We’ve now spent more than two months with the Subaru Outback wagon and have found it a reliable, refined and overall smooth family car well suited to our needs.
We have been impressed by the Outback’s quite cabin and sturdy build quality. It has also surprised us by just how much it can carry for a car that is easy to park and navigate around town.
We travelled to Ikea this month and bought a series of shelfs and other random items that were much larger than the boot would fit on its own. Simply folding the rear seats (60:40) allowed us to fit two kids, one in a child seat, and the shelves in the back without any hassle.
Over the last 70 or so days, our average fuel economy figure has not dropped below 9L/100km, which is still pretty close to Subaru’s claimed 8.4L/100km and the good chunk of our commutes have been in suburbia.
The 65L fuel tank means you’ll get roughly 700km out of a cycle, which is not too bad, but the diesel variant (manual only) which we have tested, uses 6L/100km and carries the same fuel tank, meaning it will easily handle 1000km per load.
The leather seats and the material used for the cabin have proved very useful, as our one-year-old baby’s best attempts at making a mess are easily cleaned. We’ve also found the seat memory function has come in handy, but could be improved if was enabled on the key fob so we could have the seat position ready prior to getting in (since one of us sits much closer to the steering wheel than the other).
As a car at its core, the Subaru Outback is a very good package. It’s simple to drive and the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol provides enough power and torque to get five adults and their luggage moving without issue. The continuously variable transmission is hardly noticeable until you floor it and hear the whine that’s associated with these types of gearboxes. We’ve yet to face a situation where the Outback has struggled for pace in either keeping up or overtaking traffic.
Although we’ve had it for over two months, we still haven’t got used to the fact that it doesn’t have reversing sensors (though it does have a reversing camera presented through an 8-inch LCD). Rear and front sensors would be highly recommended as either a dealer fit option or fitted as a third party accessory (roughly $300 for rear or $600 for both from a third party).
We’ve also had our share of issues with the car’s satellite navigation and infotainment system. The satnav screen is of high quality and good resolution but the interface to input destinations and navigate the audio controls can be rather frustrating to use and the lack of a USB interface (which we believe is coming very soon) has also been a disappointment.
The biggest issue, though, is the Bluetooth connectivity. The steering wheel phone controls are not allowing us to pick up or hang up a call, which means we need to manually answer the phone using the device itself. We tested this with the iPhone 4/4S and 5 and all presented the same issue.
There’s also the Bluetooth audio streaming which although is available as a feature, tends to work intermittently as it forgets the iPhone is able to stream music, meaning you’ll have to manually set it up almost each time the Outback is restarted. We suspect both these issues may have something to do with the latest version of the iPhone operating system (iOS 6.01 at the time of writing) and may perhaps be solved with either a Subaru software update or one from Apple.
This month we spent a fair bit of time in the back seats to test out the air-conditioning vent capabilities in Brisbane’s scorching sun and ride comfort over rough terrain. It’s fair to say the entire cabin is kept at the set temperature and the rear air vents help to rapidly cool the Outback down when left out in the sun. Rear ride comfort is also pretty good and no bump has yet woken up our little boy up from his naps.
The sunroof has gotten little use as it seems to be positioned too far towards the front of the Outback’s cabin and if the glass remains unshielded, it tends to heat up the car rather quickly. It would’ve been nice to have a larger sunroof or have it placed further back so the rear passengers could also enjoy the view. Some competitors in this segment offer panoramic roofs, which is a great feature if you have young ones.
Overall we’ve so far been rather impressed by the Subaru Outback, it’s the type of car we’d buy if we needed something super reliable, refined and highly capable across multiple terrain. The all-wheel drive system has been a godsend in the wet and further adds to the list of reasons why you’d pick the Outback over its front-wheel drive competitors.
The electric park brake is also a brilliant addition to car in this class as not only does it save space but automatically disengages when it needs to. Once the few niggling technology issues have been resolved, it would get a big tick from us.
This coming month we intend to take it off-road and see how the outback handles itself on dirt.