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Subaru Outback 2.0D SE NavPlus

Click to view picture gallery“Big, four-wheel drive estates are
  enjoying a boom, and the latest
  Outback from Subaru is not only
  suitably sizeable but has the vital
  ingredient — diesel power
...”

A HIGH-RIDING MID-SIZE ESTATE, the Outback dresses smarter these days although there remains a discernible edge of toughness about it
hinted at by the thrusting nose, bonnet air scoop and muscular wheel arches.

In spite of having the off-road capability and ground clearance to tackle rough ground with ease, much like Volvo's V70 XC and Audi's A6 Allroad, Subaru's 'toughened-up' crossover estate is most likely to serve more on metalled roads than muddy, rutted tracks.

Which explains the executive-look cabin and its fully-loaded equipment list. Standard kit on the SE NavPlus includes 'must have' items such as leather upholstery, power sunroof with sunshade, on-demand powerfold heated door mirrors, electric windows, rear-view camera, 10-way power driver's seat with a two-setting memory function, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, push button engine Start/Stop with keyless entry and locking, and a Bluetooth hands-free system.

“This bolder-looking
Outback is longer, wider
and taller and its
75mm-longer wheelbase
provides increased
cabin space — and it
sure shows.
To state the obvious,
all those travelling
‘Outback’ class,
whatever their seat
allocation, will enjoy
plenty of personal
space
...”
Swing open a door and there's a touch of Texican about it — everything is big: big seats with big open spaces around them. This bolder-looking Outback is longer, wider and taller and its 75mm-longer wheelbase provides increased cabin space — and it sure shows. To state the obvious, all those travelling 'Outback' class, whatever their seat allocation, will enjoy plenty of personal space.

And masses of light, too, courtesy of the large greenhouse and deep windows. Like the sun? Good, because above your head there's a large tilt 'n' slide glass sunroof with a sunblind and one-shot operation.

The well-shaped leather-upholstered and heated front seats are supportive and enhanced by large outer armrests on the doors and their long seat bases provide good under-knee support for extra comfort on longer journeys. The Outback driver fares particularly well: along with a grippy reach-and-rake-adjustable leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, power lumbar support, and two memory settings for the multi-adjustable seat, he (or she) can be sure of sitting pretty.

And there are plenty of other features that make life behind the Outback's wheel as stress free as possible, including a smooth-working electronic push/pull handbrake with hill hold on demand; cruise control (a fingertip away on the steering wheel, along with voice activation for making phone calls, specifying navigation destinations and operating the audio), auto lights and wipers, glasses holder, an ergonomic dash and smart, crystal clear white-on-black instruments outlined with aluminium rings.

And that other daily essential — climate control. The Outback's is a fully-automatic dual-zone set-up and it blasts out all the hot or cold air you'll need.

Also appreciated was the matt black fascia top — so no annoying in-screen reflections on a sunny day. And much liked, too, was the full-postcode SatNav with an eight-inch touchscreen monitor that's dead easy to set and use, as well as the reversing camera with in-screen guide lines to take the hassle out of reverse parking. Naturally there's iPod and video inputs and a 12-volt power feed in the centre armrest box, plus generous space around the cabin to stow all the 'stuff' that seems to find its way into a family car.

Safety is well-specified too: height-adjustable front belts, active front head-restraints, dual-stage front airbags, head and chest-protecting side airbags, curtain airbags, an electronic stability control programme, traction control, front projector foglamps, high-intensity headlamps with pop-up washers, and windscreen wiper de-icing.

Entry and exit is easy; the doors shutting with little effort and that well-engineered thunk that says 'quality'. In the rear cabin it's like a limo; six inches of headroom and back-seat passengers can seriously stretch out — lounging, the average person will still have eight inches between their knees and the front seatback.

“In the rear cabin its like
a limo; six inches of
headroom and
passengers can seriously
stretch out —
lounging, the average
person will still
have eight inches
between their knees and
the front seatback
...”
The wide, well-padded centre armrest is sure to bring out your selfish side — while three can sit very amicably side-by-side with no crowding, you'd really rather they didn't.

