Having spent more than four months with our Subaru Outback covering more than 5000km, it was time to give it back and with that, time to end our long-term road test.
Over the last four months we’ve come accustomed to the Outback’s versatility and durability. While technically the Outback is a high-riding version of the Liberty medium car, our experience with the car suggests it's not so strange that it's officially classified as a large SUV. It's a spacious and roomy wagon.
It has performed the role of our family car well. It’s simple to drive and park, has enough grunt for carrying the family and its luggage around, and it sips a reasonable 9.2L/100km on average for mainly inner city suburban driving to and from the shops.
Our only consistent issue has been the Bluetooth connectivity, which works intermittently. It occasionally allows you to use the steering wheel telephone controls to pick up or hang up a call but the majority of the time you are forced to use the phone to manually perform the task (which is illegal when driving).
As for Bluetooth audio streaming, even though the car says it has the functionality, we’ve managed to get it to work just the once. It refuses to enable the functionality no matter how many times we’ve tried. It clearly has an issue with Apple’s latest version of iOS which runs the iPhone, iPad and iPod lines, which means it’s now up to Subaru to issue a software update (something that is not likely to happen anytime soon).
The 2013 models come with USB support so that will eliminate any need for having to mess around with Bluetooth audio streaming if you don't want to.
Inside, the cabin makes a little too much use of hard plastics, which has resulted in some superficial surface scratches from bags and other items being put inside the car. It’s not a huge issue and overall the leather seats and the well-designed cabin has survived the onslaught of a baby and still looks new.
The big LCD screen certainly helps improve the cabin’s ambience. The satellite navigation system itself isn’t too bad once you get the hang of it but the Japanese insistence that you can’t program in a new destination when driving (even if the passenger is performing the task - with the seatbelt on) is infuriating. But this is the same case for any Japanese manufacturer so its not exactly a Subaru-only matter.
Just last week Subaru announced that it will launch an Outback diesel automatic, and no matter how we look at the petrol version, the diesel auto is certainly going to be the pick going forward.
Overall, here’s a more comprehensive summary of what we liked and what we’d like to see improve in the Subaru Outback:
- A very spacious and roomy cabin with a practical design ideal for a family of four. If you don’t need seven seats and have big prams and a general tendency to frequent Ikea, it’s perfect.
- Great refinement in build quality and minimal noise vibration and harshness inside.
- Easy to drive with light but direct steering
- Plenty of grunt to get you going without being a fuel guzzler.
- Smart electronic park brake, freeing up room in the cabin and automatically disengaging when appropriate.
- Ride and handles well for a car its size
- AWD handy if you plan to hit a few dirt roads or country roads.
- Good outward visibility and simple to park
- Not exactly a looker
- The infotainment and Bluetooth system lack finesse and a user-friendly interface
- No USB port on models with satnav (added in 2013 models)
- No rear parking sensors (but has a rear parking camera)
Next year we are swapping from the large SUV and wagons and going for a new style of car altogether. Check back in Feburary to see what our long term review will be.