Saturday 16 December 2017

Review: Subaru Outback "is a great confident beast with a certain beauty"

As Crossovers become the flavour of the month, Campbell Spray tests one of the original of the species

The new Subaru Outback
The new Subaru Outback
Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

UNWITTINGLY this has become a Crossover week. My colleague Geraldine beat me to the punch with her review of the Suzuki Vitara. I actually loved that car, my test one was in bright red and it made me smile every time I drove it - and, at the time, I needed a lot of cheering up. It immediately went on the shopping list.

Suzuki have been at this game for a long time, but its Japanese counterpart, Subaru, likes to claim that it almost invented the Crossover, that mix of saloon/estate and SUV with some off-road ability so beloved of yummy mummies and the like. In fact, 20 years ago with the first Outback, they started producing something very serious that could go off-road with the very best, while still looking presentable on the urban drive.

The smaller Forester has probably always been my favourite Subaru but the Outback could be a runner if you needed something a lot bigger. It has plenty of space all round: excellent leg room - front and back - loading areas and storage. Yet it drives confidently with the precision of a smaller vehicle.

It is also so solid and quiet that you can understand how well it does in rugged areas of the US, where it outsells Volkswagen. Its low-slung Boxer engines give a great feeling of stability. Yet over here, unless with aficionados, it hardly makes a dent in the market, partly due to price.

Starting at €41k and heading north to €48,995 for the 2.0D SE Premium model I was driving, it is competing with the luxury German brands and some silly snobbery. The engines, both petrol and diesel, are very tried-and-tested and while competitive on some emission and consumption figures, they do need refreshing. The test model's yearly road tax was nearly €600.

The Outback is an amazingly safe car, not just for its responsive All-Wheel Drive system but thanks to its Eyesight technology, an advanced crash-preventing system which monitors, through cameras front and rear, to intervene if it sees obstacles and pedestrians. It can also be used for adaptive cruise control.

I hoped to take the Outback up some mountain passes but only managed the car park of the wonderful Knocksink Woods at Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. However, after reading reviews by people I trust, I am sure the Outback would have coped with the woodland paths and streams. I liked the car, but I don't need one.

The Vitara is probably more my size but this Subaru is a great confident beast with a certain beauty, far nicer than many ugly, big and in-your-face SUVs. A true Crossover; a contender not a pretender.

Sunday Independent

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