Silence greets you as the speedometer nudges 90km/h. You strain your ears to pick up whispers of wind noise. Road noise is almost non-existent as you glide down the expressway.
Turn up the hi-fi’s volume and the song from your favourite artist envelops you. Cruising home in here is the highlight of your day.
If you hadn’t read the title, you might assume that this is a Lexus review.
Except that it isn’t. In fact, this is the experience in the new Subaru Outback, the Japanese brand’s flagship and most refined model to date.
SUBARU OUTBACK: OUTDOORSY LUXURY
The Outback is an SUV that would look right covered in mud.
Unpainted plastic cladding around the wheel arches? Check. Roof rails that look sturdy enough to hold a shipping container? Check. Raised suspension and generous ground clearance? Check and check.
The Outback is the largest model in Subaru’s range. Its overall length of 4870mm is 245mm longer than Forester’s. More significantly, its wheelbase is also 75mm lengthier, which bodes well for passenger space.
It does not matter whether you consider the Subaru Outback to be an SUV or high-riding estate. It looks like a jungle-basher, and this has definite appeal to outdoorsy suburbanites with sporty lifestyles.
Indeed, seeing this car made me think about buying a pair of Timberland boots to go with my ripped jeans and flannel shirt. If I could grow a beard, this car would complete my lumberjack getup.
The Outback’s interior is the nicest I have ever seen in a Subaru. Soft-touch surfaces can be found on the doors and dashboard, making it feel homier than before.
The seats, upholstered in Nappa leather, are particularly cushy. This is the first time that the brand has ever used such a premium material.
Further adding to the upmarket feel is the Driver Monitoring System (DMS). Using a pair of infrared cameras, DMS scans and remembers the faces of up to five different drivers and stores each individual’s preferred settings.
The 11.6-inch infotainment display is new. It offers sharp graphics and punchy colours, but more importantly, the system loads quickly upon start-up.
The menu layout is relatively intuitive, as I quickly found and switched off the start-stop function within seconds. It would be better if this function had a physical switch. But at least there are actual buttons for adjusting the air-con’s temperature.
Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is standard, too) works seamlessly, and the hi-fi system, which has a subwoofer, sounds fantastic. A CD player is on hand if you want even better-sounding tunes.
Also awesome is the backseat, which offers generous legroom and foot space. There’s still a floor protrusion, but the overall space still accommodates three adults. The seat backs could be taller, though.
With a 522-litre boot, the Subaru Outback also works well as a load-hauler. Fold down the rear seats (using the handy backrest release levers) and you can fit a full-size bicycle without removing any wheels.
Going by its looks and status as Subaru’s flagship, one would expect the Outback to have “jungle-bashing” performance.
There’s no turbocharger under the bonnet, though. The Outback has a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre flat-4 capable of 185hp (188PS) and 245Nm. It delivers these outputs via a Lineartronic CVT with an 8-speed override function.
Acceleration is not the Outback’s strong suit, for it takes 9.6 seconds to complete the century sprint. Fuel consumption is relatively high as well, with the carmaker claiming an average of 13.7km per litre. The best I managed was 8.6km/L, and that was while cruising on the highway.
But you will forget about these figures when you experience just how quiet the Subaru Outback is. Despite its tall stance, there’s barely any wind noise. Tyre and road noise are also nearly non-existent – even over rougher patches of tarmac.
This might be hard to believe, but the Subaru Outback is the quietest and most comfortable Subaru to date. Even the engine is silky. You can regularly rev it to 5000rpm and all you’ll get in return is a soft growl.
No wonder the Outback has “Touring” in its name.
Equally impressive is how the Outback handles. Again, despite its height, it does not object to being chucked into corners. The lean is nicely controlled and the vehicle responds progressively.
Given its pliant ride and predictable handling, the Subaru Outback was obviously engineered with concrete jungle-dwellers in mind.
The Outback comes with Subaru’s fourth-generation EyeSight system. Like the previous versions, it also relies on a pair of stereo cameras.
But this time, the new cameras provide nearly double the viewing angles. They help you spot oncoming traffic when you’re making a turn. EyeSight 4.0 also includes Autonomous Emergency Steering, which helps steer the car away from a frontal collision.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) now comes with Lane Centering. The latter does a swell job keeping the Outback in lane, but it can be unnerving to feel steering wheel moving by itself. Fortunately, it can be switched off.
ACC continues to accelerate and slow the car down smoothly in response to traffic conditions. It is also particularly useful when you are stuck in a jam.
WHO IS THE SUBARU OUTBACK FOR?
The Subaru Outback ticks most of the boxes that buyers require. It offers space, refinement and a long list of safety features.
But if you want something that combines rugged looks with the refinement and driver-friendliness of a soft-roader, then the Outback is your SUV.
Just don’t forget the Timberland boots, ripped jeans and flannel shirt.
Subaru Outback i-Touring EyeSight 2.5 (A)
ENGINE 2498cc, 16-valves, flat-4
MAX POWER 185hp (188PS) at 5800rpm
MAX TORQUE 245Nm at 3400-4600rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 110hp per tonne
GEARBOX CVT with 8-speed override
0-100KM/H 9.6 seconds
TOP SPEED 206km/h
CONSUMPTION 13.7km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $176,800 (after $10k VES surcharge)
AGENT Motor Image Enterprises