2018 Subaru Outback.
2018 Subaru Outback.

Subaru Outback Premium SUV protects and serves

SUBARU'S Outback first appeared in 1996, long before most of us knew what the SUV acronym meant. It has stayed competitive for 22 years and five generations.

The current model, launched in 2015, has just been updated with higher safety and infotainment specification, a new dash, tweaks to the volume selling combination of 2.5-litre petrol engine and continuously variable transmission to improve efficiency and refinement, plus a fiddle with suspension tuning to enhance ride comfort.

There is no longer a manual option; the Outback range is exclusively CVT.


The Outback 2.5i petrol is $36,250 and the turbo diesel 2.0D is $38,740. The Premium 2.5i, which we're testing here, is $42,640; Premium 2.0D is $45,640.

Subaru's 3.6-litre "boxer" engine is fitted to the 3.6R, priced at $49,140.

The Outback still represents a lot of SUV for relatively modest money but the Premium model now has a bunch of keenly priced competitors on its tail, so it's no longer the standout family freighter it once was.

Our Car of the Year, the Skoda Kodiaq, and Mazda's CX-9 are direct rivals on price and size, with the bonus of a couple of fold-up kid seats in the boot, as do Hyundai's Santa Fe and the Kia Sorento. Holden is also having a tilt with its new Calais V6 Tourer, a jacked-up ZB Commodore wagon with class leading performance from its 235kW 3.6-litre V6, nine-speed auto and all-wheel drive, at a pretty sharp $45,990.

2018 Subaru Outback: A lot of SUV for relatively modest money.
2018 Subaru Outback: A lot of SUV for relatively modest money.

Peugeot's new 5008 seven-seater is in the mix, too, starting at $42,990.

So the Outback Premium update is timely.

Subaru's new infotainment features a larger head unit with an eight-inch touchscreen that's also mounted higher on the dash, so it's easier to reach and to read. Big, responsive icons get you around the various menus.

Timely update: Larger infotainment head unit, smartphone mirroring and voice control.
Timely update: Larger infotainment head unit, smartphone mirroring and voice control.

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity is included, as is Tom Tom navigation and voice control that works - most of the time - across all infotainment functions and will read text messages.

The dash itself has a richer look, with more high gloss black plastic, stitching around the instrument panel and a new, sportyish, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Fit and finish are outstanding.

Premium spec adds power adjustable, heated, leather-wrapped front seats, sunroof, heated, folding side mirrors and power tailgate.


You sit on rather than in Premium's generously padded, super-sized driver's seat, so while it's comfortable enough, upper body support is minimal. Being perched so high relative to the dash creates the impression that the Outback is bigger than it really is.

The flat rear bench, also elevated, has ample legroom and is well suited for kids, although the centre belt spools out of the roof. Two USB charge ports have been added for 2018; vents are also fitted.

Outback cabin: Comfortable and gives impression of space.
Outback cabin: Comfortable and gives impression of space.

A relatively small boot is easily extended to a longer, flat floor; power operation, a couple of bag hooks and integrated load cover are useful.

This time, the suspension seems to have been softened, and Outback's ride is supple and quiet on all surfaces, assisted by big, baggy Bridgestone Dueler tyres.


The Premium's safety specification was already formidable thanks to the twin camera-based EyeSight set-up with adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking plus radar-based Vision Assist with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.

It is further strengthened with higher resolution front cameras, faster image processing, LED headlights that turn in response to steering inputs and have automatic beam and brightness adjustment, front and side view cameras and lane keeping.

Nothing else at the price matches the Premium's level of driver assist safety tech.


Subaru claims to have sharpened up the CVT's responsiveness and, if you use the paddles, you now have seven pre-sets rather than six. The drivetrain is smooth and quiet, performance is adequate, yet the 2.5 now feels rather weak and sluggish compared to most of its rivals, even in Sport mode.

On the highway, expect 7-8L/100km; in town, assisted by auto stop-start (which kicks in with a clunk), you'll do 9-12L/100km on regular unleaded.

In handling, the Outback also has come back to the pack - more correctly, the pack has caught up. The suspension now feels underdamped, so on bumpy surfaces it can get a little twitchy and the body isn't tightly tied down.

Outback: Ground clearance, full-size spare and X-Mode tech enhance off-road ability.
Outback: Ground clearance, full-size spare and X-Mode tech enhance off-road ability.

Lifeless steering and brakes that lack power also mean the Subaru is no longer a class-leading drive.

Subaru's X-Mode - a simulated low-range - plus a useful 213mm of ground clearance and full-size spare give the Outback greater off-bitumen adventuring potential than most SUVs.


My family's protection is top priority so I want the safest wagon I can find at a reasonable price.


Hits the sweet spot for size and price, Subaru is a blue-chip Japanese brand with strong resale values, and I want something that can tackle a dirt track with confidence.



Haven't driven this but in the RS wagon the same 3.6-litre V6, nine-speed auto and all-wheel drive set-up is a beauty and it should handle. Lots of safety tech and fruit, including leather. Boot volume is 560L.


Superior to the Outback in performance, fuel economy and dynamics and has seven seats. You have to spend another $4900 for equivalent luxe and safety specification. Boot is 630L.


3 stars

More safety for your dollar than anything else in the class and, for many parents, that will be enough. In several other respects, notably performance, dynamics and practicality, newer players have overtaken the Outback.

No title, From: Supplied
No title, From: Supplied



PRICE $42,640 (reasonable)

SERVICING/WARRANTY 3 years w'ty (short); $2281 for 3 years (expensive)

ENGINE 2.5-litre 4-cyl, 129kW/235Nm (below average)

SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert (best in class)

THIRST 7.3L/100km (average)

SPARE Full-size alloy (Big tick!)

BOOT 512L (small)

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