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Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Tim Robson road tests and reviews the Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

In a fine example of leading horses to water, Subaru's strategy of lopping significant chunks of change from its Liberty and Outback line ups in late 2014 has paid handsome dividends.

The Outback in particular has been a beneficiary; despite it essentially pioneering the entire tall station wagon segment in the 1990s, buyers in the stampede towards even taller and larger SUVs have consistently overlooked it.

The Outback, though, has always offered something of a middle ground for discerning owners who do need a little bit of off-road ability, space to move and the security of all-wheel drive.

A welcome redesign in 2014 also erased some of the old model's more challenging exterior features; some likened the previous model's front end to that of a cane toad at the end of a Taser.

'Practical' is virtually the Outback's middle name.

What hasn't changed, though, is the basic premise of the Outback being a large station wagon with flexibility to burn.

Design

A simplified, toned-down exterior treatment hasn't exactly turned the ugly duckling into a swan, but the latest Outback's style is no longer polarising.

Based on the Liberty sedan, the Outback adds more ride height, taller profile 18-inch tyres, black plastic overfenders and lower sill covers that extend to the corners of the front and rear bumpers and a pair of faux skid panels under the front and rear bar.

Of course, the wagon part is unique too, given Subaru deleted the wagon variant from the Liberty range some years ago.

The mid-range 2.5i Premium we're testing here sports a large electric sunroof and roof rails with integrated crossbars, as well as LED headlights and DRLs, plus large halogen fog lights.

Practicality

Let's face it: you're shopping for a station wagon because you need something that gives you more flexibility and versatility than a sedan, right? 'Practical' is virtually the Outback's middle name.

A large 512 litres of cargo volume is available with the rear 60/40 split/fold seats up, while a cavernous 1801 litres opens up when the seats are flipped down at the pull of a lever located just inside the tailgate aperture.

Four cargo tie-down points are present, but a net isn't included as standard. A removable cargo blind is part of the Outback's standard kit, though, as is a powered tailgate on this Premium model.

A full size spare also lurks under the cargo area floor.

There is a pair of ISOFIX baby seat brackets for the outside rear seats, along with a third tether in the centre for a more traditional baby seat.

Cupholders and bottle holders abound, with two cupholders up front, two in the centre rear armrest and bottle holders in each of the four doors.

All seating positions offer an excess of head and leg room, with a large, broad and flat rear seat providing plenty of room for teenage brats...err...kids. 

A USB charger in the rear to supplement the pair up front would have been handy, but at least there's an air vent to keep the rear seaters cool.

The Outback also offers 213mm of ground clearance, which will make short work of dirt culverts and that extra large parking block at your local supermarket...

Price and features

Subaru wagons have long carried a reputation as being tough and versatile creatures, but the market now demands more for its money.

To that end, the Outback 2.5i Premium is well spec'd at $41,990 before on road costs.

An electric sunroof, privacy glass, 18-inch rims, high-beam assist for the self-levelling LED headlights, dual-zone air, DataDot treatment, auto lights and wipers, push-button start with smart key, leather trim, steering wheel and gearshift gaitor and more are all standard.

Up front, a 7.0-inch central touchscreen controls all multimedia functions, while a smaller 5.0-inch screen takes pride of place in the instrument cluster. Satellite navigation comes standard with the 2.5i Premium, as do powered and heated front seats in (mostly) leather.

Its other inclusion is its comprehensive safety system called EyeSight. It's the third generation of the dual-camera based system that controls almost every aspect of the Outback's active and passive safety array.

As standard, the 2.5i Premium gets blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, rear view camera, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist, lane sway warning, brake light recognition, pre-collision brake assist, auto emergency braking and more.

Engine and transmission

The Outback comes standard with a 2.5-litre flat-four (or ‘boxer') naturally aspirated petrol engine that makes 129kW of power at 5800rpm and 235Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

It's backed by just one transmission – a continuously variable unit offering a six-step quasi-manual mode that can be activated via steering wheel mounted paddles.

It's also fitted with Subaru's tri-mode Si Drive throttle map adjusting system that is (awkwardly) operated via two switches on the steering wheel. The system changes both the throttle map and step change map in the transmission in Intelligent (or economy), Sport and Sport Sharp modes.

Fuel consumption

Subaru claims a combined fuel economy figure of 7.3L/100km for the 1628kg 2.5i Premium, which can take 60 litres of 91RON fuel.

Over 350km of testing, we recorded a dash-indicated fuel economy figure of 7.5L/100km.

Driving

The Outback appears a little underdone in the power department on paper, but it doesn't come across that way on the road at all. It accelerates well enough for all types of driving conditions, though loaded up it can struggle to get a shuffle on; activating the Si Drive's Sport mode is one way of improving low-down response.

Its ride and handling balance is surprisingly mature, given the Outback's tall ride height and sheer size. It's really well dampened, with a high quality ride that's neither too soft and wallowy nor too sharp and uncomfortable.

The Outback's all-wheel-drive system is biased towards being a front-driver, but the extra grip from the rear end makes itself felt in trickier conditions.

There is a single off-road mode for the Outback called X-Mode that adds more low-down traction by holding lower gears and adding a mild hill-descent control function, but the AWD system is well set up out of the box to add welcome traction in loose conditions.

The CVT transmission is perfectly adequate, and the six steps are well spaced if you want to use it in manual mode. CVT technology has taken a quantum leap forward in recent years, and is a long way away from the slurry, underdone efforts of the late '00s.

It's a quiet, refined machine that's perfectly suited to both short trips and long, thanks to the flexibility and relative refinement of its petrol engine and excellent NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) suppression.

Safety

The Outback scores a maximum of five stars under the ANCAP safety rating system, thanks to seven airbags (including a driver's knee bag) and the comprehensive suite of safety electronics the EyeSight system adds.

Ownership

Subaru offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty on the Outback.

A three-year, 75,000km fixed price service plan is also offered, with the total cost coming to $2202.15.

The Outback, as with other Subaru models, requires a shorter service interval than other cars – six months/12,500km – thanks to the unique layout of its boxer engine, which requires more frequent oil changes thanks to its piston bores lying almost horizontally, which can allow residual oil to turn into sludge if left too long between changes.

Verdict

A huge spike in sales over the last two years shows Subaru has nailed the formula with the Outback – it's priced right, looks handsome rather than polarising, and offers a great deal of practicality with a dash of sophistication.

It's a large car, which may work against it in inner city areas, but as a suburb-dwelling everyday machine with the ability to tackle the occasional fire road and beach track with impunity, the Outback has a lot going for it.

Click here for more Subaru Outback pricing and spec info.

Is the refreshed Outback for you or do you prefer an SUV over a wagon? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing guides

$26,895
Based on 270 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,980
Highest Price
$35,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0D 2.0L, Diesel, CVT AUTO $14,980 – 29,948 2016 Subaru Outback 2016 2.0D Pricing and Specs
2.0D Premium 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $16,950 – 33,990 2016 Subaru Outback 2016 2.0D Premium Pricing and Specs
2.5i 2.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $15,950 – 28,990 2016 Subaru Outback 2016 2.5i Pricing and Specs
2.5i Premium 2.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $22,990 – 33,990 2016 Subaru Outback 2016 2.5i Premium Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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