Subaru’s flagship has still got it.
While it didn’t invent the high-riding wagon genre (that honor goes to the AMC Eagle) you’re looking at the Subaru Outback, the car responsible for reviving interest in this niche segment thanks in no small part to Crocodile Dundee in the early Ought’s.
What have we here?
The Audi Allroad and Volvo Cross Country are similar in nature, but are much more luxurious vehicles with price tags to match; the only other direct challenger the Outback faces is the upcoming VW Golf Alltrack. The Volksie has its work cut out for it- the Outback has enjoyed robust sales increases over the last few years and the interest in the Outback as people flock to crossovers hasn’t really waned whatsoever.
The badges on the back say 3.6R- Explain.
It’s not a fancy alphanumeric name for an option package you can opt for, but rather it specifies the engine size. In this case, it refers to the 3.6 flat six toiling under the hood delivering 256 horsepower and 247 lbs/ft. of torque. This engine is interesting for two reasons: one is that Subaru is the only manufacturer after Porsche who employs this architecture, and the other is that a six-cylinder option is even part of the deal. Most manufactures are using turbocharged four cylinders as the “bigger” engine option including all those luxury players we mentioned earlier. As for the R, that usually stands for “Race” and is meant to conjure up visions of hair trigger reflexes and a screaming redline. Those looking for that kind of experience will come away disappointed, as the R should probably stand for Relaxed. Although the engine musters decent output, its mated to a CVT that slurs between ratios with a distinct lack of urgency. We live in a time where four cylinder turbos are making 300 horsepower and above, so you can expect this larger displacement engine to disappear from the lineup for the next generation.
Why get this over say, a midsize SUV or one of those ubiquitous crossovers?
Actually, you can think of the Outback as one of the pioneers in the crossover segment, and it gets the nod for being honest about its car-derived platform rather than its competitors who would rather you think of their products as trucks. Taking the best from both worlds, it provides the driving position, decent off-road chops and ground clearance people covet in an SUV and combines them with the lower centre of gravity, vastly better fuel economy and easy to drive demeanor of a car. It even has enough cargo space to take a family away for a weekend without leaving much behind. We can see why Outback owners wax so poetically about them because they go anywhere they are asked save for a hard core off-road excursion and get pretty good fuel mileage in the process. We achieved 13.2 L/100km during the time we spent with the Outback, and that less-than-stellar figure can be attributed to very little time spent on the highway and the on-all-the-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.
How’s things on the inside?
The posh interior represents a stark contrast to the hard scrabble image of throwing outdoorsy stuff in the back and heading for the wilderness. Supple leather seats and tastefully rendered fake wood combine to make for a pretty nice place to be whether your commute takes you near or far. The Starlink infotainment system we were lukewarm towards in the Forester is a huge leap forward in out Limited trimmed Outback. Pinch-to-zoom maps, vivid resolution and speedy responses make it a pleasure to use. The other lasting impressions we gleaned from our time in this Subie was how comfortable the seats are if a little on the soft side, and the generous dimensions that will score high with passengers. Speaking of scoring high, that’s precisely what the Outback does in terms of its safety rating, which is among the best in the business.
Does the EyeSight technology group mean the Outback helps you see in the dark?
Not exactly. EyeSight is Subaru speak for a comprehensive group of driver assist technology. They include Adaptive Cruise Control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and pre-collision warning and braking round out the list of stuff you get with this package. We’ll be quick to praise Subaru engineers who developed EyeSight because it works better than systems you see on cars that cost much more than the Outback, however we aren’t big fans of the jarring sounds the tech makes when it’s wagging its finger at you. It must be said that there are drivers out there who will definitely benefit from this bit of kit, but it leaves us asking the same question: shouldn’t motorists be paying attention to these things anyway? Makes you wonder how they get along without this stuff in the past.
Will it look out of place in the country club parking lot?
Only the most image conscious folks will be concerned if the Subie doesn’t exude the same cachet as some of the luxury brands, but that’s never been the point of the Outback. It doesn’t matter if you park at a back country trailhead or alongside some of the trendy shops in the Muskoka’s, the Outback will fit right in. Our tester’s as-tested price of $40,195 makes it a huge bargain. Where else can you find something that can take you off the beaten path with ease, take the kids to school on the nastiest winter mornings and proudly park beside a posh SUV? Subaru’s current slogan is “Confidence in Motion”, and the Outback exudes unpretentious utility in a way that has kept up the interest of shoppers before, currently, and provided they don’t mess with the recipe too much, well into the future.
2016 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited— Specifications
- Price as tested: $40,195
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger wagon
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
- Engine: 3.6 litre horizontally opposed six cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 256 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 247 @ 4,400 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,744 kg (3,845 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 13.2L/100km (18 mpg)