) but for some reason the Outback premium misses out on rear and front parking sensors as standard. Although the reversing camera is helpful, we would definitely opt for the reversing sensors as well, since they provide a more useful guide using audible warnings, which doesn’t take your eyes of the road. The sensors are  available as an accessory from Subaru or for about $300 from a third party.

Seating position is easily adjustable (8-way power driver’s seat) and the steering wheel moves in and out as well as up and down for perfect alignment. The speedometer and other driver-focused instruments are clear and easy to read regardless of steering position.

The location of the satellite navigation screen means you’ll need to take your eyes off the road to glance (if you’re not good at following audible instructions) but given its large size and good clarity, it’s a non-issue. Strangely, the large screen doesn’t dim when the headlights are on, you have to manually tell it to go into night mode which can be a tad annoying.

The rear seats are very spacious and despite housing a rather chunky infant seat, there’s enough room to fit two adults as well. The rear also get air conditioning vents, which are a must in Queensland summers. Overall there are plenty of storage spaces throughout the cabin, some with rubber lining that makes them ideal for placing phones and other slippery valuables. The boot can take our oversized pram and the week’s groceries without complaint. We managed to fit multiple suitcases as well as a pram for a weekend away with room to spare.

Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report

The six-speaker audio system provides excellent sound quality, though it did take us a while to work out how to get the Bluetooth audio streaming to work properly with our iPhone. If you opt for the Premium grade (tested here), which comes with the satellite navigation, you won’t have a USB port for audio purposes and will instead have to make do with RCA jacks that are somewhat pointless for today’s modern gadgets and also don’t provide charge. You can, however, get an adapter that will make the iPod sing and we believe that Subaru is looking at upgrading its media interface in the next model year.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine is good for 123kW of power and 229Nm of torque. Which is reasonable considering the Outback only weighs 1.5 tonnes. If you go the automatic route you’ll be using a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is unlike a traditional automatic but does its best to behave as such. In-gear acceleration is smooth and it certainly doesn’t feel gutless for inner city driving or overtaking on the highway. It’s not as gutsy as the diesel Outback (360Nm of torque) but then again, that’s not available in an automatic (yet).

Steering feel is almost not worth mentioning as it’s perfectly suited to the character of the car. It’s not too heavy or too light. It’s ideal for car parks but feels responsive and provides adequate feedback for when you get a bit enthusiastic. The Yokohama Geolandar tyres are perhaps the only downside of the Outback’s driving dynamics as they tend not to provide the best grip when its wet, this is the same issue we have in our Subaru XV which makes use of the same tyres. They provide ample grip in the dry, however.

Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report

After spending a month in the Subaru Outback, we’ve found it to be an ideal family car. It’s quiet, spacious, refined and comes with Subaru’s well-known emphasis on safety (maximum five-star safety rating). Our average fuel economy for the first 1,500km of the car’s life has been 9.3L/100km, which is not bad considering it has spent most of its time driving short distances and has barely been bedded in.

She says:

The Subaru Outback is a very comfortable and reliable family car. My favourite feature is the large screen, which displays the wide-angle reversing camera, which allows the driver to see far more than just what is directly behind the car.

The Outback could make use of parking sensors especially in the front of the car. Although parking the large Subaru is relatively easy, even in the tight underground shopping car parks. The Outback contains plenty of room for the family to sit comfortably along with all the bits and bobs needed for a couple of days away over the school holidays.

We will be updating our long term test again next month, feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding the Subaru Outback and we will get back to you with a detailed answer.


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SUBARU OUTBACK BREAKDOWN

Subaru Outback Review: Long-term report
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  • Hithere

    My MY11 Outback 2,5i Touring Wagon came standard with reverse sensors which where factory fit so your are slightly incorrect there.

    And the Outback is the first car I have seen where a baby capsule will fit in reverse without the passenger seat having to be all the way forward and bolt upright, best back seat bar none.

    Our fuel economy on highway runs is 6.9L/100km which is phenomenal for a petrol of this size, and can go just on 900kms between fuel lights.

    Around town its heavy though, using a tad over 10.2L/100km.

    Best part is we got ours as a demo and paid less than $36,000 on the road which makes much of the competition look awful in terms of value.

    I will be keeping this one for a while.

