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Richard Berry
Reviewed & driven by

31 Aug 2020

The Outback is a large, five-seater off-road wagon, although Subaru calls it an SUV despite it not having have the traditional upright boxy looks of one.

Either way, the Outback has been extremely popular for decades among families and people who sometimes like their destinations to be a little adventurous.

What do we love about the Subaru Outback?

We like the Subaru Outback because it's a station wagon with good ground clearance and all-wheel drive. That means it handles better on the road than many tall SUVs thanks to a lower centre of mass, but at the same time having an impressive 213mm of ground clearance. This, combined with an excellent all-wheel drive system, means you can go further afield than many road-focused SUVs.

We’re also impressed by the fit and finish of the Outback. The build quality outside and in appears to be outstanding for an affordable brand.

The wide doors make putting kids into their seats easier on the back. The wide doors make putting kids into their seats easier on the back.

The Outback’s rugged styling is also appealing, and as with all Subarus there's a premium look and feel to the materials and styling in the cabin.

Practicality is another feature we like about the Outback. There’s the big 512-litre boot and a spacious interior with excellent head and legroom in the second row.

Finally, did you know you can lock and unlock the Outback with a PIN code? Keep the key in the car, go for a swim and then open it again with a code. We really like that.

There’s the big 512-litre boot. There’s the big 512-litre boot.

What do we dislike?

There are a few things about the Outback we don’t particularly like.

First is the continuously variable transmission (CVT). These automatic transmissions are known for producing lacklustre acceleration and a droning noise when under load.

We also don’t like how thirsty the Outback can be. Subaru says that after a combination of open and urban roads the 2.5-litre four-cylinder with the CVT should use 7.3L/100km. But our testing saw it use 12.5L/100km.

The 3.6-litre petrol engine is even thirstier with 9.9L/100km being the official mileage. The 2.0-litre diesel is the most frugal, using 6.3L/100km.

Finally, we feel the Outback is falling behind in cabin tech, such as wireless charging. Yep, despite the cabin feeling premium, it’s starting to age.

How much can a Subaru Outback tow?

The hauling capacity of the Outback depends which version you decide to hitch your load to. The braked towing capacity of Outbacks with the 2.5-litre engine is 1500kg. Those Outbacks with the 3.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel have braked towing capacities of 1800kg and 1700kg respectively.

If you are planning on carrying a load, pulling a caravan or towing trailer then tow bar kits are available.

How much storage space does the Outback have?

The Outback is super practical. There are the chunky roof racks/rails and spacious interior (which you’d expect from a car this size), and the boot has an impressive luggage capacity, too. The dimensions of the boot are 512 litres.

There aren’t any drawers, but a cargo cover will protect the contents of the boot from prying eyes and you can also option cargo barriers, and rubber floor liners from Subaru’s accessories list.

Storage is great with four cup holders throughout the cabin. Storage is great with four cup holders throughout the cabin.

Cabin storage is great with four cup holders (two up front and two in the second row), large door pockets, a deep centre console storage bin, map pockets in the seatbacks, and a covered area in front of the shifter which houses USB ports and a 12V outlet.

Large, tall and wide-opening doors along with the raised ride height makes getting in and out easy, and also means putting kids into their seats is easier on the back.

The Outback is super practical and has chunky roof racks/rails. The Outback is super practical and has chunky roof racks/rails.

What features come standard with the Subaru Outback?

The outback comes with a full-size spare tyre. The outback comes with a full-size spare tyre.

The standard features lists across the range are extensive. Entry-grade 2.5i AWD and 2.0D AWD Outbacks come with push-button start, adaptive cruise control, 6.5-inch media screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, and Bluetooth connectivity. Also, standard is privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, four cup holders, roof rails, plus 18-inch alloys wheels with a full-sized spare.The 2.5i X is the next level up and adds heated front seats, a proximity unlocking smart key, an 8.0-inch screen, sat nav (gps), rain-sensing wipers, black 18-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights.

