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Subaru Outback 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.3
Australians get a pretty good deal from Subaru. We have not one but two cars named especially for us. The Liberty is known everywhere else as Legacy and frankly, I reckon we got the better name, so we can thank that venerable veteran's organisation for that one. Second is the Outback. Essentially a jacked-up Liberty

Australians get a pretty good deal from Subaru. We have not one but two cars named especially for us. The Liberty is known everywhere else as Legacy and frankly, I reckon we got the better name, so we can thank that venerable veteran's organisation for that one.

Second is the Outback. Essentially a jacked-up Liberty station wagon, Subaru obviously liked the name and so we got our second Australian-themed moniker, this time exported all over the globe. The Americans are particular fans of this one.

It's no secret Australians love a wagon that can go places (we're not alone in that regard, just make sure you call it an SUV if it looks like one!), and as the Outback has evolved it has leaned towards being more rugged, a bit like what Subaru has done with the Forester.

Subaru Outback 2017: 2.0D
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$24,991

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The Outback is looking less and less like the Liberty as the years wear on. With its high ride height (ground clearance is a lofty 213mm) it looks like an SUV, even though it's a wagon. It goes without a bull bar or nudge bar but, with lots unpainted black plastic, has a rugged exterior.

Sadly, despite its credentials as an adventurer, there's no panoramic sunroof option - you'll have to make do with a conventional one.

Stepping up to the 2.5i (2.5i Premium pictured) yields larger 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland) Stepping up to the 2.5i (2.5i Premium pictured) yields larger 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland)

As you move up the range, some of that unpainted black plastic is swapped out for a satin metallic finish but there's not a great deal of visual difference if you're using that measure by way of comparison. One clue is a dark window tint on the upper models, and LED headlights.

As the cabin photos show, it's a classy, high quality interior. Again, as you work your way up the range, leather seats join the party to make a good interior even more comfortable. The dash is typical Subaru - clear, concise and packed full of information in its detailed trip computer.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

All Outbacks have cup holder count of four - two up front and two in the rear.

There is no third-row seating available in the Outback. As a result, the question of how many seats is easily settled - five. The generous interior dimensions mean plenty of space for passengers of just about any size, with good front and rear legroom.

  • The 2.5i (pictured) starts at $36,240. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland) The 2.5i (pictured) starts at $36,240. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland)
  • Sadly, the traditional green and gold colour combo of the original is no longer available. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland) Sadly, the traditional green and gold colour combo of the original is no longer available. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland)

Boot space is impressive, with 512L to start and when you fold down the rear seats, a massive 1801L of cargo capacity. Boot dimensions are identical across all five models. You can secure your luggage with an optional cargo barrier or take advantage of the space over your head using the roof rails or an approved roof rack. There is also a cargo cover to hide your stuff from prying eyes. If you need to keep your eye protection from rolling around the interior, there is a sunglass holder, and you can fit the owner's manual in the glove box - not something every car can manage.

The turning circle is reasonable at 11 metres.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The Outback price range stretches from $35,470 for a good honest diesel manual through to a flat-six auto at $48,740, with three distinct models sandwiched in between. Subaru likes to publish the drive-away price on its website, however we'll be dealing in list prices (before on-road costs) here.

The range breaks down into three petrol models and two diesels, for a total of five trim levels.

The 2.0D opens the range at $35,470 for the six-speed manual while the 2.0D Premium manual starts at $42,240. Add $3000 for the CVT automatic transmission.

Still missing across the range are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland) Still missing across the range are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland)

Standard features on the 2.0D with manual transmission are 17-inch alloy rims, six speakers, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, reverse camera, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, daytime running lights, halogen headlights (no xenon, projector or HID headlights), a mild body kit with side skirts, power windows, cloth trim, full size spare tyre, hill holder and electric power steering.

Opt for the CVT diesel and you pick up EyeSight, which adds active cruise control and a suite of safety features as well as X-Mode which helps in the slippery stuff and includes hill descent control. This isn't an off-road review, but X-Mode is very effective on the slippery stuff.

If you're after a more premium package, the aptly-named 2.5i Premium sees the addition of Vision Assist to go with EyeSight.

