- Smart exterior design and upmarket cabin for Subaru’s flagship
- ‘A second pair of eyes’ – introduction of new EyeSight safety assist technology
- 2.0-litre diesel and 2.5-litre turbo Boxer engines, with greater fuel economy
- All-Wheel Drive with Active Torque Vectoring and X-Mode all-terrain system
- All variants now include Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection and High Beam Assist as standard
The Subaru Outback has come a long way since the first incarnation of the model debuted in 1994, as the ultimate example of the company’s high performance, all-wheel-drive and supremely practical abilities.
The first model was based on the second generation of the super-practical Subaru Legacy, and was an instant hit. Before the Legacy, however, the Outback’s roots can be traced to the 1972 Subaru Leone, the world’s first mass produced All-Wheel Drive vehicle and one that was remarkably capable in the toughest conditions, on- and off-road.
It was the world’s first crossover, combining the benefits of a passenger estate car with the all-road capabilities of an SUV. For more than two decades, it has been Subaru’s flagship, and the latest version takes those strengths even further.
With the new model, Subaru looked to build on the Outback’s reputation as a vehicle that can go anywhere and do anything. It offers space and practicality; world-class safety; all-conditions and all-terrain versatility; a high quality cabin; timeless exterior and interior styling and improved environmental performance.
Subaru’s designers strove to make the new model more dynamic while keeping true to its rugged roots. At the front, the bumper-integrated hexagonal grille and hawk-eye headlights wear the face of the Subaru family, while the profile is a subtle evolution of previous models.
More significant are the changes inside. The interior features a range of quality materials, complemented by a new 7.0-inch touchscreen factory-fit infotainment and sat nav system.
It’s also more practical than ever before, with greater storage, cabin space and room for all occupants. The boot capacity has increased to 559 litres, with a new Smart Power Tailgate for ease-of-use, while a new side step makes it easier access to the standard-fit roof rails.
New to the latest model, EyeSight is Subaru’s advanced collision avoidance technology which acts as a ‘second pair of eyes’ for drivers, employing stereo colour camera technology to monitor the road ahead for potential hazards. This is the first time the technology has been made available in the UK and Europe, contributing to the Outback’s maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test safety rating.
The system’s two cameras are located either side of the rear view mirror to detect the presence of vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other potential hazards. EyeSight is fitted as standard to every Outback fitted with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT transmission, and includes six features: Pre-collision Braking, Pre-collision Throttle Management, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure & Sway Warning, Pre-collision Steering Assist and Lead Vehicle Start Alert.
There are two engines on offer – both horizontally-opposed four-cylinder ‘Boxer’ units, fitted deep in the engine bay to ensure a low centre of gravity for improved handling. Buyers can choose between a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, producing 150 PS and 350 Nm torque, or a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre petrol unit, with power and torque outputs of 175 PS and 235 Nm, respectively Diesel engines will be offered with either a six-speed manual transmission or Subaru’s Lineartronic (CVT) transmission; the 2.5-litre petrol engine is sold exclusively with Lineartronic.
Handling and ride quality have improved thanks to stiffer front struts, which cut roll, and revised spring and damper rates for a more flexible reaction to bumps. The steering ratio is also quicker, resulting in a more accurate and linear steering response. A more natural steering feel is aided by the steering wheel, now 13 per cent stiffer with a new metal core.
To ensure best-in-class handling, every Outback gets Active Torque Vectoring – effectively braking the inside wheels under cornering, reducing understeer and oversteer. The Outback is also more capable off-road, with the addition of the new X-Mode control feature on Lineartronic models and a ground clearance of 200mm.
There is one trim levels available – SE Premium – which offers a generous level of equipment.
SE Premium models get automatic LED headlamps and headlamp washers, cruise control, Active Torque Vectoring, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, electrically-adjustable driver’s seat and privacy glass, as well as a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, incorporating satellite navigation, audio, smartphone connectivity and a rear view parking camera.
