April 2010

Subaru Outback SE

Handsome looks are helped by Legacy elements

April 2010

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5 stars


  • Impressive interior build quality and materials
  • Pleasant and involving to drive
  • Capacious carrying capability
  • Good level of standard equipment provided


  • Boxer units lacking in torque at low rpm
  • Lacks status with car-buying public
  • Standard estate almost as capable off-road
  • Diesel lacks instant response of some rivals

A long-time favourite of the true off-road fraternity, the Subaru Legacy Outback has always majored on being an honest, practical and, above all, usable four-wheel drive road car. Thanks to a revised Legacy appearing on the scene, the Outback has also benefitted from a number of changes.

One of the key aspects of the Outback's appeal is that it offers a little more in the way of off-road ability than its regular Legacy sister. Outback models gain raised ride height and under-body protection to allow greater freedom, and there are styling hints on the exterior too, such as the bold plastic wheel arches.

The Outback uses heavily revised suspension underneath a new chassis and bodyshell, which Subaru claims will offer much greater refinement and roadholding. It also claims that the Outback is one of the first 'crossover' vehicles, in that it straddles the SUV and family estate car classes.

Subaru also pitches its all-wheel drive system as something that helps give the Outback an edge over its rivals in the keen driver stakes. Combined with the lower centre of gravity of its 'boxer' configuration engines (cylinders are horizontally opposed, not inline), the Outback does perform in a more spirited manner than your average mid-size estate car.

However, the Outback does not abandon its core duties. It's a spacious machine, and one that will easily accommodate a growing family if a people-carrier or SUV is not on the shopping list. The cabin is durable if a little lacking in character, although the generous levels of standard equipment go some way to mitigating this.

Our verdict on the Subaru Outback SE

The Legacy Outback is an excellent all-rounder and its biggest problem may be that it is too understated for its own good. Good to drive, good value, well-equipped and soundly constructed, the Outback ticks plenty of boxes and more than many of its rivals. It's a good alternative choice for those not wanting to follow the crowd.


The Outback is not like a Mondeo or Insignia. Yes, you can have a diesel model but the inclusion of four-wheel drive means fuel economy will be down a little on its main rivals. Elsewhere it's going to be little different from running said Ford or Vauxhall, though. In diesel trim, tax and general running costs should prove affordable.

Space and practicality

Passenger accommodation is generous and the same goes for the car's load bay. The straightforward layout leaves plenty of space for all sorts of load and passenger permutations with very little ease.

Controls and display

Although sometimes criticised for its conventional - read plain - cabin design, the Outback boasts clear and intuitive controls and displays. In the real world this is what matters the most, although the counter-intuitive electric handbrake control is the only fly in the ointment.


With its generously proportioned cabin, all the Outback's seating positions are comfortable. The rear chairs are particularly spacious - not usually the case with cars of this size. The other notable feature is a general absence of engine and road noise when cruising.

Car security

The usual suite of features are present here - deadlocks, remote locking and the like. The immobiliser package is also most welcome on such a desirable car, while the Outback also comes with a sturdy load cover for added peace of mind.

Car safety

Aside from the benefits of four-wheel drive, there's a cabin full of airbags to consider along with a full compliment of electronic stability aids to keep you safe if the grip runs out.

Driver appeal

Although not an out-and-out sporting estate, the Outback does offer the keen driver something to smile about. It's up there with offerings from Audi and the like in the real world, thanks to the willing nature of the engines - especially the diesel unit - and car's supple ride. The standard fit all-wheel drive system also plays a part, giving you much needed added security during the winter months.

Family car appeal

A car that's a perfect fit for the active family thanks to its durable nature, load-lugging capability and all-weather all-wheel drive, the Outback is no people carrier but it will be easier to live with than a conventional SUV if space at home is tight.

First car appeal

The Subaru Legacy Outback doesn't prove a difficult car to drive but its large size is unlikely to appeal to many first-time or young car buyers.

Quality and image

Subaru has gone to great lengths to improve actual and perceived quality levels. By and large it is much better than previous generations, but the Legacy's image remains frustratingly low in a crowded market dominated by German offerings. That said, among the Subaru faithful the Legacy remains a popular all-weather family car.


The basics are worthy of note: it's easy access to the front cabin and there's little in the way of compromise when accessing or exiting the rear. At the back, the car's substantial tailgate proves no hardship to open or close and presents you with a flat load bay.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Located centrally in the car's fascia, the included radio/CD player is easy to use and performs well. Some controls are a little fiddly, but steering wheel mounted controls are present. Satellite navigation is an option, and works well - it's easy to programme and provides quick navigation calculations.

Colours and trim

Lighter colours do much to flatter the Outback's various styling details, and help promote an upmarket feel as well as contrasting nicely with the darker body cladding. Inside, considerable strides have been to boost quality levels, and it appears to have worked, although the cabin trim materials are still a little behind European rivals.


Although the Outback's rear bumper is a long way from the driver's seat, it rarely proves difficult to park the car in even the tightest of spaces. Rearward visibility is good and the steering lightens up helpfully. Some models also have a reversing camera which makes life considerably easier.

Spare wheel

Full size spare fitted as standard.

Range information

Petrol engine options - 2.5-litre (167bhp);3.6-litre (256bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (150bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox (diesel), CVT automatic gearbox (petrol only). Trim levels: SE, SE NavPlus, R.

Alternative cars

Nissan Qashqai SUV/hatchback crossover with good manners on and off road

Audi A6 Allroad Premium quality and ability with a matching price tag

Ford Kuga Conventional SUV with on-road focus

Volvo XC70 Ageing but still capable

Over 1,300 car reviews online

Search for the make and model you fancy