The all-new 2021 Subaru Outback brings a sense of refinement and upmarket flavour to the brand's range while still retaining all the hallmarks of what makes a Subaru.
Introduced in 1994 as what was basically a lifted Legacy station wagon, the Outback is now listed in Subaru’s line-up as their ‘luxury SUV’.
Even the press release has a whole section dubbed “Uncommon Luxury”, which although frankly isn’t something you might normally expect from the Subaru brand, is something they’ve managed to pull off with aplomb with new tech, a new interior, and a brilliantly smooth drive.
The new Outback has been slightly redesigned from the previous generation and keeps in line with Subaru’s current design philosophy.
You can easily see the similarities between their other models such as the XV and Forester. It retains that lifted estate look that’s distinctive of the Outback, which helps make it look sleeker than the aforementioned models.
This new model is also 50mm longer and 35mm wider than the previous Outback, which means a more spacious interior for the occupants. The Outback also gets LED lights all around and a functional roof rack up top.
The Outback is built with the latest iteration of Subaru’s Global Platform which improves body rigidity, safety, and driving dynamics. It’s powered by a 2.5L boxer engine capable of 185hp and 245Nm of torque.
This grunt is delivered through the 8-speed Lineartronic CVT gearbox and Subaru’s signature symmetrical all-wheel-drive system.
In practice, you really have to look at both sides of the coin when it comes to this car. To start with the downsides, the Outback’s acceleration and power are rather lacking for an engine and car of this size, with a pretty leisurely 0-100km/h time of 9.6 seconds.
While torque was readily available, the CVT–as it is so often–is the real bane of any kind of dynamic driving. The steering, while light. is not exactly communicative and can feel a bit dead.
On the flip side, the acceleration and power delivery is one of the smoothest we’ve felt in any car period.
Put your foot down and the car whooshes along with grace. The noise isolation in the new Outback is excellent with almost zero road, tyre, or wind noise penetrating the cabin.
The ride is also incredibly comfortable with the very supple suspension just eating up any imperfections on the road with ease.
Even when driving over the rough and uneven gravel surface to get to our photo spot, the Outback’s ride quality and bountiful ground clearance soaked up all the bumps and maintained fantastic road holding even at speeds we probably shouldn’t have been at.
The same light steering also means that you can cruise with barely any effort at all, especially when combined with some of the new tech features, which we’ll cover in a bit.
The CVT gearbox also means that, while you won’t be carving up B-roads anytime soon, fuel consumption is improved at a claimed 13.7km/L which is admirable for the notoriously thirsty 2.5L boxer engine.
On the inside, the Outback is the first and only model in Subaru’s range to receive the Nappa leather treatment with a mixture of high-quality leather and durable plastic across the interior. Interior space is ample as can be expected in a car of this size.
Legroom outback (pun intended) is more than sufficient and there’s plenty of space for child seats or additional passengers. Boot space is abundant and with the seats down, you could fit multiple fully grown people back there. Trust us we tried (have a look at our Instagram here if you want to see it).
The new car also gets a new infotainment system with most of the car’s functions, such as the fan speed, aircon direction, and the auto start-stop, integrated into it.
What this means, of course, is that to adjust settings like the fan speed, you'll have to take attention off the road in order to hit the button you want.
In fact, the only physical buttons you get in the centre console are for the cameras, the auto handbrake, the hazards, temperature controls, the demisters, and the volume and radio dials.
Everything else is now located inside the various menus of that new 11.6” touchscreen infotainment system which comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
As an added feature in this luxury Subaru, you also get an 11-speaker Harmon Kardon premium audio system as standard which we can attest to the quality of.
That new infotainment system also houses the controls for Subaru’s EyeSight 4.0 safety system. The system uses cameras mounted around the car and the stereo cameras up by the rearview mirror to enable a whole raft of modern safety and convenience features.
The uprated stereo cameras also mean that the field-of-view of the cameras has been almost doubled from the previous version and it can see up to 130m in front of you–all the better to see errant cyclists/PMD riders.
You also get the usual Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning & Prevention which is one of the best-implemented versions we’ve tried out so far.
The tug on the steering when it guides you in your lane is smooth and not nearly as intrusive as in some other systems.
However, a highlight feature of the new Outback is the Driver Monitoring System (DMS). It uses an infrared camera mounted above the centre touchscreen and facial recognition to monitor the driver’s level of attention and beeps when they’re looking away from the road.
But the real kicker is because it can recognise faces, you can register up to five individual driver profiles in the car’s settings.
Let’s say you get into the car after your mom has driven it, the car will recognise your face and automatically adjust the seating position, mirrors, and climate control to your unique setting. It’s fantastic.
The other standout feature is the Reverse Automatic Braking. We all know about Pre-Collision Braking that pre-emptively stops the car if an impending collision is detected but Subaru has taken that feature and turned it 180˚.
The Outback will also brake automatically when it detects something too close behind such as a child or a high kerb while you are reversing.
Although there are some gripes to be had with regards to the lack of physical buttons and horsepower, the Outback presents itself as quite the package.
Subaru has introduced these luxury features like premium audio, high tech safety and driver assistance systems, and quality interior well. The Outback doesn't feel like a bunch of press-release-friendly gimmicks haphazardly slapped together.
Instead, it comes off as more refined and well thought out.
If you’re the kind of person who has a family to haul around but still want to feel like a manly man, the rugged exterior look, on and off-road capabilities, and the quiet gentle drive might just make the new Subaru Outback the right pick for you.
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Engine: 2,498cc 4-cylinder horizontally-opposed 16-valve DOHC
Power: 185bhp @ 5,800rpm
Torque: 245Nm @ 3,400 - 4,600rpm
Fuel Consumption: 13.7km/L
Top Speed: 206km/h
Drivetrain: Lineartronic CVT with 8-speed manual mode & paddle shifters,
Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
Brakes: Disc Brakes
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,870mm x 1,875mm x 1,675mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 63 litres
Boot Capacity: 522 litres (max. 1,726 litres)
Auto & Adaptive Headlights
Adaptive Cruise Control & Lane Departure Assist
Reverse Automatic Braking
Fully Electric Seats (plus Memory function for driver)
Hands-free Auto Tailgate
Harman Kardon Sound System
Nappa Leather Interior
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