Outback's a smooth operator

By John Maslin

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Subaru Outback sports utility oozes bags of style and comfort
There's plenty of punch from the 2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder Boxer engine. Photo/Bevan Conley
There's plenty of punch from the 2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder Boxer engine. Photo/Bevan Conley

Subaru has a lock on making built-for-purpose vehicles and the Outback 2.0D is another example of it.

Carrying Subaru's Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), here's a sports utility that would cover a whole range of wants for a family looking around for a robust yet highly practical vehicle.

There's enough punch from the 2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder Boxer engine. While 110kW doesn't seem like a load of muscle for what is a fairly big vehicle, it's the torque numbers that count. And in that realm there's 350 Newton metres of twist developed from a very moderate 1800rpm.

But what undoubtedly gives the Outback another string to its bow is the Lineartronic continuously variable transmission.

This transmission makes things very smooth but the driver does have the benefit of manually moving through seven ratios if they want, either through the gear lever or turning their attention to the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

Improvements to the transmission mean better fuel economy for the Outback which, of course, comes with Subaru's trademark symmetrical all-wheel drive system. Having the manual option means you can get the diesel engine working a little bit harder when the need arises. Some CVTs we've experienced are a little bit tardy on making their moves, but that can't be said of the Lineartronic set up. It comes with a logic of its own and will downshift automatically when you decelerate going down hill.

The merits of the diesel engine are difficult to debate with this sort of robust sports utility. With a fuel tank carrying 65 litres, and the maker's claim of 6.3 litres of combined urban/highway motoring, it should be possible to cover 1000km before having to head to the pumps.

Subaru's all-wheel drive system, with the active torque split in the auto model, suits the Outback down to the ground, giving it a decent capacity to wander off the hard stuff and get its feet dirty. And with 213mm of ground clearance it can tackle some untamed stuff.

It remains solid as rock away from the seal just as it shows a really refined face on the highway. This is helped undoubtedly by its long wheelbase and very good balance coming back from the MacPherson strut suspension up front and double wishbone arrangement at the rear.

The thing with the Outback is it's a very robust vehicle yet it brings some class as well with an equipment level and interior fit-out that reflect that.

That equipment includes sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity, full audio range with MP3 capacity and USB connection.

The safety package includes ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), vehicle dynamics control (VDC) with stability and traction control.

The Outback is a SUV with a purpose in mind and that's all about being a solid-as-a-rock family vehicle and the tractability of four-wheel drive and the frugality of running costs that comes with diesel power.

A very spacious interior provides more than enough for the passengers and the cargo storage area behind a wide-opening rear door is excellent. There's 490 litres with the rear seat up and almost a whopping 1700 litres with the seat down. A removable rubber cargo protector is a very sensible and practical addition.

Form and function create the perfect synergy with this one.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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