The 2.5i Premium and 2.0D Premium add leather seats in Ivory or Black, an electric sunroof (regular, not panoramic) and a power tailgate.

The 3.6R AWD then adds luxuries such as a 11-speaker Harman Kardon stereo.

All grades come with a high level of advanced safety equipment including AEB, lane assist and lane departure warning, stability control (ESP), and a reversing camera. High grades have a blind spot monitor and a front view camera.

Outbacks have hill descent control, hill hold and electric power steering.

All but the base variant get LED headlights. All but the base variant get LED headlights.

Does it have a locking differential or a limited slip diff? Nope. The Outback uses an all-wheel drive system which splits torque 60:40 front to rear wheels. The system has a multi-plate centre clutch and an open differential at the front and rear.

What’s the Outback missing? Well for a large car it’s odd that front and rear parking sensors aren’t standard equipment – you have to option them.

The 2.5i Premium and 2.0D Premium get an electric sunroof. The 2.5i Premium and 2.0D Premium get an electric sunroof.

What features can you upgrade?

If you go to the Subaru Australia website you can actually ‘build’ your Outback like a hamburger at a fast food restaurant. We tried it out ourselves, but found that while we could change the colour we were only allowed to add accessories or options, and not upgrade features such as cloth seats to leather, or swap the small media display for the larger one.

That’s a shame, but pretty normal.

On the plus side, Subaru knows how to accessorise. We were bedazzled by their accessories menu where you can option packages such as the 'Cladding Pack', the 'Protection Pack', and the 'Explorer Pack.'

Alternatively, you can add individual features such as: roof boxes, tow bars, bike carriers, kayak and ski carriers, nets, barriers, and trays for the cargo area, window weather shields, seat protectors, tough rubber floor mats and even a step which hooks onto the wheel to help you access the roof racks.

There are also body kit packages which add tough side sills, mud guards, and rubber or chrome step panels for the boot.

Despite the extensive list there are some things Subaru doesn’t offer. Features such as a bull bar or nudge bar, an awning or canopy aren’t on the options list.

Nor are things like a snorkel, winch, bash plate, under body protection or a recovery hook.

There are companies which can fit this gear but check with Subaru to ensure it doesn’t void your warranty or prevent the advanced safety equipment from functioning properly.

Front and rear parking sensors are standard on the Outbacks, but you can option them in the accessories list. Don’t worry about upgrading to tinted windows – every grade has rear privacy windows.

How much does a Subaru Outback cost?

The Subaru Outback’s price depends on what which grade you buy. The list price (RRP) for the entry-grade petrol 2.5i is $37,440, while the 2.0D diesel version is $40,040.

The 2.5i-X is $43,440, the 2.5i Premium is $43,940, the 2.0D Premium is $46,940, and at the top of the range is the 3.6R which is $50,440.

That’s a price guide for you, but remember there are on-road costs, too. Often, however, Subaru will do a drive-away price which may save you thousands.

What colours is the Subaru Outback available in?

The Subaru Outback comes in 10 colours including 'Crystal White', 'Wilderness Green', 'Crimson Red', 'Dark Blue', 'Crystal Black', 'Magnetite Grey' and 'Ice Silver.' Subaru doesn’t offer the Outback in gold or orange, but you could always paint it yourself.

Are there any must have accessories?

Most car brands offer accessories, but Subaru offers more than most.

We’ve covered many of the available accessories you can add to your Outback in the upgrade section above and these include tough rubber floor mats, luggage pods and bike carriers.

While you can’t upgrade to bigger rims, or add a seat belt extender, the must-have accessory is parking sensors. Yup, for some reason front and rear parking sensors aren’t standard on the Outback and are considered by Subaru to be an accessory. Get them.  

Is the Subaru Outback 4WD and can you use it off-road?

The Outback’s impressive 213mm ground clearance and excellent AWD system make it more capable off the bitumen than most road focused SUVs.

