I think I'm in love. I've been singing the praises of Subaru's CVT auto together with its turbocharged petrol engine for a few weeks. Then along comes the Outback diesel with the same CVT transmission and by golly it's a cracker too.
PRICE AND FEATURES
Prices for Outback start at $39,990 ($42,490 for the 2.0D with CVT) rising to $45,490 for the top of the line Premium (the subject of our test). The CVT adds $2500 to the price.
The entry-level CVT model includes satnav while the 2.0D Premium with CVT adds a variety of features including leather, power adjust driver's seat, an electric sunroof and ‘electroluminescent’ gauges with colour information display.
But it's a shame the Outback misses out on a couple of things found in the donor Liberty. For instance the Eyesight safety system is missing and so are heated front seats for those frosty winter mornings.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The CVT has been a while in gestation but the extra time spent in development seems to have paid dividends. The diesel uses a high-torque version of Subaru's Lineartronic CVT, strengthened to suit the high torque output of the diesel. It's designed to compensate for the narrow power band that typifies diesels that would otherwise see drivers changing gears constantly. The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer diesel delivers 110kW of power at 3600 revs and 350Nm of torque between 1800 and 2400 revs.
Five stars of course even though it misses out on Subaru's acclaimed Eyesight emergency braking system which is yet to be calibrated to work with the diesel engine.
The Outback offers a comfortable cabin, with a high driving position favoured by many drivers and chews through the kilometres with little fuss. We've already notched up quite a few kilometres in this car, travelling up and down the coast some of them with the rear seat down and a load in the back.
The Outback takes it all in its stride, with fuel consumption rising perhaps a couple of percentage points to account for the extra weight in the back. The clever thing about this transmission is that it automatically slips into manual or stepped gear mode when you put the boot in, so it feels more like a traditional auto.
The rest of the time it's as smooth as silk with no discernible change points, characterised by an engine that turns over at a constant number or revs despite the fact you might be going uphill. It's freaky, but that's the way CVTs work. Fuel consumption is rated at an impressive 6.5L/100km and carbon dioxide emissions at 172 grams/km. We've been getting just under this at 6.4.
We're not big fans of the Outback's styling, but it's soon forgotten after a couple of hours behind the wheel.
Subaru Outback Diesel CVT Premium
Price: from $45,490
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Safety: 7 airbags, ABS, ESC, EBD, TC
Crash rating: 5-star
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel, 110kW/350Nm
Transmission: CVT auto; constant 4WD
Thirst: 6.5L/100km; 172g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.8m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.6m (H)