Tested: 2010 Subaru Outback 2.0 Diesel

The bloated estate

I’m assuming that some of you have just returned from a long, hot and tiresome holiday trip ready to trade in the spouse’s ageing wheels. In your absence, most dealerships have steam-cleaned the driveway, topped up the coffee machine and are waiting (some, anxiously) for your visit.

May I suggest you make a turn at your local Subaru agent? That is, if you’re in the market for a modern SUV in the 400-kay bracket. And don’t panic; this one doesn’t have huge spoilers and gold wheels that will frighten your wife ‘n kids.

The Outback model is denoted as an XUV (Crossover utility vehicle) by its maker and has just supplemented the 2.5 and 3.6 petrol line-up with a shiny new 2-litre 16-valve turbocharged and intercooled Diesel engine.

An Outback has always – and hopefully always will – cut a rather strange figure in a crowd of competitors. It will make the Tiguan, Freelander, X3, Fortuner and X-Trail look boxy and stubby, if not a little obvious, mostly because it’s long but low and sleek but sizable.

Imagine your boss’ X5 sneaking off for some sexy-time with the HR lady’s A4 Avant and you might end up with something resembling an Outback. It looks like a bloated estate with raised suspension or a large SUV that’s been somewhat flattened.

These sorts of attributes make for an interesting interior as well. Proportions and general layout are akin to those in an estate but the space and features are leaning towards SUV territory; with the ride-height slap-bang in between. Higher than a car, lower than a 4×4.

The same goes for its centre of gravity (no thanks to the Boxer engine) and road holding, the Outback does lean slightly and reacts like an SUV but inspires more confidence than its taller rivals with good steering and brake response.

From the captain’s helm you can see and feel the bulk, yet in everyday traffic the Subaru is reasonably light on its feet and just requires a keen eye (or the rear PDC) for tight parking attempts.  The upside is that it will swallow the entire family, beach gear plus a dog or two.

Some family members (who shall remain nameless) criticised the cheap-looking silver accents and plastics, but applauded the leg- and head-room, climate control, sound system, lights and instrumentation, comfy ride quality, versatile cargo room and quirky looks.

New Outback owners may delight themselves in the new engine as well, the horizontal unit produces 110kW (150hp) while revving evenly up to 4,000-odd rpm. 350Nm of torque matches the top-of-the-line 3.6 Boxer, average consumption is pinned at 6.5L/100km with average CO2 figures of 168g/km.

0-100km/h is dealt with in just over 10 seconds and maximum velocity is 2km/h shy of 200. The Outback’s substantial weight keeps the engine from delivering entertaining performance; I would label it as adequate, smooth and economical.

The engine has marginal turbo-lag at low revs and the crisp six-speed manual gearbox has plenty of choices to exploit the motor’s mid-range torque punch. I didn’t always get a smooth first or second gear transition but received only blank stares when I explained the problem.

So there you have it; the Subaru Outback 2.0 Diesel is oddly sized but generously proportioned, very comfortable and roomy, not very sporty but brawny and economical. It’s also well equipped and offers you goodies such as:

ABS with brake assist and electronic force distribution, speed-sensitive power steering (adjustable and multi-function steering wheel), power windows and mirrors, power driver’s seat, power sunroof, multiple airbags, plus that legendary symmetrical all-wheel-drive with vehicle dynamics control.

More? How about the 60/40 split folding and reclining rear seats, ISOFIX mountings, climate control, cruise control, immobiliser, hill start assist, electric park brake, full-size spare wheel, rear privacy glass and funky roof rails?

Infotainment is served by Bluetooth telephony, an in-dash 6-disc mp3/wma capable CD changer, RDS radio, AUX socket and surround sound over six speakers surrounded by plenty of storage places and cup holders, a 12V socket, leather-wrapped gear lever and steering wheel.

The 2.0 Turbo-Diesel model retails for N$399 900 and includes a three year 100 000km warranty, three year 60 000km maintenance plan and 10 000km service intervals. It does require 50ppm low-sulphur Diesel but will reward your efforts with good consumption, poise, space, comfort and exclusivity.


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