Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic
Refreshed exterior helps keep the Outback look fresh
- Improved exterior appearance
- Smooth and flexible diesel engine
- Fuss-free higher quality interior
- Practical and tough cabin
- Remains a left-field choice for many
- Cabin contains some ergonomic quirks
- CVT gearbox still not as slick as best conventional automatics
- Despite appearances it's not a full-blown off-roader
The 2015 model year Outback remains a solid effort from Japanese car maker Subaru. Refreshed inside and out, the car continues to offer buyers unimpressed by fashionable soft-roaders a welcome and capable alternative for sensible money.
Subaru continues to promote the Outback as the original 'crossover', as it was one of the first vehicles that took an ordinary estate car in the shape of the Legacy and then added the supplementary elements of a normal 4x4.
While the Outback's general shape might look familiar, this version boasts new sheetmetal, and its sturdy appearance is one of its key appeals. The latest generation has benefited from some visual tweaks as Subaru aims to take the model upmarket and challenge existing buyer perceptions.
The Outback's cabin has also been refreshed. The significant changes are a new instrument pack with more modern dials and a model-dependent infotainment touchscreen. New trim and upholstery materials complete the visual changes.
While the Outback remains broadly mechanically as before, tweaks to the car's ride, handling and steering have resulted in a sharper and more engaging driving experience. Subaru has also boosted the car's safety features with an optional forward-looking camera system tasked with detecting and reducing the risk of collisions with other vehicles.
Our verdict on the Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic
While there was little wrong with the old car, this updated model adds a number of features available elsewhere in the competitive and crowded SUV market. Subaru's products are unlikely to trouble the mainstream opposition, but the Outback is an impressive package that's worth a look if a regular 4x4 isn't your cup of tea.
Thanks to its diesel engine the Outback should offer respectable running costs for this type of vehicle, although most rivals are more competitive thanks to a more focused approach to engine development. That aside, equipment levels are generous before you need to think about options.
Space and practicality
Passenger accommodation is generous and the same goes for the Outback's load bay. The straightforward layout leaves plenty of space for all sorts of load and passenger permutations, and folding the rear seats requires little effort.
Controls and display
The car's updated cabin has resulted in improved controls and displays for the driver. The upmarket touchscreen works well, while the overall approach of reducing clutter has been successful. The steering wheel buttons are the exception as the wheel does look a little cluttered and some functions aren't immediately intuitive.
One big plus point of the Outback's boxer diesel engine is smoothness, and the unobtrusive engine contributes greatly to its quiet cabin. There is a little road and wind noise as speed but nothing exceptional, and the seats ofer a reasonable level of support.
Aside from the expected fitment of remote central locking and an alarm, the Outback has a sturdy load cover that helps to keep luggage away from prying eyes plus a good level of covered storage areas in the cabin.
Aside from the benefits of four-wheel drive, Subaru claim the Outback is as good as its highly regarded Legacy sister car in terms of safety. The latest Outback also gains an improved version of its vehicle dynamics control system, making it even better at avoiding an accident in the first place. There's also an optional collision mitigation system that uses forward looking cameras, which is capable of stopping or reducing a car's speed to mitigate the consequences of an impact.
A dark horse in the driving department, the Outback remains a good steer regardless of road conditions. It helps that it's not a full-blown SUV, while its trick all-wheel drive system works unobtrusively to manage grip levels. Engine choice will depend on driving styles, but don't discount the petrol option and its CVT auto gearbox - it's better than you think, although diesel remains the value proposition.
Family car appeal
If you're not a fan of conventional SUVs but still need some level of 'go anywhere' capability, a car like the Outback is a worthy alternative. Access to the cabin is good and there's ample boot space for family-related clobber. It's better to stick to cloth seats, as the leather one's won't be as durable.
First car appeal
Although an easy car to live with and drive, it won't be a cheap car to buy or run. That said, even a novice driver is unlikely to have issues when it comes to parking or driving on or off-road.
Quality and image
Although the Outback has premium aspirations it is fair to say it actually sits somewhere in the middle ground. The build quality is very good, with a solid feel throughout but the choice of materials is still a little mixed. Image-wise the Outback has a sturdy, dependable reputation that's respected by those seeking a rugged all-rounder for use away from urban environments.
Big doors front and rear plus a relatively high roof are the ideal combination, making entry and egress straightforward. The same goes for the tailgate, which opens easily to allow straightforward loading.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The Outback's standard fit audio system is of decent quality. It has USB input and Bluetooth. Sound quality is respectable and the steering wheel controls are easier to operate than the buttons on the unit itself, while the touchscreen option offers a wide selection of features including an easy to use navigation function.
Colours and trim
Don't expect a wide choice of bright colours - the Outback is a conservative car for conservative buyers. The executive-looking metallics do a fine job, however. It's a similar story inside, with a sombre cabin ambience attempting to promote an upmarket feeling.
A tall body and a good seating position are a good starting point for the Outback, and add to that the parking sensors and reversing camera and the Outback is pretty easy to park for a car of its size.
Full size spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.
Petrol engine options - 2.5-litre (175bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (150bhp). Transmission options: Six-speed manual and CVT automatic. Trim levels: SE, SE Premium.
Nissan Qashqai More road-biased but comfortable and practical
Audi A6 Allroad Premium quality and ability with a matching price tag
Volvo XC70 One of the older class offerings but still capable
Ford Kuga Conventional SUV with on-road focus