Keep in mind though it doesn’t have the off-road capabilities and wading depth of say a serious 4WD such as the Toyota LandCruiser or similar machines with a hardcore lift kit. Best to stick to dirt and gravel roads rather than tough terrain.

The standard tyres on an Outback are designed for road use. The petrol Outbacks come standard with Bridgestone Dueler HP Sport tyres (225 60 R18) which aren’t off road tyres or all-terrain tyres.

Does the Outback come in diesel?

What are the dimensions of the Outback?

The Outback is a large car at 4820mm long, 1840mm wide and 1675mm tall. The Outback is a large car at 4820mm long, 1840mm wide and 1675mm tall.

The Outback is a large car at 4820mm long, 1840mm wide and 1675mm tall. The size of the wheelbase is 2745mm. Matching that big exterior is a cabin with equally impressive interior dimensions. 

Gross vehicle weight for the 2.5-litre petrol is 2.2 tonnes.


What is the Subaru Outback’s fuel consumption?

According to the official ADR combined test that aims to replicate a combination of open and urban roads, the fuel consumption for the Outback ranges from 6.3L/100km for the diesel variants (that's diesel fuel economy for you) to 7.3L/100km and 9.9L/100km for the 2.5-litre and 3.6-litre petrol cars, respectively.

My test of the 2.5i Premium, which included urban commutes into the city, as well as forays onto dirt trails and country roads returned 12.5L/100km, so the real world can be quite different.

The fuel tank capacity of all Outbacks is 60 litres, auto stop/start is standard, but there is no specific eco mode.

Does the Outback have any common problems, issues or faults?

While Subarus have a reputation for being well built, like all machines they are not immune from problems or faults.

Have you had any complaints related to diesel engine problems, suspension problems, or automatic transmission problems? Maybe issues with a turbo, clutch or gearbox... even rust? Tell us in the comments below.

What are the key specs of the Subaru Outback engine?

There are three engines in the Outback range: a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder with power and torque ratings of 129kW/235Nm (found in the 2.5i, 2.5i-X and 2.5i Premium); a 3.6-litre six-cylinder turbo-petrol  (turbocharger not supercharger) which produces 191kW/350Nm (in the 3.6R grade) and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder motor (2.0D and 2.0D Premium).

The Outback 2.5i Premium has a 2.5-litre petrol boxer engine. The Outback 2.5i Premium has a 2.5-litre petrol boxer engine.

Those statistics make that last one the smallest in size, and producing the least power at 110kW, but it has impressive torque specs with its 350Nm maximum on tap from 1600-2800rpm.

 The Outback 2.0D and 2.0D Premium both have a diesel particulate filter.

Which Subaru Outback model is the best?

The top-of-the-range Outback is the 3.6R. This grade is the most expensive, but it has the most powerful engine and the most luxurious features including a Harman Kardon stereo. If you’re interested in how the 3.6R compares vs other grades, see the section above on features.

What is the difference between the Subaru Outback and Forester?

The Subaru Outback is classed as a large SUV while the Forester is categorised as a mid-sized SUV. While the Outback is 195mm longer than the Forester, the differences are more than just size.

The Outback has a station wagon body style while the Forester has a more upright traditional SUV shape. Both have the same impressive 213mm of ground clearance.

How does the Subaru Outback interior look & feel?

The fit and finish of the cabin elements also appears outstanding for an affordable car. The fit and finish of the cabin elements also appears outstanding for an affordable car.

The Subaru Outback’s interior looks and feels premium and that’s true for all the grades in the range. The fit and finish of the cabin elements also appears outstanding for an affordable car.

Higher grades come with leather upholstery and a large 8.0-inch media display. The photos here are of the 2.5i Premium.

The Subaru Outback’s interior looks and feels premium. The Subaru Outback’s interior looks and feels premium.

Does the Outback have a manual or automatic transmission?