Stepping up to the 2.5i yields larger 18-inch alloy wheels, standard CVT automatic transmission, leather steering wheel, rear spoiler, and it swaps out the turbo diesel for a non-turbo petrol four-cylinder. The 2.5i starts at $36,240.

If you're after a more premium package, the aptly-named 2.5i Premium sees the addition of Vision Assist to go with EyeSight, leather trim, sunroof, sat nav, powered heated front seats, a bigger touch screen at 7.0-inches, two USB ports, powered tailgate, keyless entry, push button start and LED headlights. It costs $42,240.

Finally, the 3.6R gets you the big-banger performance from the flat six and an 11-speaker stereo (including subwoofer). It costs $48,740.

The accessories range includes floor mats, boot liner and various protective parts.

Still missing across the range are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but you can plug in your iPhone or Android device to the sound system or pair via Bluetooth. Powered by Subaru's Starlink touchscreen software, the multimedia system comprises of a CD player and AM/FM radio (but no DAB across the range). Your multimedia needs can also be fulfilled with a USB port where you can plug in a phone or use the inbuilt MP3 player with a memory stick.

The accessories range includes floor mats, boot liner and various protective parts (underbody protection is limited to wheel-arch liners).

The multimedia system comprises of a CD player and AM/FM radio. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland) The multimedia system comprises of a CD player and AM/FM radio. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland)

Missing from the standard spec lists are a DVD player, parking sensors (dealer fitted only), heated steering wheel, snorkel, bull bar, nudge bar, driving lights, seat belt extender, tonneau cover, canopy, chrome exhaust tips (they're hidden away behind the bumper), park assist, performance suspension or a high capacity spare battery.

Colours include Crystal Black, Dark Blue, Lapis Blue, Oak Brown Pearl, Tungsten (a sort of pink), Venetian Red, Dark Grey, Platinum Grey, Ice Silver and Crystal White. Sadly, the traditional green and gold combo of the original is no longer available. The vivid orange on the XV is - perhaps mercifully - also unavailable.

A regular question we get from prospective buyers is, "Where is the Subaru Outback built?". In the Australian case the Outback hails from Japan, while US buyers get theirs from Subaru's Indiana plant.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

All Outbacks are all-wheel-drive. There are no LPG or plug-in hybrid models. So for fuel choice, it's down to diesel vs petrol.

Engine specs depend on your chosen model. The diesel motor is a 2.0-litre boxer four turbo developing 110kW and 350Nm. The diesel specs are identical between the 2.0D and the Premium. Being a Subaru, all wheels are driven through a six-speed manual gearbox or optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). Only the diesel features a centre differential with viscous limited-slip differential that can be locked for better off-road capabilities, but it does go without X-Mode torque vectoring.

The Outback's steering is unusually quick for both a Subaru and a car of this type. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland) The Outback's steering is unusually quick for both a Subaru and a car of this type. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland)

Manual vs automatic figures for the 0-100km/h dash are 9.7 seconds for the former and CVT 9.9 for the CVT, so acceleration is brisk rather than startling.

The torque specs of the diesel make it ideal for long trips, with a towing capacity of 1700kg (braked) and 750kg (unbraked).

For a bit more horsepower at the expense of torque and fuel economy, there are two petrol options, but if you like a clutch, you're out of luck.

The flat-four 2.5-litre petrol's specifications come in at 129kW and 235Nm, which is a little skinny for this engine size because it's not turbocharged. The 0-100 argument is over in 10.2sec, a little slower than the diesel.

If you have a tow bar, the load capacity for the 2.5i will haul 1500kg braked and 750kg unbraked.

The flat-four 2.5-litre petrol's specifications come in at 129kW and 235Nm. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland) The flat-four 2.5-litre petrol's specifications come in at 129kW and 235Nm. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland)

Stepping up to the 3.6-litre flat six, probably the last engine like it in the world, you get more power at 191kW and a torque figure identical to the diesel's at 350Nm (although without the advantage of diesel fuel economy).

Towing ratings for the 3.6-litre are 1800kg unbraked and 750kg braked. Across the range, the Outback's gross vehicle weight is 2130kg.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Diesel fuel consumption weighs in at a claimed 5.7L/100km for the manual and 6.3L/100km for the CVT.

The petrol consumption figures vary between the four and six cylinder units. The 2.5i delivers a claimed 7.3L/100km while the 3.6 rises to a claimed 9.9L/100km.

