Safety has been part of the Subaru DNA since…well forever really. All Subarus sold in Australia boast the maximum five-star safety rating from ANCAP and now Subaru has launched another breakthrough with its camera-based EyeSight system introduced to 3.6R variants of the Outback wagon and Liberty sedan.
EyeSight is at the heart of several driver assistance systems and will roll into other Subaru models progressively. It’s smart, very smart and won the 2012 Science and Technology prize from Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Car Showroom has just tested the latest Subaru Outback 3.6R with EyeSight. At $57,490, the 3.6R is the Outback range-topper and if you’re keen on cutting-edge automotive safety advances – and we all should be – it’s money well spent.
Oh, and apart from the brilliant EyeSight system, the 3.6-litre, six-cylinder Subaru Outback is a silky-smooth all-wheel-drive wagon with lots of room – you guessed it – ‘Out-Back’ for family buyers. A Car Showroom favourite no doubt.
Subaru Outback Overview
A mid-size wagon, Subaru Outback boasts interior space which must be close to the best in this segment and of course Subaru’s all-wheel-drive safety.
But the big news for our Subaru Outback 3.6R is the inclusion of Subaru’s EyeSight system.
The four-camera-based system brings with it:
Pre-Collision Braking (if you’re not already braking, the brakes are automatically applied if the system detects the car ahead is slowing)
Pre-Collision Brake Assist (if the system considers a collision is likely it can generate 1G of braking to reduce the impact)
Pre-Collision Throttle Management (developed to reduce car park incidents where the driver accidentally applies heavy acceleration when in close proximity to objects)
Adaptive Cruise Control (maintains a safe distance behind the vehicle in front even when speeds vary)
Lane Departure Warning (alerts the driver should you venture across marked lines without first operating the turn indicators)
Vehicle Sway Warning (especially handy when drivers get fatigued – it sounds an alarm if you’re swaying from lane-to-lane)
Lead Vehicle Start Alert (an extension of adaptive cruise control handy for freeway and city congestion which alerts you when the car in front moves forwards).
Of course similar systems are available in more expensive European cars, but plaudits for Subaru in bringing this terrific safety technology to the $57,490 Outback we tested.
We did explore the EyeSight System during an early morning run on Melbourne’s Westgate Freeway and can confirm the audible alarm when you cross road lines without indicating is loud and ensures you’re paying attention.
Subaru Outback Engine
Our Subaru Outback 3.6R was powered by Subaru’s 3.6-litre six-cylinder horizontally-opposed boxer engine which is a gem. Aided by extra sound-proofing in the doors, refinement levels were impressive and the performance was excellent.
Maximum power is 191kW at 5600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm arrives at 4400rpm.
Drive is to all four wheels via Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system and five-speed automatic transmission.
Subaru Outback The Interior
First thing we noticed when we picked up our Subaru Outback 3.6R was the EyeSight camera equipment neatly packed near the interior rear-view mirror. The four minute cameras and ancillary equipment are smartly packaged where they don’t impede vision.
Space is the other immediate impression when climbing inside. All key dimensions are up over the previous Subaru Outback and we’d suggest it rivals the Ford Mondeo as the largest mid-size wagon.
Shoulder, hip and foot-room in both front and rear all post improvements up to 89mm and cargo space has grown both dimensionally and in capacity (up by 31-litres) – 490-litres with the rear seat in place and a very impressive 1690-litres with the seat folded.
We liked the three-spoke steering wheel (a simple yet sporty design) and the new instruments/centre console with the integrated satellite navigation and reversing camera screen.
Premium models like the Subaru Outback 36R we tested score electronic eight-way adjustment for the drivers’ seat – and all seats (typically Subaru) are nicely shaped and supportive.
Premium models also get the McIntosh 10-speaker audio system with its eight-inch touch screen and Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Subaru Outback Exterior & Styling
Design-wise the Subaru Outback has been around for a while, but in the Subaru way still looks contemporary and doesn’t polarize opinion. With the hallmark Subaru front grille, modern projector headlights, curved roofline and rising side window line, the Outback certainly isn’t a boxy wagon and when you toss-in the nicely flared wheel-arches – well the current Outback is streets ahead of the previous generation for looks.
Another departure from previous Outback models are the doors with framed windows for a larger glass area and better rigidity (earlier models had frameless side windows).
Current Subaru Outback’s size is also up over its predecessor – 65mm longer, 70mm higher and an extra 75mm in the wheelbase means more interior space.
Subaru Outback rides on nicely-styled 17-inch alloy wheels.
Subaru Outback On The Road
Driving impressions of the Subaru Outback 3.6R are dominated by Subaru’s excellent 3.6-litre six-cylinder boxer engine (shared with the Liberty sedan and Tribeca seven-seat SUV). Even though the Outback only uses a five-speed automatic transmission, the smoothness and mid-range response (always a boxer strong point) of Subaru’s six-cylinder shines through – a six or more-speed transmission would make the package outstanding.
That engine performance was appreciated during the working week freeway ‘Grand Prix’ as the 4790mm Subaru Outback is one of the larger mid-size wagons so accelerating into a slot could have been troublesome without that grunt. Once on the freeway, the Subaru Outback 3.6R was a relaxed performer, loping along with ease but always with good responsiveness available when needed.
In the city we parked the Subaru Outback 3.6R with little fuss thanks to a reasonable (for a wagon of its size) 11.0-metre turning circle and standard reversing camera.
Over our high-speed mountain roads loop again the Subaru Outback 3.6R excelled with its 191kW/350Nm on-tap and nice steering wheel paddle shifters to keep things percolating. Like all boxer engines, the 3.6R is torquey mid-range and while not ultra-high revving, really gets going hard north of 4000rpm.
Suspension is a McPherson strut front-end and nicely-designed wishbone independent rear, but the calibration of springs and shock absorbers is not in the hard/firm range of say the German-sourced Ford Mondeo wagon. So while the Subaru Outback points into corners nicely, and refinement levels are high, we would have liked a tad more firmness and less roll.
Subaru Outback Challenges
Pushing hard through the twisty stuff in the Subaru Outback made the terrific WRX a distant memory. The Outback is a great wagon but could be better if the Outback chassis department gave the WRX chassis department a quick call and asked a few questions about reducing body roll, spring and shock absorber calibration.
Subaru Outback The Competition
If you asked us to name the best mid-size wagon, it would be a coin-toss between the Subaru Outback and Ford Mondeo. Against the all-wheel-drive Outback 3.6R with EyeSight (as tested $57,490), Mondeo’s Titanium range-topper (2.0-litre turbo-diesel) is tagged at $48,490 and of course is front-wheel-drive – but we do love the looks and classy interior of the German-sourced Ford.
Mazda6 wagon is sharply priced ($34,750 petrol or $35,950 turbo-diesel) but is a bit tight on space and luggage capacity compared to Outback and Mondeo.
And you must consider the Volvo V60. The stylish Swede starts at $51,990, offers all-wheel-drive models (starting at $67,990) and while not quite as spacious as the others presents a modern Euro-look which is a scene-stealer in the wagon segment.
Subaru Outback Verdict
Upscale German brands and Range Rover have camera-based systems, but Subaru EyeSight has brought this breakthrough safety to the mainstream. And for mainstream family buyers, the Subaru Outback 3.6R is a sensibly-sized wagon with Subaru’s renowned all-wheel-drive traction.
Add-in the hearty performance of Subaru’s 3.6-litre, six-cylinder engine and the total package of the Subaru Outback 3.6R looks very tasty.
Family buyers might need to trade-in their SUVs for this passenger wagon – and that’s bucking the market trend.