The Outback has long been a great choice for those wanting a no-fuss wagon that offered excellent utility and all-terrain ability. The Subaru Outback enters 2018 offering much the same combination of strengths and aims to increase its desirability with a number of changes both inside and out.
The interior is trimmed in good quality materials and while it won’t be troubling competitors like Audi in the luxury stakes there is a lot to like about the solid-feeling controls and switchgear. Higher trim levels also offer leather upholstery and wood trim accents too.
Passenger space both up front and in the rear is generous and the tall ride-height and large glass area give this wagon an airy and spacious feel. The cargo area is good too, foldable rear seats increase the utility space.
The suspension setup is on the softer side, great for absorbing rough terrain but not so good at tackling winding roads at high speed. This is a trade-off that most Outback shoppers will most likely be happy to live with.
The CVT transmission also enjoys keeping things at a leisurely pace. When it comes to heading off-road the Outback comes into its own, that soft suspension, accurate steering and tall ride-height make for a very capable and rugged vehicle.
The Subaru Outback is available with either a 2.5-liter inline-four which produces 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque or a much more powerful 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine which offers 256 hp and 247 lb-ft. Both are permanently all-wheel drive and utilize a CVT automatic transmission which offers a 6-speed manual mode.
The base 2.5-liter offers commendable fuel consumption figures with 25/32 mpg in highway/city driving but that is where the good news ends. Its 175 hp is not enough to provide meaningful performance for the large wagon and it is outclassed by most of its competitors. The lack of power is less noticeable in town but it feels underpowered with a full complement of passengers onboard or if highway overtaking maneuvers are attempted.
The 3.6-liter variant offers a lot more accelerative ability although at a cost to fuel efficiency, its highway/city mpg figures fall to 20/27 respectively. The CVT transmission works smoothly in most situations and pairs well with the torquier power delivery of the bigger engine.
The base 2.5i trim now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality on the standard 6.5-inch Subaru Starlink infotainment system and it also comes fitted with a rearview camera, 4-speaker audio system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
Hill hold assist and hill descent control aid in off-roading situations while safety and convenience devices such as brake assist, LED daytime running lights, cruise control and an overhead console are also included.
The 2.5i Premium adds a number of desirable features to the above list with some notable items including heated seats and exterior mirrors, electroluminescent analog instruments, power driver seat, 8-inch Starlink system with additional USB ports both front and rear as well as an upgraded audio system with 6-speakers.
2.5i Limited trim adds to the above with leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless access, power tailgate, auto-dimming rearview compass mirror and Harman Kardon audio system. Safety is also enhanced with blind-spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert all standard. The 3.6-liter engine is available in this trim level too.
2.5i Touring Trim includes all of the previous trim offerings and adds a navigation system, heated steering wheel and a driver assistance package too. Unique roof rails and exterior trim differentiate the Touring models from the rest of the range. The available EyeSight driver safety package is standard too and includes adaptive cruise control and forward collision alert systems. The 3.6-liter engine is available with the Touring trim.
The 2018 Subaru Outback is a comfortable and practical family wagon with the added benefit of a purpose-built off-road drivetrain. It does not pretend to be a sporty vehicle so it offers a well-damped ride quality, high ride-height and plenty of comfort. The base engine could do with some additional power but other than that, the Outback is a strong competitor in its class.