Skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, wakeboarding: they all need either long or cumbersome equipment, and transport to places where proper tarmac can be sparse. They need a vehicle that’s an enabler. The Outback 2.5i Sport is that vehicle. With four-wheel drive, plenty of ground clearance and a practical station wagon body, it’ll take a family or a group of mates for adventures.
The Outback 2.5i Sport is a raised version of the Legacy 2.5i Sport and is the step below the Forester in terms of off-road capability (the Forester has a few more mm of ground clearance and some extra driving modes to help in the real rough stuff).
As well as Symmetrical All-wheel Drive, Subaru’s main safety feature is its EyeSight Preventative Safety System. This consists of a camera either side of the rear-view mirror. The cameras capture a three-dimensional image and can tell if a car is braking ahead of you, or if you’re about to run into a pedestrian. If automatic braking intervention is required, EyeSight can make that decision before you’ve even had time to react to help reduce or diminish the severity of a frontal collision.
EyeSight also takes over the throttle pre-collision, and provides active cruise control, lane departure warning and lead vehicle start alert (when the car in front of you moves out of the way while you’re under adaptive cruise control, or you are stationary and the car in front moves away it beeps to let you know).
The EyeSight system is great except where there are confusing lines. For example, I drove a stretch of road for around a kilometre which had a dotted light blue line painted a third of the way into the lane and the lane departure system just beeped incessantly like I was in some hellish casino. Of course, you can turn it off, but I hadn’t found that button by then, and didn’t want to take my eyes off the road to find it.
Subaru also includes its other safety features such as seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag), Vehicle Dynamics Control System, Brake Assist, ABS, hill hold, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, self-levelling rear suspension and a reversing camera. The large centre-dash screen displays the camera image.
The Outback gets 213mm of ground clearance. To put this in perspective, a Toyota Camry has around 154mm and a Holden Commodore around 110mm. The 6cm advantage over the Camry makes a difference on gravel back roads and unkempt camping spots. Add all-wheel drive into the equation and you’ve got a station wagon that will pull you through some moderately rough terrain. It perfectly suits Subaru’s desired image of the lifestyle vehicle for those that want to get off the beaten track (but not too much).
It even rides well on 18-inch alloys that wear 225/55R18 tyres. The sidewalls of the tyres are still relatively tall so give some flex over bumpy roads. Above the wheels you’ll see plenty of room in the wheel arches for suspension travel, and this is what gives the Outback its excellent ground clearance. It also makes it look a bit uncool. It’s not the prettiest girl at the prom from some angles, but this ungainly look belies its main strength: its ride. Seat comfort is excellent and, because it behaves itself extremely well on bumpy roads and tight corners, passengers are pleased. The driving position is excellent and the seats are perfectly sculpted, being neither too contoured and bucket-like, nor flat and unsupportive.
Apart from the looks which are love them/loathe them, the only weak point in the car is the rather anaemic acceleration. The 2.5-litre boxer engine delivers 127kW and 235Nm of torque, which is a long way from being peppy. Subaru claims 8l/100km combined fuel consumption, and 6.5l/100km on the open road. Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT transmission is one of the better CVTs and you can take some control with paddles on the steering wheel, but you need to rev the hell out of it to get any decent acceleration.
This is a shame because I’ve owned hotter Subarus in the past and they are great. The Outback has all the excellent handling characteristics you would expect would have evolved from its extensive rally heritage – it’s strong and stable, but still supple – so perhaps the 3.6-litre Outback is the model to try if you expect to be doing a lot of open road motoring and want easier overtaking performance.
The Outback is the station wagon version of the Legacy 2.5 X that we tested a few weeks ago. Being a station wagon you can get a good load in the boot – 490 litres with the back seats up or 1690 litres with them folded flat. It’ll tow a 1500kg braked trailer, too.
I feel that Subaru is struggling with its range’s image a little. It’s something I reckon started with the bug-eyed version 7 Impreza and hasn’t got better since. I personally want Subaru to get back to what it was in the late 1990s when it had attitude and that throbbing boxer exhaust note. They weren’t the best-looking cars then, but they were the champions of providing rapid, competent sedans and hatchbacks in the form of the WRX and Legacy. There’s no doubt they have the handling sorted, and obviously safety plays a huge part in any person’s purchase therefore EyeSight and all-wheel drive is a big win, but Subaru has lost its, well, ‘Subaruness’.
If you like the looks, the Outback is going to flatter your driving and probably keep your kids from bouts of car sickness more than some other models. It’s also a practical, go-most-places station wagon that would be perfect in a rural environment, or for townies who want to get amongst nature on the weekends with their cumbersome sporting equipment.
- Sensible pricing
- EyeSight technology
- Good ground clearance
- Weak motor/performance
- Not the prettiest
|LineartronicTM CVT (only transmission available)||Yes|
|Gear ratio 1st||3.581|
|Gear ratio 2nd||2.262|
|Gear ratio 3rd||1.658|
|Gear ratio 4th||1.208|
|Gear ratio 5th||0.885|
|Gear ratio 6th||0.618|
|Gear ratio reverse||3.667|
|Final reduction gear ratio||3.900|
|Engine Type||Horizontally-opposed Boxer 4-cylinder, petrol engine|
|Bore x stroke||94.0mm x 99.0mm|
|Compression ratio||10.0 : 1|
|Valve mechanism||DOHC with AVCS|
|Fuel tank capacity||65 litres|
|Fuel system||Multi point sequential injection|
|Maximum power output (DIN)||127kW@5600rpm|
|Maximum torque (DIN)||235Nm@4100rpm|
|Electronic Throttle Control system (ETC)||Drive-by-wire|
|Fuel consumption (ADR 81/02)^ – combined||8 l/100km|
|Fuel consumption (ADR 81/02)^ – urban||10.7 l/100km|
|Fuel consumption (ADR 81/02)^ – extra urban||6.5 l/100km|
|CO2 emissions (ADR 81/02) combined||185 g/km|
Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
|Symmetrical All Wheel Drive||Automatic|
|Active Torque Split||Yes|
|Steering||Engine speed sensitive power assisted rack and pinion|
|Minimum turning circle (kerb to kerb)||11m|
|Front||McPherson strut type, independent suspension|
|Rear||Self-levelling double wishbone type, independent suspension|
|Front||Ventilated disc brake|
|Rear||Solid disc brake|
|Brake booster type||Tandem|
|ABS||4-channel, 4-sensor ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution|
|Wheels and Tyres||Automatic|
|Tyres (width, profile, size, load index and speed rating)||225/55 R18 99V|
|Spare wheel||185/65 R17 90M “Temporary steel wheel”|
|Minimum ground clearance~||213mm|
|Cargo volume – rear seat up||490 litres|
|Cargo volume – rear seat down||1690 litres|
|With trailer brakes||1500kg|
|Without trailer brakes||750kg|
|Maximum tow ball down load||150kg|
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham