It does seem a touch odd that Subaru’s crossover wagon is named after a flat, dry, straight expansive centre of Australia, when it takes oppositional conditions to reveal its true strengths. But the new 2010 Outback isn’t just about using its trademark boxer engine and all wheel drive system to expertly negotiate twisting mountain passes, it has serious intent as a spacious, family-hauling all rounder. The three previous generations of Outback have developed a reputation of Swiss-army-knife practicality for the new model, so can it raise the bar even higher? Car and SUV opened up the new top-spec Outback 3.6R Premium to check if it has all the tools for success.
Sitting 70mm higher than its Legacy stable mate, the Outback casts a burly purposeful shadow. An increase in width over its predecessor helps negate the raised ride height and creates a balanced stance. A thick strip of black plastic cladding protects the bottom edges of the car and houses silver-ringed fog lamps out front. The winged grille and frowning headlights give the Outback road presence and the 17-inch 6-spoke alloys are a good match despite struggling to pack out the high wheel arches. Aesthetically, the Outback isn’t a natural beauty and has clearly been styled with the American market in mind. That said, it has a modern, clean look that’s well colour-coded and has some nice touches like tinted rear glass, integrated roof rails and subtle use of silver trim.
While the Outback interior received criticism in the third-generation model most of those issues now appear well sorted. There is good space on offer all round, with generous legroom in the back and comfortable leather seats up front with electric adjustment. Cargo space is equally practical with a 490-litre capacity with rear seats up expanding to a massive 1,690-litres when laid flat. If that still isn’t enough this Outback can haul a 1,800kg braked trailer (750kg unbraked). Small storage is handled by a large glove box, deep centre console bin and door pockets. The dashboard on the Premium model is a mixture of brushed metal and black plastics with contrasting glossy walnut trim. The centre control stack is elegantly styled and logically laid out but appears a bit sparse and dated without the full-size LCD control screen that’s a feature of American-market models. The instrumentation is a treat with cool blue illumination on the silver-ringed dials and the leather-wrapped steering wheel houses handy audio and cruise controls. Other standard equipment on the Premium Outback includes, 6-speaker, 6-disc Kenwood CD stereo, Bluetooth, tilt and rake adjustable steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, smart key entry, rain-sensing wipers, trip computer and auto headlights. The self-leveling xenon lights are particularly impressive under full beam, reinforcing the Outback’s go-anywhere credentials. Overall, the Outback interior feels durable, is spacious and well equipped.
Although the Outback is a tidy piece of kit inside and out, like all Subarus it draws its true identity from what’s hiding inside the sheet metal. The new Outback continues Subaru’s signature marriage of a horizontally opposed Boxer engine with a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Under the bonnet lays the largest engine ever put into an Outback – a petrol-powered 3.6-litre 6-cylinder unit. This twin cam, six-banger pumps out 191kW of power and a healthy 350Nm of torque. Interestingly, this engine is only 4kW short of Subaru’s turbocharged 2.5-litre GT motor in terms of power and matches it exactly for torque. It moves the Outback along nicely with some serious mid-range punch and a lively 0-100kph sprint time of 7.6 seconds. The power delivery is smooth and consistently delivered while the engine has a quiet and fairly refined demeanor. There is also a practicality to the performance with the motor running on 91 RON petrol and returning a respectable 10.3l/100km fuel economy on the combined cycle.
Unfortunately Subaru’s new CVT automatic transmission isn’t available with the larger 3.6l engine but the Outback uses a very capable standard auto box. This 5-speed gearbox is generally relaxed with few problems finding the right gear and is capable of firing off rapid downshifts on demand. Manual changes are possible through steering wheel mounted paddles that function well but do have a slight lag. The transmission is given extra character and control by Subaru’s SI-Drive system. This allows selection of three different driving styles ranging from an economy focus to a sharpened sports mode.
On road the Outback has a no-fuss, go anywhere attitude that translates well into urban traffic or pot-holed gravel roads and everything in between. During cornering the Outback makes the most of its AWD grip and even at higher speeds stays stable only displaying understeer when pushed hard. The 213mm ride height allows for good suspension travel and a compliant ride that shelters occupants from most uneven road surfaces. There is some body roll, but generally the Outback is well poised and capable in all conditions. It also has a refined ride quality with just a whisper of engine and road noise and only a small amount of wind noise is generated from the large wing mirrors.
Safety bases are covered by various electronic aides that include ABS brakes with brake-force distribution, stability and traction control systems. There’s also a hill-start assist function and seven airbags in total including a driver’s knee bag. But parking sensors are notably absent.
So does the Outback Premium have the skills to pay the bills? The short answer is, yes. However, the styling won’t appeal to all tastes and while the interior is spacious and well equipped the materials are of mixed quality and the look is slightly awkward. In 3.6l Premium trim a hefty price tag just short of $60k might see many buyers opting for lower-spec versions, but it’s a supremely confident and capable vehicle. The excellent AWD system and raised ride height allow it access to places other wagons couldn’t reach and the 6-cylinder engine is smooth and powerful. A spacious, all-wheel-drive wagon will always find keen buyers in the Kiwi market and the Subaru Outback Premium is a very good example within this popular niche.
What we like:
- High handling abilities
- Refined ride quality
- Powerful engine
What we don’t like:
- Styling won’t appeal to all
- Sparse interior switchgear
- Premium specification comes with premium price tag
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium (2010) — Specifications
Engine type Horizontally opposed Boxer 6 cylinder, petrol engine
Valve mechanism DOHC with Dual AVCS
Bore x stroke mm 92 x 91
Capacity cc 3630
Compression ratio 10.5
Fuel tank capacity litres 65
Fuel system Multi point sequential injection
Fuel requirement RON 91
Maximum power output (DIN) kW/rpm [email protected]
Maximum torque (DIN) Nm/rpm [email protected]
Accelaration 0-100 Km/h secs 7.6
Electronic Throttle Control system (ETC) Drive-by-wire
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 combined 10.3
Emission standards Euro4
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 urban 14.7
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 extra urban 7.6
C02 emissions (ADR81/02) combined (g/km) 242
Symmertrical All-Wheel Drive
Variable Torque Distribution Yes
Steering Engine speed sensitive power assisted rack and pinion
Minimum turning circle (curb to curb) m 11
Front suspension McPherson strut type, independent suspension
Rear suspension Self-levelling double wishbone type, independent suspension
Front brakes Ventilated disc brake
Rear brakes Ventilated disc brake
Brake booster type mm Tandem
ABS 4-channel, 4-sensor ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution
Wheels and Tyres
Tyre manufacturer Yokohama
Tyres (width, profile, size, load index and speed) 225/60 R17 99V
Rim size (inches) 17x7JJ
Spare wheel 185/65 R17 90M
Overall length (mm) 4790
Overall width (mm) 1820
Overall height (mm) 1615
Wheel base (mm) 2745
Front track (mm) 1535
Rear track (mm) 1530
Minimum ground clearance (mm)3 213
Cargo volume – rear seat up/down (litres) 490 / 1690
Seating capacity 5
With trailer brakes (kg) 1800
Without trailer brakes (kg) 750
Maximum towball down load (kg) 180