Subaru Outback Review & Road Test

Rating: 8.0
$9,530 $11,330 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
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The Outback, but not as you know it.

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Subaru Outback Premium; 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol; six-speed CVT; wagon - $46,490*


  • None fitted.

CarAdvice Rating:

If we were playing that word association game, the words outback and comfort are hardly a winning combination - unless of course you’re talking about the Subaru Outback.

The Subaru Outback brings a serious level of comfort to the table, making this the kind of ‘outback’ experience I could easily come to terms with.

Somewhere between a wagon and an SUV, the Subaru Outback resembles a compact SUV, and plays in a segment that is home to some very strong competition. Starting with its own sibling, the Subaru Forrester is one of the top selling vehicles in this segment - then there’s the Toyota RAV4, the Hyundai Tucson and the Mitsubishi Outlander.

Our test Outback runs a 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed boxer engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We tested the petrol model, producing 123kW at 6000rpm and 229Nm at 4400rpm. The Outback has access to a nice amount of power, however the CVT produces a less than inspiring drone as it’s called to task. It takes some getting used to the whine from engine as you call upon some power. It delivers, but the engine noise does the overall ride experience no favours.

The 2.5i Outback is also available with a six-speed manual. A 3.6-litre engine is also available, fitted with a five-speed sportshift (automatic) only.

On our test route, the Outback delivered good fuel economy, with an average fuel consumption of 8.5L/100km on a combined route.

The Outback’s all-wheel-drive system delivers a solid and very composed drive experience, you feel glued to the road.

Acceleration from stand still is very good, quick to respond, and when you call for more power at cruising speeds the Outback delivers.

Gear changes from the auto transmission are a little sluggish, however using the paddleshifts – which seem quit the anomaly in the Outback – delivers a whole different result. Flipping through the paddles – which are standard on all automatic models - produces fast gear changes and I find myself enjoying the drive experience a whole lot more. The paddles move in tandem with the steering wheel for greater ease of use.

While the Outback is very easy to manouvre, the Outback's steering is a little bit vague and offers minimal feedback. As a result, the handling and overall drive experience lacks a level of engagement that would otherwise make this ride very enjoyable.

The ride of the Outback is composed and the suspension is great, however engine noise can be a little intrusive at times.

The Outback runs a ride height of 213mm which makes it fairly well prepared should you actually take this car into the outback.

Bigger than its predecessor (65 mm longer, 50 mm wider and 70 mm higher) the 2009 Outback boasts considerable proportions - 4730mm in length and 1770mm wide - and offers and abundance of space, for people and cargo. The downside to its growing proportions, however, is a rather slab-like appearance. The Outback lacks styling detail and the character that other Subaru models and competitors offer.

At 459 litres seats up the Outback's cargo capacity is huge. Add to this the versatility that comes with split fold seats, which increases the cargo space to 1628 litres and there's not much you couldn't load into the Outback. Sporty, active or just generally gear-laden buyers will be mad for this space.

The dash and centre console of the Outback are very busy, which is indicative of the many bells and whistles that come as standard in this Premium spec vehicle, which include an electric sunroof and leather trim, cruise control, satellite navigation, bluetooth, DVD/CD player, reversing camera and auxiliary input.

The Outback's interior is very well executed and offers a level of pomp and sophistication you would expect in a more expensive car. Soft curves frame the dash and centre console which combine high quality leather and plastic finishes. The eight-inch screen provides a clear visual for both the satellite navigation and reversing camera. Cabin ergonomics are very good, with a very comfortable driving position thanks to good adjustability of the seat – eight way adjustable - and tilt and reach adjust for the steering column.

Second row passengers are greeted with a big, comfortable space which easily accommodates three adults. Leg, shoulder and headroom are more than generous. In cabin storage is also great.

With safety features such as seven airbags, including driver’s knee airbag, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and stability control the Subaru Outback gains a five-star ANCAP rating.

The Subaru Outback is one of those cars that delivers on its promise. It’s a great choice family wagon that can hold its own in the suburbs, while also boasting off road capability. And it does all of this without compromising space, comfort or practicality. Its price tag is fitting for the overall package. It is a definite step up from some of the more drab wagons on the market, and offers an alternative to your typical compact SUV line-up.


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