In the age old battle of manual vs automatic, Subaru has chosen to equip the Outback with an automatic transmission. It’s called a CVT which stands for continuously variable transmission. The Outback does not come with a manual transmission. 

Does the Outback have a timing belt or chain?

The Outback has a timing chain.

What is the Outback's fuel tank capacity?

The Outback’s fuel tank capacity is 60 litres.

Does the Outback have Apple CarPlay & Android Auto?

The Outback comes standard with Apple CarPlay for your iPhone and Android Auto for Android devices.

The car is offered with WiFi hotspot functionality in North America, but not in Australia at this stage.

The Outback comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Outback comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

How good is the Outback's sound system & infotainment set-up?

If you’re looking for the best sound system in the Outback, then the top-of-the-range 3.6R has it with an 11-speaker Harman Kardon stereo with subwoofer and amplifier.

The stereo in the lower grades is good and comes with a DAB digital radio with access to the multimedia through a touchscreen.

The infotainment system incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, managed through the touchscreen, allowing you to stream music and mirror some of your phone’s other apps such as maps for navigation and messaging.

There's no DVD player, and don't look for a CD changer, they're very much a thing of the past, now.

How much does the Outback cost to service?

Okay, you're thinking about the oil, the battery, and all the other maintenance 'stuff.'

Subaru recommends servicing the Outback every six months or 12,500km. Service costs are set under a capped price servicing regime, and only vary slightly between the grades. The 2.5i, 2.5iX and 2.5i Premium maintenance cost is $316.38 for the first service, $316.38 for the second, $404.64 for the third and $549.74 for the fourth.

Are Subaru Outbacks reliable?

As with all Subarus, Outbacks have an excellent reliability rating. If you have any issues with your Outback let us know. 

How many seats does the Outback have?

The Outback has five seats. Despite it being a large SUV, there is no third row, but leather trim comes with the higher grade models.

How does the Outback feel to drive?

The Outback is comfortable to drive and handles better than most taller SUVs with a more agricultural rear suspension set-up. That better handling is mainly due to its lower centre of mass which is thanks to its station wagon body style and its boxer engine which sits low in the engine bay up front.

Quiet, with minimal road noise filtering into the cabin and with soft, raised suspension for plenty of travel over bumps and dips, the Outback is great to drive whether it’s a city road or rural dirt track.

The Outback does feel big to drive, though, and at more than 4.8m long this is not a small car, but its 11.0m turning circle isn’t overly large.

If you’re looking for performance the 3.6R is the grade to pick.

How fast is the Outback?

The fastest Outback is the 3.6R which can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 235km/h. The 2.5i can sprint from 0-100km/h in 10.2 seconds and has a top speed of 198km/h.

It’s not all about horsepower, though, because the 2.0D can hit 100km/h in 9.9 seconds, although it has a lower maximum speed of 192km/h.

Is the Outback a safe car?

The Subaru Outback was given the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was tested in 2015. Coming standard is an extensive list of advanced safety equipment including AEB with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, lane sway warning and adaptive cruise control.

High grades add more safety tech such blind spot warning, lane change assistant and rear cross traffic alert. Joining the rear-view camera is also a side view and front view cameras.

The Outback comes with dual front airbags, dual front side airbags, dual curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag.

The Subaru Outback was given the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was tested in 2015. The Subaru Outback was given the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was tested in 2015.

Does the Outback have ISOFIX points?

For a baby car seat there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX child seat anchor points across the second row. 

How many years and km's does the warranty last?

Where is the Subaru Outback built & manufactured?

The Subaru Outback that’s sold in Australia is made in Japan.

Is the Subaru Outback a good car?

The Subaru Outback is a good car for people don’t want a traditional SUV but still want a spacious and practical wagon with good ground clearance and an excellent all-wheel drive system for mild excursions off-road.

On the road the Outback is comfortable and enjoyable to drive.

While the cabin is beginning to date in its tech and styling the interior still has a premium feel, with what appears to be a high-quality fit and finish to the panels, trim and materials.

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