Petrol SE Premium models also feature an emissions-reducing start-stop system and Subaru Intelligent Drive, which allows drivers to select different engine modes according to road conditions.
SE Premium models add a sunroof, keyless entry and push-button start, 18-inch alloys, leather seats and a powered rear tailgate.
Design, interior, infotainment
- Contemporary tourer-derived crossover
- High quality interior
- New voice-controlled 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
The new Outback inherits the crossover silhouette of its forebears, but with a bolder, more contemporary look that conveys its stable, all-road capability. The all-new interior represents a significant upgrade over previous models and is the most refined, high quality cabin ever seen in a Subaru.
In its fifth generation, the new Outback’s design is a natural evolution for the car, delivering a look that combines the virtues of a tourer with those of an SUV. It continues to deliver the Outback’s famed all-road stability while introducing a more modern, high quality appearance.
The front of the car bears Subaru’s hallmark hexagonal grille and ‘hawk-eye’ headlamps, giving it a recognisable ‘face’. A larger three-bar grille and bumpers, incorporating low, wide fog lamps, produce a bolder front end, while emphasising the model’s stance and sense of stability. In the UK, all models get distinctive LED headlamps.
In profile, the Outback’s looks have been made sleeker by a longer body – up 20 mm to 4,815 mm. The base of the A-pillar has been brought forward by 50 mm and the rear of the roofline lowered slightly, ending in a subtle rear spoiler. The effect is a more raked windscreen and smoother, swept-back silhouette. Combined, these give an impression of solidity and ruggedness.
A smoother tailgate, flat rear LED lights, rear spoiler and prominent bumpers and side cladding further highlight its stability.
As well as giving a modern, more elegant appearance, the new design has aided aerodynamic performance, with a 3.2 per cent reduction in wind resistance. The raked windscreen, gentle roofline, spoiler and new bumper shapes – front and rear – all improve the drag coefficient and have contributed to a reduction in wind noise by 6 per cent.
A new Active Grille Shutter brings further improvements, closing the grille to reduce drag when conditions allow.
Models sold in the UK will be available with a choice of six paint finishes – including two all new colours – and two new aerodynamic lightweight alloy wheel designs of 17- and 18-inches.
A major focus for the design team was to improve the cabin. The result is an interior which features much higher quality materials and a new design, which is reflected in other Subaru models.
It also feels very spacious, with long, wide forms to the dashboard to emphasise the cabin’s increased width. The instrument panel is lower to improve visibility. Particular care has been given to maximising space around shoulders, elbows and legs, making each passenger zone larger. The distance between front passengers has grown by 10 mm, while overall shoulder room for each has expanded by 42 mm. Elbow room (+ 43 mm) and hip room (+35 mm) are also bigger.
Front quarterlights have been added, and the side mirrors – redesigned to be more aerodynamic – have been moved to the top of the front door panels, further improving forward visibility and reducing wind ‘rustle’.
The dashboard, now made of high-grade soft-touch material, features a simple layout designed for ease of use and features a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system at its centre (see below). Silver highlights run across the dash and frame the infotainment system.
The driver’s instrument binnacle features either a 3.5- or 5.0-inch LCD display (the larger display is fitted to EyeSight-equipped models) and two dials (speedometer and tachometer). The LCD display shows trip information, snapshot and trip fuel economy and mileage information.
On CVT models, the binnacle works in conjunction with Subaru’s new EyeSight driver safety assist system. Under normal conditions, the meter is illuminated by a blue ring, but during EyeSight warnings (for instance, when the stereo camera system detects a need to brake in an emergency) the illumination changes to red. On models equipped with Lineartronic CVT, the illumination changes to a soft orange glow when manual shift mode is selected. Drivers can also customise the dial colours to suit their tastes, with any one of 10 different colours.
There are two interior colour themes to choose from – black and two-tone black and ivory. Seats come in black or ivory leather on the SE Premium, depending on exterior colour.
