The ‘Under $70,000 SUV Large’ segment ran to form last year – Toyota Prado was the best-seller, Ford Territory was number two and Subaru Outback was impressively best of the wagon-based models at number eight.
Impressive number eight?
Well considering 45 per-cent of the segment’s sales were diesels and of those, 94 per-cent were fitted with automatic transmissions – and the Outback was six-speed manual only - we’d say that’s impressive.
Now Subaru is up for a fair fight with the arrival of the Outback diesel with a slick CVT automatic transmission and priced from $42,490.
Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic Overview
The Subaru Outback diesel arrives with the 2013 model year updates (revised front-end styling and new-design alloy wheels).
Subaru is offering the diesel automatic in two models – 2.0D CVT at $42,490 and the upscale ‘Premium’ model at $45,490. Amongst its extras, the Premium model adds leather seats (power adjustment for the driver) and updated instrumentation.
Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic Engine
No changes under the bonnet with the boxer diesel churning-out its 110kW/350Nm with real refinement. For the 2013 model year and the automatic transmission version, that refinement has been ramped-up with extra insulation reducing noise intrusion inside.
Fuel consumption is rated at 6.5l/100kms – obviously better than just about any rival SUV.
Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic The Interior
Again no changes here - families will appreciate the plentiful space in the rear seat of Subaru Outback and drivers will appreciate a nice driving position (rake/reach adjustable steering wheel and, in the ‘Premium’ model, electronic adjustment for the drives’ seat).
The upscale model also scores leather seats, an electric sunroof, nice electroluminescent gauges and a colour LCD information display.
Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic Exterior & Styling
Here’s the thing about styling – while Subaru Outback hasn’t won-over some of our colleagues, we rather like its looks. We like the fact Subaru’s stylists have delivered a wagon with curves.
The front is the now standard Subaru ‘corporate look’ (similar to Liberty, WRX, Exiga and XV) and we like the sophistication of the side glass layout.
And the tapering around the rear three-quarter again shows some complexity not common in many wagon designs.
Both standard and ‘Premium’ Outback models ride on nice 17-inch alloy wheels.
And with its overall height of 1615mm, unlike some rival full-size SUVs, the Subaru Outback is not going to challenge car-park ceiling heights (it’s never good when you bump those ceiling fire sprinkler pipes).
Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic On the Road
Subaru despatched us to Wagga Wagga and Gundagai in Southern NSW to sample the Outback diesel. Car Showroom drove both the entry-grade 2.0D and 2.0D Premium over a variety of secondary roads, the ubiquitous Hume Highway and some excellent dirt tracks.
Arrival of the diesel automatic Outback coincides with some technical changes underneath – new generation Active Torque Split AWD Control reduces tight corner ‘braking’ (an AWD trait) and revised steering and suspension tune, verified in Australian testing, has delivered a 10.7 per-cent improvement in the so-called “Moose Test” (swerve and recover). Subaru says the slightly heavier CVT transmission was the starting point for the suspension revisions.
So over the undulations and twists and curves in the back-roads to Gundagai the Subaru Outback diesel automatic was very cohesive in terms of engine/transmission matching and nicely balanced. The 11.0-metre turning circle was reasonable.
Personally, we’d still like a bit more front-end firmness for sharper turn-in (mostly in compression) but of course the Outback does have good off-road ability and its 213mm ground clearance is important for those who venture off sealed roads.
Naturally the focus was that automatic transmission and, predictably, Subaru’s engineers have done a great job. It’s fuel-efficient and intuitive (the accelerator releases quickly when slowing for better engine braking, it holds gears downhill when it detects a need and when you use more than 65 per-cent throttle it automatically switches to a seven-step with faster shift times and sharper throttle response).
Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic Challenges
A queue has developed in Subaru’s engineering department. The Outback diesel is only sold in Europe and Australia so at this stage, development of Subaru’s impressive camera-based ‘Eyesight’ safety system for these vehicles is in that queue.
So it’s not currently available. A shame that.
Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic Verdict
So that’s the Subaru Outback diesel automatic then – according to some, not the best-looking wagon of all time (although we like it) but thanks to smart engineering it’s beautifully built and nice to drive and it’s immensely practical…sounds like just about very Subaru ever made really. Matching of the boxer diesel and seven-step CVT is like ‘Becks and Posh’ – made for each other – and the overall package is actually more refined than the petrol-powered Outback.
On the basis that we’re fans of the Subaru Outback (hey, we’re family guys at Car Showroom), the diesel automatic was always going to be an ‘easy sell’ for us…it should be likewise for Subaru dealers and that will give Subaru some significant extra clout in the ‘SUV Large <$70K Wagon’ sub-segment.
Subaru Outback Diesel Automatic Competition
Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi is priced at $45,990. You get 145kW/436Nm from the turbocharged 2.2-litre (driving through a six-speed automatic), slick looks inside and out and good driving dynamics. But it’s an SUV, not an Outback-like wagon.
Same for Kia Sorento SLi (except the price is $43,990 and the virtually identical powerplant this time provides 145kW/426Nm)
Mazda’s CX-9 is definitely a wagon, not a ‘bush-basher’ but there’s no diesel and you’ll need $58,825 for the entry-level all-wheel-drive model. You’ll have to search hard to find a sweeter, more refined large wagon that the CX-9.