But the best is still to come: the rear seatbacks are reclinable over a 20-degree range, so if you want to snooze until it's time to disembark, then just take it down and let yourself drift off. Large door pockets — as in the front — hold a bottle to keep you refreshed when you're not sleeping.

Taking all the family's luggage along is not a problem — the full-width tailgate makes for hassle-free loading of cases or cargo; pull the release levers in the boot and the 60:40 split-fold rear seats drop down to form a totally flat cargo floor with more than enough room to move house — the already practical 526-litre boot expanding into a usefully long and flat 1,677-litre loadbay measuring 42 x 78 inches.

And, as throughout the main cabin, the fit and finish of the boot is also A1. Nice touches are the user-friendly roller luggage blind, pop-out bag hooks and, below the boot floor (conveniently with a proper stay), a deep storage tray as well as a 'Tyre Mobility' kit.

Externally, the Outback's tail treatment is in keeping with it's lifestyle appeal; topped by a roof spoiler, large arrow-shaped (seen from the side) taillights and large bore tailpipes (one set at each side of the rear bumper) mark it out.

Owners already acquainted with the brand will know that the 'AWD' badge on the tailgate stands for Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Although the variable AWD is able to send 100% of the torque to either the front or the back whenever necessary, generally the torque-split is set up with a rear-wheel drive bias for added handling agility.

Obviously all of this is done out of sight and out of mind; all the driver is aware of is the Outback's unwavering stability. On the road this guarantees all-weather composure — with 'all-weather' meaning exactly that: snow and ice as well as mud and wet grass.

These days, unless you drive a Ferrari or V10 Audi R8, few people will want to look under your bonnet. But that doesn't mean they don't want to know what lurks there. In the Outback's case it's a flat-four horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine. Mounted low to optimise the car's centre of gravity (which in turn makes for a better-balanced drive), this compact 2.0-litre turboed diesel is as smooth as one that drinks fuel from the 'green' unleaded pump.

Driven with gusto or with a lazy right foot, this 148bhp 'boxer' 'four-four-two' (four-cylinders; four valves per cylinder; and double overhead cams per bank) performed willingly, helped by easy gear selection from the foolproof and deliberate-action gear lever.

“More important is the
real world average
consumption figure
recorded during our full
week
s roadtest —
an impressive 44.6mpg
over mixed roads.
Lighter-footed owners
should match the official
combined figure of
47.8mpg
...”
As with all diesels, the more important figure, that of the engine's torque, is considerably higher than the brake horsepower: 258lb ft is on tap from 1,800rpm serving up gutsy pulling power from low down and endowing the Outback with an obliging character for both town and country driving.

For many, more important still will be the 'real world' average consumption figure recorded during our full week's unforgiving roadtest — an impressive 44.6mpg over mixed roads. Lighter-footed owners should match the official combined figure of 47.8mpg.

Top speed is 120mph with 0-62mph done and dusted in 9.7 seconds. Particularly handy for family holiday trips and seriously long journeys, the 14.3-gallon tank means 600+ miles between forecourt fill-ups.

You'll find motorway trips relaxing thanks to the legal limit calling for just over 2,000 revs — be warned, though, that 80mph feels more like 45mph. And the miles are made even more agreeable by the decent ride quality.

Despite its 200mm ground clearance, the Outback handles reassuringly; cornering with minimal body lean on fast, twisty country roads and gripping as only a four-wheel drive vehicle can. And it helps immensely that this big estate is so easy to place accurately on the road. The self-levelling rear suspension is a boon, making sure its roads manners remain consistent even when fully laden in workhorse mode.

With its impressive road presence, limo-sized interior and multi-purpose versatility (not forgetting the permanent all-wheel drive) this latest Outback is just the job for economy-minded hedonists who want to take their estate where many others cannot follow. —
MotorBar

Subaru Outback 2.0D SE NavPlus | 30,370
Maximum speed: 120mph | 0-62mph: 9.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 44.6mpg
Power: 147bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2 155g/km