    • Able

      The car in the pics does not have parking sensors at all, so how could he be incorrect? 

      • Zahmad

         Different model grades perhaps? Premium vs Touring?

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      Update: Subaru says it’s available as an accessory (I have updated the story to reflect this)

      Original comment:

      Thanks for your comment. I have asked Subaru to clarify on this.

      It certainly isn’t standard on this model and I couldn’t find any reference to it as an option on Subaru’s website or press material. I will update this once I hear back. 

      Glad to know you like it, how many KM have you done now to achieve 6.9L/100km on the highway?

    • Bryan

       My wife and I have a 2005 Nissan x trail (we bought it just before our first child was born) and we were able to comfortably fit a baby capsule in the back seat with enough room for my wife to ride comfortably in the front passenger seat.  I am quite a bit taller than my wife and I will admit it was uncomfortably tight for me in front of the capsule but it was o.k. for short drives.  I wasn’t particularly keen on the x trail before I we bought it but it has definately grown on me in the years that we’ve had it – I can honestly say they are a terrific little car!

  • bodybyvi

    Which car I have seen where a baby capsule will fit in reverse without the
    passenger seat having to be all the way forward and bolt upright, best
    back seat bar none.

  • davie

    Hi Alborz,

    The rear air vents seem quite small, do they flow a noticeable amount of cool air? 

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      I will check for you and report back in next month’s update.

  • RV

    I have done 46,000km in 2 years in 2.5 auto premium. I love the comfort and space. The seats are big and comfy, the leather has aged well, the seat position memory setting is handy with multiple drivers, and the back seat is very roomy – great for my lanky teenagers.
    I dislike the CVT which over-revs when going down hill, but is otherwise OK. Commuting in heavy Sydney peak hour traffic returns me around 10L/100km. I did notice a significant improvement in performance around the 40,000km mark – not sure why, but it became much more responsive to putting the foot down.
    I had reverse sensors factory fitted as I park in a tight spot at work, but it is very easy to manoeuvre in the carpark.
    I think the electronic handbrake hillstart function, which automatically releases when you touch the accelerator is fantastic, but it does have to be reset every time you turn on the car (annoying).
    It would have been nice to have auto on headlights and rain sensing wipers – something cheaper cars have now days.
    The single lever rear-seat folding action is very good, and the flat load space when the back seats are down has been very useful for those big, long IKEA boxes.
    The climate control aircon works well, including to the back seat.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      Thanks RV

  • Tony

    Tony,

    Hi Alborz, I enjoyed reading your review of the Premium i40 wagon. I am considering a vehicle of that size in the future, (Ford Mondeo wagon is another option) and would appreciate your feedback as to how the i40 and Subaru compare and which you would ultimately choose. Thanks.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      the i40 diesel is pretty good car and if you don’t need the extra ride height and AWD capability, it provides a very good choice.

      The Ford Mondeo Wagon is a bit old now and the new one is out already in other markets, so I think if you’re going that direction, buy it second hand as the new one is coming out soon which will depreciate the price of a new one now. 

      The Outback or Forester are both excellent cars, the Forester is newer and would probably be my pick, simply because it’s not half way between a wagon and a SUV, it’s just an SUV and it’s newer. The Outback is a good car too, it’s very refined and will probably drive without a fault for 500,000km. 
      I think for me, personally, I would probably not pick either the i40 or Outback, I’d go for an SUV and that would either be the Forester or CX5. But if you don’t want an SUV, then I’d highly recommend comparing the Outback Diesel with i40 wagon and even the Skoda Octavia Scout, which is a very similar car but not as common, if that means anything to you. 

  • davie

    This is exactly the sort of review that I am interested in reading. I have a young family and seem to be outgrowing my 98 Impreza hatch/wagon I bought when I was single and would only buy manual cars. Carting around mountain bikes and surf boards was all that mattered back then.

