December 19, 2016 @ 04:10 PM

Subaru Outback - This is no Softie

You’re looking at arguably the most capable Japanese SUV you can buy, if you can get over its looks

It is tough not to be shallow but it is quite difficult to look at the Subaru Outback thinking if this is the most un-handsomest SUV you can buy today. If there is one that looks less handsome than the Outback, it would be the Forrester. But let’s face it, none of Subaru’s vehicles, no matter which segment or time period it belongs to, are good-looking; the BRZ does not count. And I don’t think Subaru are even apologetic about it or else we would have been inundated with stories of design language and wavy-lines inspired by something reimagined from nature. Consequently, the Outback’s design is closer to something out of the last decade.

 

The proportion certainly looks off. You have the low-slung bonnet that abruptly joins up with the huge lump of metal and glass that makes up the cabin and cargo hold, which looks unharmonised. Top it all up with the roof rails and you have an SUV with a look that needs getting used to. In spite of that, there are a few good qualities of the exterior. The 213mm ground clearance puts the Outback on stilts, which is a good thing. The grill automatically shutters itself close to warm up the engine and reduces wind resistant, and knows how to open up when it gets hot under the bonnet.  

If the exterior comes from the last decade then so does the interior. Nothing overly fancy in here; you get the usual touch-screen multimedia on top of the air-conditioning readout and control panels. In spite of how the panels and dashboard looks, which one could argue that it appears low rent, the Subaru materials feel good to the touch and the seats doesn’t tire you out even during a long drive. A large body calls for a large cabin space and the Outback doesn’t disappoint. The living room up front is vast and the same goes for the rear. Rear boot space is also remarkable and can be expanded to load even more.

 

The Outback gets better once you start the engine and go. And boy, can this thing go. Underneath that low-slung bonnet is a flat-four boxer that makes 172bhp and 250Nm, paired with the Lineartronic CVT. The engine does not have any form of force induction but the way the Outback feels light-footed during acceleration will make you think otherwise. And the gearbox is nicely responsive, quickly stepping down gears with delightful urgency when called to do so.

Built into the steering are the Subaru’s SI Drive modes, of which there are three. Engage Intelligent to make the Outback use less fuel and reduce its aggression. Hit up Sport and the powertrain delivers power quicker – this will be the mode you’ll find yourself using the most. Select the last mode, Sport Sharp, and the SUV changes its character. In Sport Sharp, the CVT divides itself into eight gear ratios that effectively augment the engine’s response to be sharper and more immediate. The increase in pick-up is noticeably felt either when you are going off from standstill or escaping a corner.

 

For a large-bodied SUV, the Outback scores top marks in balancing and petering out the body roll. The boxer’s engine’s inherent configuration and placement in the bay helps to anchor the SUV to the ground, creating dynamics that cannot be found with conventional inline or V-configuration engines. It will run the corners with vigour; just don’t expect the steering to be alert. But you can count on it for being accurate-ish. The all-wheel drive will do its job to keep the nose honest, even if there are slight inklings of understeer. If things get hairy, Vehicle Dynamics Control and Active Torque Vectoring will tame the situation.

So the Outback is good on the road and is also just as good on the off-road. The X-Mode puts the Subaru in a non-softroader Japanese class of its own. Tap the button and the system keeps an eye out for the tyre or tyres that are slipping. The computer will then direct the appropriate amount of power to the wheel or wheels that still have grip in order to push the Outback forward.

 

As good as it is, the Outback has one stumbling block — price. At RM224,846.30 with taxes, insurance and GST, the Outback demands for quite a lot of money. Nevertheless, the Outback is a well-made, fully featured piece of machinery that can go into places that the current slew of Japanese SUVs can’t. The off-road bicycle-ly active types should take a look at this one closely.

 

CHRIS NG

Subaru Outback 2.5i-S

Price

RM224,846.30 (OTR, with ins. and GST)

Engine

2498cc, 4-cyl, 16-valve DOHC, Boxer, 172bhp @ 5800rpm, 235Nm @ 4000rpm

Transmission

Lineartronic CVT, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive

Performance

0-100kph in 10.2s, 198kph max speed, 10.0 l/100km (combined)

Dimensions (length/width/height, in mm)

4815/1840/1675

Weight

1595kg

On sale

Now

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