In our hands, the 3.6's mileage was a fair way off the claimed, delivering 16L/100km. Part of that is attributable to the extra weight of the 3.6i, which is a hefty 1702kg. This one may leave you wishing for a larger fuel tank size - fuel tank capacity is 60 litres.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Outback driving experience is a good one - it's a very quiet car. If you had to pick the loudest, it would probably be the diesel, but even then it's not bad. Tyre and road noise are well suppressed, although we have experienced a bit of cabin noise on dirt roads at speed in some versions of the car.

Without resorting to trickery like air suspension, the Outback is excellent both on the road and off it. The diesel and 2.5-litre petrols provide adequate performance while the 3.6-litre, especially in S# mode, is very quick - if not a sports car in the handling department.

The Outback's steering is unusually quick for both a Subaru and a car of this type. The body hangs in pretty well, but will eventually start to roll in higher-speed cornering through wide radius corners.

A full-size spare tyre comes as standard. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland) A full-size spare tyre comes as standard. (image credit: Tyan Sutherland)

Off-road performance is better than most, with CVT cars equipped with X-Mode and a good ground clearance for moderately adventurous manoeuvres. Subaru doesn't list a wading depth, but with the usual caution, the Outback will be good for shallow water crossings.

When fitted, the EyeSight system can be a little on the scaredy-cat side. White lines can confuse it and oncoming vehicles on winding roads give it palpitations. And a thing that annoys me across all Subarus is the key fob - the Subaru logo unlocks the car and is the most prominent and easily pressed button.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

Standard safety features include seven airbags (including driver's knee airbag), ABS, brake assist, stability and traction controls (sometimes known as ESP) and brake force distribution adding up to a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.

With the exception of the diesel manuals, all Outbacks feature Subaru's own EyeSight safety system. Together with the Vision Assist package (not on 2.0D manual), you get blind-spot monitoring, high and low speed forward collision mitigation (auto emergency braking), lane change assist, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

Depending on which type of baby car seat you have, there are two ISOFIX points or three top-tether child seat anchor points.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The standard warranty is three years/unlimited km, and a dealer will no doubt happily supply an extended warranty at a cost.

Capped-price servicing is available to help keep down per service cost. You'll be returning to the dealer every six months or 12,500km. There's an extra maintenance cost on the 3.6R, with a $253 service after the first three months/5000km.

Oil consumption should not cause issues on any engine type, with previous complaints on earlier models having been address by Subaru. Buyers often ask whether the engines are fitted with a timing belt or chain - all are timing chain engines, meaning no regular replacement required. Oil capacity and oil type is dependent on the engine and fuel.

Resale value statistics are good - Subarus generally hold their value well and as the Outback is a popular model, with little in the way of reliability issues or faults. Common problems and complaints tend to be minor if you have a quick skim of the usual internet forums and we have a page to cover any diesel problems, automatic transmission problems or diesel engine problems. Suspension problems only ever seem to arise when the car is heavily abused.

Overall, we think the reliability rating of the Outback to be better than average.

Verdict

The Outback is a classic Subaru. Over the last two decades it has evolved from a cladding-and-ride-height Liberty special to a car in its own right. It looks like nothing else on the road and does it with a very good spec.

In the value for money stakes, it's almost unbeatable with advanced safety features (diesel manual excepted), plenty of standard equipment and surprisingly low prices. If you had to pick one, it would probably be the 2.5i Premium - it has all the safety gear without the penalty of the 3.6R's fuel consumption, plenty of comfort and is a bargain.

Is the Outback your kind of car? Or is it SUV-or-bust for you?

Pricing Guides

$32,572
Based on 133 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$23,830
Highest Price
$50,228

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0D 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $24,991 – 35,990 2017 SUBARU OUTBACK 2017 2.0D Pricing and Specs
2.0D Premium 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $34,990 – 36,990 2017 SUBARU OUTBACK 2017 2.0D Premium Pricing and Specs
2.5i 2.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $24,990 – 32,990 2017 SUBARU OUTBACK 2017 2.5i Pricing and Specs
2.5i (FLEET EDITION) 2.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $29,990 – 33,775 2017 SUBARU OUTBACK 2017 2.5i (FLEET EDITION) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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