From £27,1957
Off-road-focused estate enters sixth era promising greater on-road sophistication
11 August 2021

What is it?

Is this the car to save Subaru in the UK? After a disastrous performance in 2020 in which its sales dived 68%, the Japanese firm is clearly looking towards the sixth-generation Outback to steady its operations and provide it with some renewed momentum here.

With the adoption of Subaru’s all-new Global Platform (as used by the Forester SUV, making it marginally longer and wider), the changing of every exterior panel and a newly designed interior featuring more contemporary digital functions, Subaru is quietly confident that the new raised estate will provide it with the impetus to at least get it back on a level footing.

At the heart of the new Outback is a heavily reworked version of its predecessor’s naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer petrol engine, making 167bhp and 186lb ft. It’s mated to a standard CVT and, as tradition dictates, a permanent four-wheel drive system.

The interior is more spacious than before and has received a marginal increase in load capacity, while an 11.6in portrait-oriented infotainment touchscreen heads a long list of technology updates. It’s clearly an improvement on the old Outback, particularly in terms of material quality and overall fit and finish. However, the analogue instruments and switchgear look dated next to some crossover rivals’.

What's it like?

Our set test route wasn’t exactly demanding, but it did reveal the Outback to be a pleasingly competent alternative to the raft of SUV-style offerings that cram the market.

The new boxer engine is certainly responsive and quite willing when worked, although it lacks the overall smoothness and refinement of more conventional inline four-cylinder engines from competitor firms.

The CVT is set up to mimic the action of a conventional torque- converter automatic, with eight artificial gears, and comes with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. It’s smooth in its action, but the inherent properties of its operation makes the engine pull unnecessarily high revs in certain driving conditions – and with them quite a lot of engine noise at typical motorway cruising speeds.

The Outback’s elevated driving position and large expanse of glass ensure excellent visibility, although the raised ride height and generous ground clearance do contribute to a fair amount of wind buffeting and noise when you’re pushing on.

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In other regards, though, the car is well sorted, with a surprisingly high level of chassis sophistication and a pleasing heft to the steering, which is also direct and precise.

The standard four-wheel drive system and its integral torque- vectoring function provide plenty of grip and excellent levels of traction on more demanding roads.

Body roll builds quickly on the entry to corners but is then excellently controlled. The Outback has clearly been much improved in this respect, endowing it with greater driving appeal than at any time since it joined the Subaru line-up in 1994.

The best aspect of the Outback, though, is its improved ride. The suspension provides fine isolation of bumps and ruts, both at lower speeds around town and at faster ones out on the open road.

A further strong point is the suppression of road noise, which is commendably low by class standards.

We have yet to take the Outback off road, but with 213mm of ground clearance, improved approach, departure and ramp angles and a reworked X-Mode (effectively off-road cruise control), we would be surprised if it doesn’t prove an even better proposition away from the bitumen than its predecessor.

Towing capacity, meanwhile, is put at 2000kg with a braked trailer and 750kg for an unbraked trailer.

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Should I buy one?

A new platform has brought added chassis sophistication, driving charm and refinement to an already characterful wagon.

If you’ve been considering buying an Outback, now is the time to step in, because the new model is a clear improvement over the old, most notably in its ride and refinement.

 

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xxxx 16 August 2021

Horses for courses but £34k for a car that takes more than 10 seconds to get to 62, would be acceptable if it wasn't for the dire fuel economy. It's going to struggle in the UK   

Gargae Man 14 August 2021

Sadly the reviewer,as is the case in Australia is "bland".I have been a Subaru owner since2003 with an Outback H6,200K KMs without any problem and since 2016 an Outback 2.5 Premium.These cars have an overall subtle ability to provide safe and economical travel for years.Both my vehicles have run off 1600KMs on trips in two days with sure footedness,no matter what the weather,quite cabin,due to a change of tyres,the H6 with Michelins and the 2015 with Geolanders,soon to be replaced with Michelins.My spanner man recommends 40 PSI in the front and 35 in the rear.I have safely had 60K KMS from the tyres.As to the CVT, it is an aquired taste but once mastered, it is a smooth efficent system.In cruise control the only gripe is that it increases revs on inclines which if you aren't using this, the revs are lower but same speed achieved.Given the upgraded package,especially the Napa Valley leather it provides a super car,which I agree it's an aquired taste,much like anything in this life.Live with it and adjust you won't be dissapointed.    

Commenter 12 August 2021
Autocar may want to do a comparison between it and highlander and the Grand Cherokee