Subaru has given Outback a mild refresh for 2018, with more equipment, better infotainment technology and upgraded safety features, as well as refinements to the 2.5i engine, transmission and suspension.
Outback has always had a successful formula – it again won its class in last year’s Australia’s Best Cars –by cleverly blending the space and practicality of a conventional station wagon with the appeal and ability of a higher-riding SUV. Subaru is not the only maker to employ this configuration, but on the Australian market it’s been the most successful. The latest changes, which also include a redesigned front bumper, grille, headlights, wing mirrors and wheels, have thus made a good vehicle even better.
There are five models in the Outback range: two 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol versions, two 2.0-litre diesels and a 3.6-litre six-cylinder petrol model. We drove the 2.5i Premium, which at $42,640 plus on-road costs is in the middle of the price range that has increased only marginally with the upgrade.
For these few extra dollars, Outback now gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technology, and rear-seat passengers will appreciate extra USB ports in the back. Premium models get a larger eight-inch screen, an easier-to-use navigation system and adaptive LED headlights with steering-responsive beams. Subaru’s impressive EyeSight driver assistance system gains lane-keep assist, and the pre-collision braking cut-off has increased from a 30km/h maximum to 50km/h. The system also benefits from camera enhancements, as well as front and side-view monitoring at speeds under 20km/h.
There’s a classy new centre-dash layout and steering wheel for the 2018 Outback, and the car is smartly trimmed throughout; our test car displayed an excellent standard of build, fit and finish. For the driver, there are plenty of good features and a few quirks. It is quite a busy presentation with lots of switches that take a little learning to make the most of what the car can do. The front seats provide a respectable level of comfort but are a touch firm and don’t have a lot of side bolstering. There’s a tendency to slide around on the leather and the seat base is short.
For a medium/large wagon, rear leg and head room is good, for extra comfort the rear seats recline, and all up there’s enough room here for three adults. Even so, the middle seat is not an ideal position, but it’s still better than in many vehicles. A spacious luggage compartment puts most other SUVs to shame, and the simple seat-folding action extends the load capacity and creates a flat floor. To Subaru’s credit, Outback also carries a full-size alloy spare wheel.