Central to the cabin is the infotainment system, controlled by a high-res 7.0-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash. The system allows front seat occupants to control the car’s satellite navigation and audio systems using the same touchscreen functionality as a smartphone, such as swiping and pinching-in and out to control the zoom on map displays.
The six-speaker audio system houses a CD player, USB and auxiliary input jacks and Bluetooth hands free and audio. The various functions can be controlled remotely via voice control, with the driver pressing a button on the steering wheel, then speaking, issuing commands to choose their favourite music, set a new sat nav destination or change the settings of the climate control. This allows the driver to keep their eyes on the road ahead.
Smartphone functionality extends to a range of apps that can be downloaded onto users’ phones or tablets, which pair up via Subaru’s ‘Starlink’ – these include weather and traffic reports, wireless audio, news updates and a calendar.
The infotainment system also allows drivers to monitor other functions, including fuel economy, the status of the Outback’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system and trip information. On start-up, and on request, the system also carries out a vehicle health check, allowing drivers to monitor a range of relevant information, including oil level, tyre pressure and engine temperature.
- First Subaru to get EyeSight safety assist
- All variants now include Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection and High Beam Assist as standard
- Class-leading stability and hazard avoidance with latest active safety systems
- Body rigidity increased by 67 per cent
- Five-star Euro NCAP safety rating
The latest Outback maintains Subaru’s reputation for engineering some of the safest cars on the road, with a range of active and passive safety tech. It is the first Subaru in Europe with the brand’s intelligent EyeSight driver safety assist technology, which monitors the road ahead for potential hazards.
EyeSight is fitted as standard to Lineartronic (CVT) model and uses an advanced stereo camera system to operate a range of driver assist features, making the new Outback one of the safest cars in its class.
The system’s cameras, located either side of the rear view mirror, act as a ‘second pair of eyes’ for the driver, monitoring the road ahead to detect the presence of vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other hazards.
EyeSight includes autonomous Pre-collision Braking Control and Pre-collision Throttle Management, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure & Sway Warning.
Should the system detect a hazard, EyeSight can take control of the throttle and braking to help the car avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision. EyeSight also works with the illuminated rings on the instrument dials to warn of potential dangers, changing the colour of the instruments’ rings from blue to red to act as a powerful visual warning
As well as the EyeSight system, the Outback has a range of active safety technology to provide world-beating hazard avoidance and maintain Subaru’s reputation for class-leading stability.
The Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system, Subaru’s equivalent to electronic stability control, complements the superior stability offered by the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive drivetrain. VDC now includes a new Active Torque Vectoring (ATV) system. ATV endows the Outback with even greater stability by braking the inside wheels under heavy cornering, allowing a neutral line through corners, avoiding understeer and oversteer.
Low-speed safety is aided by a standard reversing camera, which provides the driver with a wider view of the area behind the car. The camera now features a delay function, allowing seven seconds before the image disappears from the display to stop the system from engaging and disengaging constantly during more complex parking manoeuvres, such as three-point turns or parallel parking.
In terms of passive safety, the car’s structure is engineered to deliver the highest level of crash safety performance, while also providing enhanced ride and refinement.
Ultra-high tensile steel is used at key points around the body to ensure a strong shell, increasing torsional rigidity by 67 per cent compared to the car’s predecessor. In particular, the sills, A- and B-pillars and roof rails have been reinforced, along with the engine bay and the floorpans.
Pedestrian protection is enhanced by energy absorbing materials in the bonnet and collapsible brackets along the side of the engine bay, while a structure designed to dislodge the headlamps during a collision improves pedestrian leg protection.
All models come with front, side and curtain airbags as standard, with a new knee airbag cushioning the driver’s lower limbs in the event of a collision. As with every Subaru, the Outback is fitted as standard with automatic front seat airbag activation technology to improve child safety. The technology uses sensors in the seatbelt tensioners, combined with an occupant detection sensor in the seat, to automatically turn off the passenger airbag when there is a child seat in the front.
