Subaru Outback 2018 review

A red Subaru Outback parked near a grey Subaru Outback at alternating angles in the woods

Greg Hill

Posted May 07, 2018


RACV tests the refreshed 2018 Subaru Outback.

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.

 

In this article

Five-model range

Smartly trimmed

Refined delivery

Responsive feel

The verdict

Front side view of a red Subaru Outback in motion

Five-model range

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.

 


Smartly trimmed

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.

 

Refined delivery

With no increase in power and torque figures, changes to the 2.5-litre petrol engine have focused on a smoother, more refined delivery. Weight and friction reductions and tweaking of the engine and transmission controls, including expanded ratios, an additional kickdown control and a seventh step in the manual mode of the CVT gearbox, are all designed to create a more responsive feel and reduce fuel consumption, which on our test week was 8.5L/100km.

The engine’s performance is smooth and flowing, and it does a good job around town and on the open road, but lacks punch if called on to accelerate quickly. The six-cylinder engine has stronger performance but at the expense of higher fuel consumption.

 

Responsive feel

Tweaking of the steering, suspension and brakes has produced a smoother, more responsive feel. When changing lanes or cornering, there’s less body roll, and under braking the pedal feedback is better. Like the performance, the ride is at its best in everyday driving around town, the firmness of the suspension being more apparent at higher speeds on second-class roads where the rougher surfaces generate body movement. Rounding out the package, Subaru’s long-serving constant all-wheel-drive system has proven to be better than most of the on-demand set-ups in other vehicles.

Subaru’s service intervals are more frequent than many other brands but buyers can pre-purchase a three-year service package to ease the bill shock.

 


The verdict

Subaru Outback’s ability to cover a wide range of roles, and master each better than most, makes it an appealing package, and the latest update adds to its attraction.

Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium

Price

Listed price: $42,640 + $4811 (est) ORC.

Premium paint: No cost

Range: $36,240 - $49,140

Safety

ESC. ABS. 7 airbags, autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep, lane-departure, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic systems. Reversing camera, front/rear park sensors, auto lights/wipers. ISOFIX

Connectivity

8” touch-screen, sat-nav, bluetooth, apple CarPlay and Android, automatic, digital radio with AM/FM/CD and 4 USB ports.

Vehicle features

Two-zone climate-control, leather trim, electric/heated front seats, reclining rear seats, sunroof, roof rails and electric tailgate.

Driver features

Fully adjustable steering, with paddle shifters. Electric folding mirrors, keyless entry/start, stop/start fuel saving and two drive modes.

Specifications

Drivetrain: 2498cc 4cyl petrol engine, all-wheel-drive, CVT. 129kW@ 5800rpm, 235Nm@4000rpm
Performance: 0-60 km/hour, 5.2 sec. 0-80, 7.6. 0-100, 10.7. 50-80, 5.1. 60-100, 7.2. 0-400m, 17.7. Stop from 80 km/hour, 23.8m
Fuel: 8.5L/100 km (RACV test), 7.3L/100 km (government test), 60L tank, 91-RON petrol
Wheels: 18” alloy, 225/60 R18 tyres, full-size alloy spare
Towing limits: 1500kg, 150kg towball
Environment: 166g/km CO2

Service/repairs

Six months/12,500 kilometres services. Three year/unlimited kilometres warranty.


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