The new XUV
Subaru South Africa’s website alleges that they sell six distinctive model ranges, four of which I’ve already tested. Forester, Impreza, Legacy and Outback are now familiar territory to yours truly with only the Tribeca and STi left for us to test. If anyone at Subaru is reading this, I wouldn’t mind an STi press demonstrator; for a month.
Galimoto’s newest test subject appeared on my driveway in the form of a silver-grey Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium. Allow me to explain. The Outback is what Subaru happily calls an XUV (Cross-over Utility Vehicle), 3.6 is its engine capacity and Premium is a good effort to describe its interior and virtues.
The Outback is based on the Legacy sedan’s platform and thus announces its intentions with a shiny “Symmetrical All Wheel Drive” badge on its tailgate. In line with its donor and company’s innovations, the big Subaru also features the “Si Drive” vehicle dynamics control.
Typing of big, our Outback was fitted with an optional tow-bar which almost got it evicted from my garage due to size issues. This vehicle is quite big, reasonably wide, not too high and, as we just discovered, almost long enough not to fit in a standard-sized garage.
Cross-over Utility Vehicle suddenly makes a lot of sense as the Outback has the size and interior space of a 4×4 but looks more like a big estate / station wagon on stilts. Its tyres do the splits between road and dirt use, the wheel articulation is adequate and its front and rear overhangs are slightly long.
Self-leveling automatic Xenon lights with washers live in intricate clusters completing an angry and busy front look, creases and chrome highlights run along its sides to a voluptuous bottom with attractive light clusters, huge reflectors in the boot, but no rear fog light(s). No really; I looked everywhere.
Due to its XUV disposition, any Outback rides somewhat higher than regular sedans or estates but doesn’t reach the ride height of the full-fat four-by-fours. It also makes due without low range or locking differential(s) but Subaru sends its offspring to battle with electronically controlled variable torque distribution. Sounds expensive.
The source of any torque, variable or not, is a 3.6 litre turbo-charged Boxer (flat, horizontally opposed) 6-cylinder. Porsche fans should now be sitting bolt-upright but may recline again in comfort, the Subaru mill “only” produces 191kW (260hp) at 5600rpm or 350Nm at a fairly high 4400rpm.
Its fairly relaxed power figures also translate into its operation; the Outback 3.6R ignores Subaru’s hammering flat-4 or Porsche’s clattering flat-6 noises and hums a soft six-cylinder melody. Thanks to dual variable valve timing and other modern fittings, this engine suffers no noticeable turbo gap and smoothly picks up speed.
Despite its bulk, an Outback 3.6R should reach 100km/h in 7.5 seconds and reach an impressive top speed of 230km/h. In a NamWheels first, our GPS actually clocked the Outback 3.6R at 7 seconds flat to 100km/h. Keep this sort of driving up and (just like any Scooby) the petrol attendants will start to know you by your first name.
Subaru claims an average consumption of 10.6L/100km; our average of 1L more is quite acceptable considering the vehicle’s size and our often diverse style of driving. And in defence of its performance, the Outback effortlessly sails along on its torque curve and possesses sufficient power reserves for overtaking.
Si Drive (Subaru intelligent Drive) dynamic control is activated via a silver knob between the seats. Press down for the default “I” setting which pairs up with an instant consumption dial to promote economical driving, turn left for the more alert “S” and right for the neck-straining response of “S#”.
The Subaru’s power is transmitted to a sophisticated 4-wheel independent suspension via a 5-speed SPEEDShift automatic gearbox with manual mode, gear indicator/suggestion and paddle shifters. Outback’s road manners are highly commendable and incredibly comfortable, also at highway speeds.
Its body only leans in vigorous cornering, at which time the big tyres will loudly protest against the driver’s ambition. Still, the Outback is quite nimble for its size and also offers a very responsive and communicative steering mechanism.
Inside the vehicle you will find SUV dimensions, plenty of airbags, soft leather seats, lots of auto controls and electric everything. Keyless entry and ignition work flawlessly, as does the Premium 6-CD mp3/WMA/ipod/RDS surround sound system. Unfortunately Subaru doesn’t offer Bluetooth or Navigation.
All seats offer ample head and leg room, the front ones have electrically adjustable lumbar support and the rear bench folds over to offer a flat (if somewhat high) loading floor. The Outback 3.6R costs N$459 000 and comes as standard with a 3 year / 63 000km maintenance plan and a 3 year / 100 000km warranty.
0-100m: 6.1s @ 91.3km/h
0-200m: 9.4s @ 117.1km/h
0-300m: 12.3s @ 132.3km/h
0-400m: 14.8s @ 145.9km/h
1/4mile: 14.9s @ 146.2km/h / 90.8mph
Climate: Overcast, slight crosswind
Road: Dry tarmac, level
Occupants: Driver, no passengers
Fuel level: 1/3