Cars - Subaru

Road tests and reviews of the latest Subaru models available in South Africa

2016 Subaru Outback

2016 Subaru Outback

By Franky Johnson

The fifth generation Outback is now available through Subaru's dealer network (since mid-March), with fans of the latest iteration of the world's most complete all-rounder able to choose from three models.

Each one offers a different Boxer® powerplant, but the same drivetrain: the latest version of Subaru's Symmetrical All Wheel DriveT system mated to the acclaimed LineartronicT CVT. Another common thread is the level of cabin sophistication, ambiance, and roominess. Sleeker styling, a more assertive grille and bigger wheels convey the message on the outside.

A key objective with the latest Outback was to move further upmarket in terms of material quality but retain the Outback's rugged nature and genuine on-road/off-road ability - when it comes to finding the perfect partner for adventure, Outback remains the benchmark.

A more rigid superstructure has benefits for refinement (as well as safety), with noise levels lowered and unwanted vibrations banished. Improved powertrains also contribute to this. Steering now reacts faster thanks to revised gearing, and crisper handling is a welcome by-product of a torsionally stiff body, which also has new shock absorbers, and revised suspension settings.

The Outback has achieved 5-star ratings for both Euro NCAP and ANCAP testing, and its body has been carefully designed to place high tensile steel at critical points, further enhancing the crash structures. This has resulted in minimal increases in weight.

The Lineartronic Constantly Variable Transmission has been further refined for smoother shifting and a more linear feel. Using the paddle shifters, drivers have the option of using six 'steps', the turbodiesel having an additional one, to take its torque characteristics into account.

Additional cabin space is gained by moving the base of the windscreen forward by 50mm while the body is 20 mm wider than before. There is more hip and shoulder room, and an increase in the distance between the front and rear seats. Luggage space is up from 490 to 512 litres and there's a generous 1 801 litres of utility space when the split rear seat is folded. And getting to the luggage compartment couldn't be easier thanks to a powered tailgate.

More sumptuous seating both front and rear (leather-trimmed on all models), standard features like a sunroof and reverse camera, dual-zone climate control and comprehensive steering wheel controls all make for a vehicle which is an exceptionally easy-going companion, whether you're in the driver's seat, or any other.

Meeting the needs of the gadget generation has been high on the priority list, and there is a lidded pocket ahead of the shift lever, which contains 2 x USB, Aux and 12 Volt ports. Petrol-engined versions are equipped with 12-speaker Harmon Kardon audio.

Voice control allows the driver to control audio, climate control and telephone systems through a single steering wheel control button.

The piéce de résistance is a new 6.2-inch touchscreen with an interface reminiscent of smartphones and tablets; which acts as a command centre for functions such as audio, telephony, and vehicle-related settings and systems.

Features like X-mode, which fine-tunes the various driving systems for maximum performance in low-traction situations, is key to this ongoing ability to stay ahead of its rivals when the tarmac ends - which is does effortlessly anyway thanks to 213mm of ground clearance, and approach/departure angles that provide maximum clearance. Active Torque Vectoring has been added to an already impressive suite that makes up VDC (Vehicle dynamics control), making an accident in an Outback an extremely unlikely occurrence.

Pricing starts at R479 000 for the 2,5 litre version, which is powered by an uprated version of the 2.5-litre Boxer engine, now producing 129kW and 235Nm thanks to a number of internal and external changes. Fuel consumption has benefited hugely, with overall consumption plummeting to 7.7 litres per 100 km.

This is followed by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel - the only compression-ignition Boxer engine in the world - and priced at R529 000. While peak power and torque remain at 110kW and 350Nm respectively, the torque peak starts lower down and continues further up the rev range. Consumption has improved to 6.3 litres per 100 km.

The flagship of the range is the Outback 3.6R-S, with the smooth, 3.6-litre H6 engine under its aluminium bonnet. Power output of this lusty, free-revving powerplant is a heady 191kW, with torque of 350Nm. Despite these numbers, it requires just 9.9 litres per 100 km.

With improvements in key areas, the latest Outback continues to evolve, meeting environmental requirements with increasingly clean-burning engines, low friction drivetrains, and exceptional safety standards.

When it comes to making the old benchmark a new benchmark, it's a case of mission accomplished, or to put it in Subaru's terms, Capability Mastered.


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