The raised exploits
Recently, our weekly stream of press demonstrator vehicles has been going through some phases. After a tidy run of hot hatches came a short burst of trendy SUV’s mixed with a few estate cars like this Subaru Outback. That’s not a complaint, by the way, merely an observation.
No sooner had I gotten my head around a Swedish station wagon and the local market’s aversion to such vehicles when this Japanese estate-on-stilts rocked up. Which got me thinking. The amount of jacked-up, high-riding station wagons we get in S.A. almost outnumbers the garden variety cars they’re based on.
A hint of extra ground clearance and some plastic brush guards do enough to distinguish these cars from their loathed ancestors and probably appeal to kerb jumpers and adventurous drivers alike. The Outback need not fear any of its new-fangled SUV rivals when it comes to space or versatility, either.
Two things you won’t find in this car is cutting-edge tech or pioneering design; Subaru has always built sensible, rugged vehicles which some may even call mundane. Sure, their huge-wing gigantic-turbo cars are very, very exciting to drive but the base technology and models are always sensible.
The big Outback estate has been out for a while and so has this engine; I tested them a few years ago and found that it lacked torque low-down in its manual gears. Subaru hasn’t fiddled with the engine at all but they introduced a new gearbox some time ago – the Lineartronic CVT as fitted to this car.
Able to simulate seven forward gears, it made me do a double-take to confirm that it actually is one of those one-gear-fits-all jobbies. In other words: if you’re a hater of CVT, this may well be the answer. It also turned out to be the answer for any torque or gearing problems encountered previously.
A 1,998cc Boxer 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with 16.3:1 compression and square construction (86×86 bore x stroke) uses a common rail and direct injection to produce 110kW at 3,600rpm or 350Nm from 1,800rpm. 0-100km/h takes 9.7 seconds (indeed, we recorded exactly that) and top speed is 195km/h.
Average fuel consumption is 6.5L/100km from the 65L tank while CO2 emissions are 172g/km. More importantly, while the CVT swindles you into thinking it is changing gears ever-so-smoothly, it’s actually keeping the revs in the engine’s sweet spot; thus ensuring better fuel economy. We even saw 5.8L/100km once.
That also means you won’t catch the motor off guard and although performance isn’t amazing, the 350Nm of torque always seem accessible. Put your foot down all the way and the gearbox even pretends to change gears while repeatedly hunting the red line. Clever, Mr CVT. Very clever.
The cleverness continues inside the cavernous Outback interior with simple layout and materials. Big leather seats provide ample of comfort while the rear bench folds flat to increase cargo volume from 490 to 1,690L. I can vouch for the fact that it will happily swallow a dismantled IKEA queen-size bed frame.
Another attribute which impressed all occupants of our test car was its cosseting ride. 225/60 tyres on dark 17-inch rims carry an independent McPherson strut setup at the front and independent self-leveling double wishbones at the back. Sound like gobbledygook? It simply means that the suspension is good.
A little badge on the tail gate announces that this too is a Subaru with “Symmetrical All Wheel Drive”, a clever system which distributes power as required. No levers, no knobs, no fuss. The tyres may not be suited to rough terrain but 213mm ground clearance and extra cladding will help with excursions into your favourite bits of Namibian nature.
Weighing about 1,625kg, the Outback can tow between 750 and 1,700kg (braked). Its standard specifications include, over and above the accepted norm, Xenon headlights, Bluetooth, rear park sensors, keyless access and start, cruise and climate control, a sunroof as well as seven airbags.
Its safety kit also includes the obligatory ABS brakes with EBD (emergency force distribution) and BAS (brake assist), next to electronic traction and vehicle stability control. All this costs N$479,000 and is wrapped up in a 3-year/100,000 km warranty and 3-year/60,000km maintenance plan.
It may not be the fastest or sexiest car out there but it exploits the raised station wagon concept well enough to give Audi’s Allroad and Volvo’s Cross Country something to think about. It’s spacious, comfortable, very easy to drive and exceptionally economical.