REVIEW | Grown and improved Subaru Outback still has a point to prove in SA

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2021 Subaru Outback
2021 Subaru Outback

The Outback is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine that produces 138kW and 245Nm.

Pricing starts from R699 000 for the Field derivative and R729 000 for the Touring.

The vehicle features a number of safety and security features as standard.

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The weather might not have been ideal across the country, especially in Cape Town where wet and windy conditions asserted their influence. These type of conditions would normally serve as a deterrent for most vehicles, but Subaru's new Outback crossover would eat it for breakfast. 

The Japanese automaker first launched the Outback in 1994, and it currently sits alongside the Forester, XV and Impreza in the local line-up. Subaru's presence in South Africa has been relatively mooted, and using the Naamsa figures for the month of June, they only sold 65 new vehicles - eight of them were Outback's.

Subaru launched its latest Outback crossover in SA earlier this year, and for the first time, customers had the option to choose between two versions. Pricing for the Field derivative starts from R699 000 while the top-of-the-range Touring goes for R729 000. The model specification tested here is the Field.

2021 Subaru Outback
2021 Subaru Outback

Lots to like - inside and out

At first glance, the station wagon slash crossover body that measures in at 4 850mm is immediately noticeable along with the black roof rails with green accents, which are new additions. It sits pretty on beefy 18-inch black metallic alloys that add to the healthy 213mm ground clearance - something this model needed because it was designed for maximum ease-of-movement over uneven surfaces.

In a body this long, it offers a 522 litre capacity boot and, with the seats down, expands to a massive 1 267L. Access to the luggage area is granted via hands-free tailgate operation. While the larger body is excellent for interior space, it requires a bit of concentration when parking and navigating tight spaces.

READ: Subaru's new Outback SUV is more powerful and boasts a number of brand and segment firsts

Like many other Japanese automakers, the interiors of their cars are never too fancy or over the top, with only the significant bits like the infotainment and instrument cluster screens sprinkled with magic. Inside the Scooby, your derriere is perched on electronically-controlled and heated front seats, though the majority of the seat is covered in synthetic leather. Field models come with choice silver fabric seats, while the Touring comes with full Nappa leather upholstery. In all honesty, when sitting on the faux leather, there isn't a lack in quality, and it provides adequate skeletal frame support.

The 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment screen is the focal point for the driver with various functionality like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation and radio - all of which are easy to set up through the blue and purple background combination makes the screen look a bit 'playful'.

2021 Subaru Outback
2021 Subaru Outback

Getting to grips on the road

Push the engine start button and the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre Boxer engine clears its throat before coming to life. It sounds much louder than the 2.0-litre mill in Subaru's arsenal on cold starts, but that is down to the horizontal firing order and the extra 500cc. The engine - which makes 138kW and 245Nm - is not the most powerful, and the eight-speed CVT transmission doesn't inspire much spirited driving. Under heavy acceleration, the spread of power to all four wheels is hardly felt in the drive, though the stationary pull-away reminds one of the WRX.

Looking past the CVT's shortcomings, it aids the Outback's fuel consumption; rated at 7.3-litres/100km. Road holding is superb and exactly what you'd expect from a car with Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive. This system also works in conjunction with the nifty onboard X-mode terrain management. When asked to do the job under acceleration or cruising to preserve fuel better, the engine has enough power to do what the driver asks.

The model comes standard with many firsts like Auto Vehicle Hold, Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Alert, Lane Departure, Lane Keep Assist and Hill Descent Control. The EyeSight Driver system is a genius creation that throws up a message on the instrument cluster display, notifying the driver to keep eyes on the road. This system recognises up to five drivers and automatically adjusts to each driver's personalised settings.

The Outback is a very particular vehicle in the sense that it sells itself to the person that wants a daily runner and then do some hard exploring off the beaten track. Subaru has definitely improved on earlier Outback iterations, but local buyers are more inclined to look at better-established SUV offerings in the market.

Subaru's sales footprint is not as strong in South Africa as it is in Japan, which is a shame because the Outback warrants a consideration.

2021 Subaru Outback
2021 Subaru Outback
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