Outback perfect for ski field roads

SUBARU OUTBACK: Versatile all-road wagon.

There’s a motoring writer who knows a lot more about Subaru Outbacks than I do, simply because he is an owner.

We were driving together on the media launch of the latest generation Outback and I commented on the smooth and strong power delivery of the six-cylinder option in the range.

He replied by saying that he didn’t see many benefits of that engine compared to the base model 2.5-litre four-cylinder unit. The 3.6-litre horizontally-opposed six does have more power and seems more refined, but it is quite a bit thirstier than the standard unit and loads more weight into the front of the car.

He’s quite right, the four-cylinder Outback is capable and does everything as it should; however, the six-cylinder Outback is a luxury – and I love it.

I drove the two Premium variants of the new model back-to-back, and as much as I rate the entry model highly, I’d be a six-cylinder buyer, that engine is silky smooth, immensely powerful at 191kW and it has a free-flowing, unfaltering delivery of power. Along with its high top-end output, the Outback in this form is rated with a healthy 350Nm of torque.

All Outback models get continuously variable transmission which Subaru label Lineartronic. It’s a big ask for CVT to harness the high engine strength but it works perfectly, it is so much like a traditional torque converter gearbox that it’s hard to notice that CVT is an inclusion.

The paddle-shift six-step set-up has a smooth ratio sequence which means the engine isn’t under pressure to maintain acceleration. That also has a relatively beneficial effect on fuel usage. Subaru claims a 9.9-litre-litre per 100km (28mpg) combined cycle average. The dash panel readouts were sitting close to that during my evaluation time constantly listing at around 11l/100km (26mpg) average.

As a guide to the Outback’s speed, an acceleration time of around 7.8sec to make 100km/h from a standstill can be expected. That’s quick for a 1700kg vehicle.

I used my normal high country run for the new model. That included a burst through the roads east of the Malvern Hills. The Outback wagon is a true touring vehicle and it sits quietly on the road with little noise intrusion.

As its name suggests, the Outback is a model which has been engineered for life off the sealed roads. Even though its wagon configuration wouldn’t suggest that, it is a genuine off-road vehicle with Subaru’s widely-acclaimed, permanently-engaged, symmetrical four-wheel-drive system. There is also 213mm of ground clearance, while the long travel suspension is soft and absorbing for those big hits on cross-country tracks.

The weather was wet during my testing time, and I wasn’t up for a filthy vehicle challenge when I got home, so I drove only a short distance on shingle roads to get a feel of the suspension off the sealed surface. I can report it deals well to ruts and corrugations, and from previous experience with the Outback in tough, undulating slippery conditions it is a worthy of its mantle.

The six-cylinder Outback is available in one specification only – high grade. It is labelled Premium and comes with a range of specification that has it sitting on the outer periphery of the luxury car market. And at $59,990 in this form, it is reaching up in price, but you do get a lot of car for the money, especially terms of its engineering.

Take into account, too, the Outback is one of the few genuine wagons left in today’s new car market, it has versatility and practicality stamped all over it.

The South Island has historically been a strong base for Subaru sales and with the ski season due to open on Friday, I’m picking the Outback in all forms will make up a solid
percentage of cars sitting in the Mt Hutt car park.

Price – Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium, $59,990

Dimensions – Length, 4820mm; width, 1840mm; height, 1675mm

Configuration –  Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 3630cc, 191kW, 350Nm, six-step automatic.

Performance –
0-100km/h, 7.8.sec

Fuel usage – 9.9l/100km