    The key things that now matter to my middle-aged self:
    - AWD grip wet and dry
    - Rear seat space for 2 x kids seats and possibly 1 adult at times
    - Cold Air flow to rear seat on hot days
    - ease of parking for wife who will drive it 90% of time
    - rear camera
    - highway performance – does it struggle?
    - ability to hold pram and overnight bags for trips to in-laws
    - Performance of auto transmission
        – can it keep up with traffic
        – Is the auto not completely awful.
    - Fuel economy

    and lastly…
    - does it have any token performance or features which might provide at least some excitement when driving

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      AWD Grip wet and dry – as described in the review, the Geolandar tyres aren’t the best in the wet, but excellent in the dry

      Rear seats – easily fit two baby seats and a not so large adult

      Rear Cold Air flow – I will test this and report back

      Parking – very good, but would recommend the parking sensor kit as the standard reversing camera is not as ideal as the audible warning

      Highway – Not really struggling but it’s not as good as the diesel or 3.6 but hey, I think it’s more than enough for a family car, really.

      Luggage space – heaps, no problems with our oversized pram and weekend away suitcases plus more. 

      Auto – the CVT is not ideal in any car but Subaru’s is one of the better examples. I would probably go with a diesel manual if the wife agreed but otherwise it’s not all that bad. On another note, the diesel automatic will be out next year, so if you want to wait for that. It may be worth it – it can certainly keep up with traffic

      Fuel economy – so far this car has only clocked 1500km so the usage mentioned in the review is very likely to get better

      Performance – No, not really. It’s a family car. It’s no WRX…

      • Noddy of Toyland

        Thanks for replying to these questions Alborz, you’re a good bloke.

  • jeff

    Hello Alborz, have you checked the accuracy of the speedo. Our MY11 Liberty reads 100 but the car is doing 91kph. I have test driven a MY12 Outback and the error was exactly the same against my portable GPS. I asked Subaru and they said they set all their speedos at plus 5% plus 2kph. Personally I believe this is very poor considering you have to do mental calculations all the time to get the correct speed. We also have the same obsolete (RCA PLUGS!!!) low res 8 inch screen with GPS, but the GPS is so user unfriendly we use a portable one. The maps in our car were 2 years out of date when we took delivery of the new car. Other than that I am seriously considering buying an Outback for myself (the Liberty is my spouces) but I would immediatly change they tyres for a quieter set with larger diameter to correct the speedo, and smooth the ride which is quite thumpy with the 50 series as standard. I would also fit parking sensors all round, rip out the huge footrest (A block of styrene under the carpet) and fit a quality soundproofing under the carpet, as Subaru have skimped this area.  It will cost about $2000 to do these things, unfortunately, but it would to me be a byg improvement. By the way I have big feet and hate footrests.

  • Grey Nomad

    Hired a 2012 model with a CVT for 18 days in Tasmania lasy September. Absolute rubbish transmission, returned the vehicle and swapped it for another make. The purpose of hiring the Outback was to try before buying a 2013 model Outback to replace my 2002 model Outback. I have owned 7 Subaru vehicles since 1984 and my immediate family have owned 12 in total. Unfortunately, other than the diesel, the Outback is no longer available with a manual transmission, so for me no more Subaru vehicles. Wake up Subaru, you are living on your reputation and no longer producing the type of vehicle that gave you that reputation.

Subaru Outback Specs

2.5i PREMIUM (SAT-NAV) : 2.5L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 6 SP MANUAL - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 4D WAGON
Car Details
Make
SUBARU
Model
OUTBACK
Variant
2.5i PREMIUM (SAT-NAV)
Series
MY11
Year
2012
Body Type
4D WAGON
Seats
5
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
2.5L
Cylinders
INLINE 4
Max. Torque
229Nm @  4000rpm
Max. Power
123kW @  5600rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
81.7W/kg
Bore & Stroke
99.5x79mm
Compression Ratio
10.0
Valve Gear
SINGLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP MANUAL
Drive Type
ALL WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
4.44
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
65
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
8.9L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1505
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1615mm
Length
4790mm
Width
1820mm
Ground Clearance
213mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:1500  Unbrake:735
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
11
Front Rim Size
7x17
Rear Rim Size
7x17
Front Tyres
225/60 R17
Rear Tyres
225/60 R17
Wheel Base
2745
Front Track
1535
Rear Track
1530
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones, Power front seat Driver, Power Sunroof
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution
Driver
Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Power Steering, Reversing Camera
Entertainment
CD with 6 CD Stacker, Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Exterior
Fog Lights - Front, Roof Racks, Rear Spoiler
Interior
Leather Upholstery, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Other
Service Interval
6 months /  12.5,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
8-I-15
Country of Origin
JAPAN