Rear occupant safety features include saddle-shaped headrests, mitigating against whiplash in the event of a rear impact collision.
The Outback has been awarded the maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test safety rating, scoring highly in all key areas: adult occupant protection (85 per cent), child occupant protection (87 per cent), pedestrian protection (70 per cent) and safety assist. The new Outback achieved maximum points in the side impact barrier test and scored maximum points for its protection of the 18-month dummy in dynamic crash tests
Engines and transmissions
- Choice of 2.0-litre diesel or 2.5-litre petrol Boxer engines
- Higher fuel economy, lower emissions, greater refinement
- Choice of manual and Lineartronic transmissions depending on engine
Outback buyers have two engines to choose from – Subaru’s 2.0-litre ‘EE20’ turbocharged diesel and a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre ‘FB25’ petrol unit. Both have been re-engineered for greater environmental friendliness, improved NVH and more accessible power and torque delivery, and comply with Euro 6b emissions standards.
Due to the compact dimensions of Subaru’s Boxer engines, the power unit is located deeper in the engine bay for a lower centre of gravity, minimising body roll and improving roadholding. The Boxer layout – with its unique ‘punch-counterpunch’ rotational cycle – offers smoothness, low vibration and noise, plus excellent accelerator response.
In a first for Subaru, the Outback has an Active Grille Shutter system to boost the car’s aerodynamic performance. The shutter’s default ‘open’ position allows air to enter the bonnet and cool the engine, but when closed at high speeds and there is more airflow through the engine bay, it reduces wind resistance. In colder temperatures, it also improves fuel efficiency by aiding engine heating from a cold start.
The latest iteration of the world’s only Boxer diesel engine – updated specifically for the Outback
– benefits from reduced weight, improved NVH characteristics, cleaner emissions and greater fuel economy.
It produces 150 PS at 3,600 rpm and 350 Nm torque across a wider 1,600-2,800 rpm range. The engine returns fuel economy of 50.4 mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 145 g/km when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. The engine powers the Outback from 0-62 mph in 9.4 seconds and on to a 124 mph top speed.
A new common-rail system enables 11 per cent higher fuel injection pressure than in the outgoing models, with updates to the ECU enabling more precise combustion control. New glow plugs improve engine heating at start-up for greater fuel efficiency from a cold start.
A new low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation unit improves exhaust efficiency, while the variable geometry turbocharger – now located at the base of the engine to lower the centre of gravity – boosts fuel economy with closer control of air flow through the turbo.
To comply with Euro 6b emissions regulations, exhaust emissions have been reduced by lowering the fuel combustion temperature, more closely controlling the combustion of air and fuel and improving the performance of the diesel particulate filter. A lower compression ratio (reduced from 16.0:1 to 15.2:1) further lowers the combustion temperature and reduces NOx emissions.
The diesel engine is now quieter than ever, following the adoption of more sound-absorbing materials on and around the engine.
Meanwhile, Subaru’s latest FB petrol engine – the 2.5-litre ‘FB25’ Boxer engine – also features significant upgrades and modifications, with an emphasis on accessible power and torque across a practical range of engine speeds, NVH reductions and improvements to fuel consumption and emissions.
Power from the 2.5-litre engine has increased from 167 PS to 175 PS, and torque output has grown 2.6 per cent to 235 Nm. Despite these gains, fuel economy has improved significantly to 40.7 mpg on the combined cycle and with CO2 emissions of 161 g/km, down from 175 g/km.
The Outback 2.5i will go from 0-62 mph in 10.2 seconds and achieve a top speed of 130 mph. Automatic start-stop is fitted as standard to petrol models, realising greater fuel economy in slow-moving traffic.
Revised fuel injector valves and a higher compression ratio (up 3 per cent to 10.3:1) give more efficient combustion and improved fuel efficiency, without sacrificing torque at low-to-medium engine speeds.
