Auto Review

Subaru Outback SE Premium Review

  • quick
  • Model spec: SE Premium
  • Price: £33010
  • Engine: 2.5-L, 4-Cyl Boxer, Lineartronic
  • Max Speed: 123
  • facts
  • 0-60: 10.2 seconds
  • BHP/Torque: 175 / 235
  • Economy: 40mpg combined
  • C02: 166g/km
  • Tax: 220/year


Subaru has a larger profile in the U.S. than they do in Europe a region where Subaru sold just over 35,000 units. A tidy sum you may think, but that is a tiny sum compared to Subaru’s US sales which amounted to over 600,000 units sold in 2017. So what is the problem? The easiest answer is Price, Product, Placement. But it could also do with attitudes and perceptions and most probably no diesel engine option. Moreover, the competition is tough, Subaru has to face down rivals like the VW Passat estate and Volvo V60 which is odd because it outsizes the latter two for interior space alone and size wise is more than capable of competing with a Mercedes E Class or Audi A6 estates, in terms of interior space and load space.

The 2018 Outback range is thankfully simple, a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol engine boxer engine. That is all. Trim levels are just as no-nonsense, two in total with prices starting from £29k to £33k.

Standard equipment is plentifully good, Subaru’s permanent symmetrical AWD with X-Mode/Hill Descent Control (which allows you to ace slippery surfaces) LED headlights, Keyless entry, 8-inch infotainment screen with Sat-Nav, powered rear tailgate, electric/heated front seats, cruise control, reversing camera’s and the latest driver safety tech such as Blind Spot monitoring, Lane Change Assist and collision detection tech.

The 2018 Outback has a distinctive industrial/automotive design language, it’s bold without being brash, understated with some neat visual cues and flame surfacing details, it looks good from any angle.  The interior is inviting as much as it functionally simple to operate feels solidly built. The use of more soft-touch materials, and does it feel and look more premium.

As with all modern car interiors, the dash layout has been simplified, fewer buttons more infotainment screen which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Quick access buttons allow for quick-access to the heating controls, but overall the interior looks clean and uncluttered, more conservative than flair driven.

There are some areas that lack a bit of basic design afterthought, the biggest one being the smallest issue. The rear passenger heat control binnacle doesn’t follow the design language set out in the rest of the car and it is literally a piece of moulded plastic with control dials seemingly stuck on.

But the latter really is a small issue, on the whole, the Outback is a good place in which to while away the motorway miles because the seats are very comfortable and there is plenty of space on offer for front and rear seated passengers, I mean a lot of space.

The power provided by 2.5-litre petrol engine feels somewhat underused because of the use of the CVT transmission. I have never been a fan of the CVT because it feels as though it saps all of the car’s torque, whatever the rev range. So, if you floor the accelerator it feels as though you are on a sailboat being propelled by a light breeze. You simply do not feel a surge of torque.

Instead, the speed builds up at a consistent pace. In the end, I changed my driving style by simply feathering the throttle rather than keeping my foot planted to the floor and this altered the experience which felt a lot swifter.

Some manufacturers prefer CVT’s because they weigh less than a conventional automatic transmission and therefore are more efficient. With that in mind, the Outback managed over 40mpg on a combined cycle, that’s pretty good for a  heavy car (just over 1600kg) with a 2.5-litre normally aspired engine. As a comparison, a Mercedes E Class 220D does around 45mpg.

The Outback has received a few mechanical updates since the third generation was launched in 2015 such as improved springs, dampers, and steering settings. For a big estate, it handles exceptionally well. Because it is so well balanced the car feels smaller than it’s size relays.

You can hustle the Outback into and out of corners whereupon it will turn-in accurately with barely any body roll during a low and mid-speed corning phase. Oddly, it gets better the faster you corner, the suspension is damped well enough to return a decent ride-quality that belies the overall stiffness of the suspension setting, meaning it’s comfortable.

As with all cars fitted with AWD, you don’t notice any difference day-to-day, except in slippery/wet conditions when the system really becomes a useful Allie.

In terms of the interior size all I am going to say is that there is a massive amount of space, its longer than an Audi A6 estate and just a little longer than the E Class estate, with the rear seats folded flat you can easily slide in an item at around 2m in length with a few centimeters to spare.

The Subaru Outback is an underrated car, it’s a massive estate, versatile if you want it be and for that reason alone is massively practical. Some reviews have pitted the Outback against a Skoda Octavia Scout but the Outback’s pricing is similar to a Passat Alltrack and Audi A6 yet it easily out-specs both German rivals and significantly undercuts the Audi.

And the Outback also undercuts a similarly specced Mercedes E Class Estate, the E 220 d 4MATIC costs £42k, the only petrol engine equivalent is priced from £58k. So, our collective opinion is don’t underestimate the power of the the Subaru Outback.


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