Air flow to the combustion chamber is also substantially improved, with a revised intake port, wider intake valve and larger air intake. Not only do these changes emphasise the Outback’s distinctive four-cylinder engine ‘burble’, but allow the engine to breathe more freely, with a 26 per cent reduction in air intake resistance.
Two transmissions are offered. The 2.5-litre petrol is fitted as standard with Subaru’s Lineartronic (CVT) transmission, while buyers of the 2.0-litre diesel have the choice of a six-speed manual or high-capacity Lineartronic, specifically engineered to handle its higher torque.
Lineartronic provides a smooth, seamless drive, keeping the engine in its ideal power range at all times. Manual mode and steering wheel-mounted paddles allow drivers to take greater control should the mood take them.
The Lineartronic transmissions are the most efficient that Subaru’s engineers have ever created. A CVT fluid warmer enables faster warm-up when the engine and transmission are cold, reducing mechanical friction. In addition, a new sound insulation cover helps reduce transmission and engine noise, while 2.5-litre petrol models also receive dynamic dampers on the transmission mounting brackets to reduce noise and vibration.
Chassis, running gear and drivetrain
- Greater comfort, stability and handling from upgraded suspension
- Faster steering rack
- Active Torque Vectoring and All-Wheel Drive for ultimate on-road stability
Throughout the Outback’s development programme, Subaru’s engineers aimed for a more comfortable ride and more polished handling, with greater suppression of roll, improved bump absorption and greater high speed stability.
Modifications to the fully-independent front suspension were focused primarily on bump absorption and improved turn-in. Ride quality benefits from new, stiffer front struts, which cut roll; revised spring and damper rates and new liquid-sealed front bushings, which filter out unpleasant vibrations. The front stabiliser bar has been reduced from 26 mm in diameter to 22 mm, cutting weight with no compromise to rigidity. Finally, the front arm bushings have been reprofiled to allow the Outback to react more quickly to steering inputs.
The rear suspension– also fully-independent – has received a range of upgrades, primarily based around an extended rear subframe. This adds more body connection points, leading to greater rigidity for the body itself while dramatically reducing the level of floor and seat vibrations.
Recalibrated spring settings reduce roll, while moving the rear shock absorber mount outwards by 10 mm on each side further improves damping efficiency. The shock absorber valves are new, providing a firmer ride and improved handling at low speeds, and greater damping and stability at higher speeds.
Finally, Subaru’s engineers have added greater initial toe-in and slightly negative camber for more immediate steering response and a greater tyre contact patch under cornering.
The electrically power-assisted steering ratio has been quickened by 12.5 per cent in the new model, from 16.0:1 to 14.0:1, resulting in a sharper steering response, while the more natural steering feel is aided by the steering wheel itself, now 13 per cent stiffer with a new metal core, and steering column, which is 15 per cent lighter through the effective use of aluminium.
Brake pedal response is improved by increasing the volume of air supplied to the booster when the pedal is applied. The result is a more immediate yet smooth braking response, while low rolling resistance tyres further boost fuel economy.
One of the model’s trademarks is, of course, Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive powertrain, with the most up-to-date version of the brand’s Vehicle Dynamics Control system (VDC).
To ensure best-in-class handling, every Outback is fitted with Active Torque Vectoring (ATV) – the first time the technology has been available on a Subaru beyond the high-performance WRX STI. ATV brakes the inside wheels under cornering and helps apportion greater torque to the outside of the car, reducing understeer and oversteer and allowing a more predictable course through corners.
The Outback is now even more capable off-road, with the addition of the new X-Mode control feature on Lineartronic models. Manual models use a centre differential coupled to a viscous limited-slip differential. Torque split distribution is set at 50/50 front/rear, with the viscous coupling adjusting the distribution whenever a wheel slips, ensuring traction on all surfaces.
Lineartronic models have an electronically controlled Multi-Plate Transfer (MPT) clutch which controls and distributes torque to the rear wheels. The default torque split distribution is 60/40 per cent front/rear, but if slipping is detected at the front wheels, the system supplies more torque to the rear wheels for improved traction.
The new Outback’s all-terrain performance is improved with the introduction of X-Mode, which allows drivers to remain safer on slippery surfaces and steep inclines. At the push of a button, and regardless of the driver’s skill level, X-Mode provides off-road capabilities that rival those of full-blown SUVs. Previously only available on the Subaru Forester, X-Mode is now standard on all Lineartronic-equipped Outback models.
At the push of a button, X-Mode acts as an integrated control system for the engine, managing the transmission, All-Wheel Drive system and VDC simultaneously. X-Mode also incorporates Hill Descent Control to ensure the vehicle’s speed remains constant when driving down steep slopes.
When testing X-Mode, Subaru engineers noted that the time taken for wheels to regain traction on a 12° roller ramp was reduced by 29 per cent (-1.6 seconds) compared to the Audi A6 Allroad. The Outback is also able to maintain four-wheel traction at steeper angles, with all four wheels providing traction at 20 degree angles or higher, compared with 17 degrees for the Audi, according to Subaru’s in-house assessment.
The new Outback’s off-road capabilities are further enhanced by a high minimum ground clearance of 200 mm and short overhangs.
Practicality and packaging
- The most practical Outback ever
- Passenger space grows, despite near-identical exterior dimensions compared to its predecessor
- Larger cargo area and Smart Power Tailgate
During the development programme, Subaru’s engineers coined the phrase ‘universal utility’, to be used as the inspiration behind the car’s practicality and ease of use.
As a result, the new model is the most practical Outback yet. While the exterior gains only 25 mm in length (now 4,815 mm) and 20 mm in width (to 1,840 mm) over the fourth-generation model, the passenger compartment and cargo area have grown in size, improving space and comfort for all occupants.
With the base of the A-pillar shifted forward by 50 mm, the cabin is more spacious, while the revised body shape and new door trim help expand passenger space, with front occupants enjoying 42 mm more shoulder room, 43 mm greater elbow room, 35mm more hip room and larger central and door-trim arm-rests to match. The front seats are also 10 mm further apart. The hip point has been raised by 10 mm for a more comfortable posture and greater view of the road ahead. Reshaped roof lining ensures headroom is expanded by the same amount to accommodate taller occupants. Door trims and the fold-down central arm-rest incorporate larger bottle holders and cup holders.
Cargo space has also been improved, the boot growing 526 litres to 559 litres, including a new 47-litre under-floor storage compartment. Additional space has been achieved by raising the height of the tonneau cover, and decreasing the angle of the boot floor (from 2.5 to 1.6 degrees) for a flatter, more useful cargo area.
The cargo area and rear seat both feature levers to flip-down the rear bench, revealing a flat loading bay to accommodate larger, longer items. Additional dealer-fit accessories from Subaru UK are also available, such as fitted rubber mats, ensuring the large boot is easier to keep clean.
The car’s towing capacity has also increased by 100 kg to 1,800 kg (2.0-litre diesel manual and Lineartronic). For the petrol models the towing capacity is now 2,000 kg, whilst to make it easier to reach the roof, Subaru has introduced a new side-sill foot step on the rear sills. The wider step, which features a high-grip surface, makes it easier for buyers to make full use of the car’s standard roof rails.
SE Premium models come with a new Smart Power Tailgate, which opens and closes at the touch of a button, either on the key, in the cabin, or on the boot lid itself. This makes it easier to load and unload larger items or pets. The tailgate has a memory function, allowing it to be set to open at a specific height if a low garage or longer items on the roof – such as a canoe - require. It also features a closing safeguard to re-open automatically if it detects something in the way, such as a loose item in the boot, or a misplaced hand or paw.
- One trim levels for the UK – SE Premium
- Standard equipment includes navigation and 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment
- EyeSight fitted as standard to all Lineartronic models
- All variants now include Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection and High Beam Assist as standard