2015 Subaru Outback: An SUV with a Purpose

2015 Subaru Outback main The 5th Generation Subaru Outback, launched by Motor Image (Subaru Malaysia) in May, is a mid-sized SUV/Crossover that originated from the Subaru Legacy and subtlely modified with a mild, purposeful and off-road intent.

Long before the term “crossover” was adopted, the Subaru Outback garnered very encouraging response in the 1990s from folks in the U.S.A. and Australia. In the past two decades, the people in the States and Australia had a real knack for a vehicle with multiple capabilitie, and the Outback was able to answer that call.

Comparing with Crossovers available in the Malaysian market, the Outback is bigger and wider. This latest variant’s front grille has active shutter technology which helps with the aerodynamics and improves fuel consumption, via open and close of the grille shutter. Then, there are the new and pretty DRLs (day time running lights) and the attractive-looking 18 inch rims with 225/60 R18 tyres.

While the exterior does look current, it is far from attention-seeking. This Subaru, also, does not try to make itself look too soft as this is a proper piece of machinery ideal for the urban jungle and when the going gets tough. We think the design is elegant and should last the test of time.

Getting into the cabin of the Subaru Outback, one would think that they are stepping into a Continental car. Subarus regularly get criticized for less-than-cordial interiors but this is, very clearly, the exception. It is refreshing to note the materials used are of a premium quality and that the soft dashboard material has a nice unpretentious touch. A great change from the very common hard plastic material used elsewhere. The silver trimmings of the interior are well-selected; they contrast very well with the dark-themed interior of this car.

The front seats are broad, comfortable and firm enough for long distance trips but it could do with more support on the sides for more aggressive driving. More on this later. Seat space is generous as there is plenty of leg room for taller drivers and there are also no exceptions here for any of the passengers. Once nice feature that the rear seats can be tilted. Rear passengers can now recline their seats for an even more comfort ride. However, the lack of a charging port for the rear passengers can be addressed, especially with the Outback’s price point.

Placing one’s hands on the steering wheel for the first time, the impression is that is one from a more upmarket ‘Conti’. It has a very supple feel, and all of the available switches on the steering, even on the console, are well-positioned for intuitively quick operations. The front instrument clusters are up to date and is coupled with the choice of LED backlit dials colours. Moreover, the touch screen infotainment system is easy to use with large icons, which in turn allows for easy navigation. A key point to note is that unlike other similar-typed SUVs, the touch interface is responsive and set just right. At the same time, it is not too sensitive, especially while driving and concentrating on the road ahead.

There is a lot of storage space and compartments. A large and wide armrest allows passengers to store most of the important items needed within easy reach and the appropriately-sized side cup holders for both the driver and passenger are a great addition. For the majority of us who need to spend even more time on the road nowadays, not having to contend with having to secure our much-needed coffee and other drinks on the move considerably helps to lower the stress level.

The boot has a considerable load space of around 512 liters and expandable up to 1800 liters, with just a pull from the twin remote seat releases, located at the rear of the car. This is a well thought-out feature as in most SUVs, the rear seat release is on the rear seats themselves. When not in use, the cargo blind can be stored in the spare tyre storage compartment. Again, another great feature. For most other cars, the storage of the blind is cumbersome because it inevitably ends up moving around within the boot.

On the entertainment side of things, the Subaru Outback comes pre-loaded with the Harman Kardon sound system. This premium offering sounds expandingly good, whether using the radio, connecting Bluetooth devices or plugging in your USB with music files. Additionally, a subwoofer at the rear side panel of the boot adds very able bass effects, without taking up too much space.

Subaru Outback: Impressions by O.P.P.

The steering of the Outback felt nicely weighted and provided a direct and precise, coordinated response. Urban and highway drives, the Outback didn’t differ too much from a large and sporty sedan. It gave a planted feel and never too harsh for any type of road conditions, for example; on potholes, speedhumps and ruts, which characterize almost all of the country’s urban roads. The reviewer was pleasantly surprised that hardly any reverberations filtered into the cabin as the long-travel Macpherson struts and double wishbones soaked most of these up easily. The Outback’s shock absorbers were passive, and the ride quality was all the more impressive because of the fact that Subaru did not need to rely on active shock absorbers.

The Outback was a revelation when we took it our favorite twisty roads. In the higher speed corners, there was, inevitably, the initial roll which was far from unnerving and it confidently held its line. The Outback impressed the reviewer all the more at tight corners. The Boxer layout of the AWD drivetrain combined with Active Torque Vectoring system came into play on challenging corners, comparable to a smaller and lighter car. The neutral characteristics of this car was not disturbed and even when pushed hard. Keeping the foot on the throttle, the car had little or almost no understeer and stuck to the line with almost arrogant ease.

Unlike most other cars with electronic driving aids including those with a more sporty demeanor, the Outback’s system is not at all intrusive. During the test run, the Outback hardly gave a discernible power reduction and came together very nicely, even for a spirited driver like the reviewer.

It then dawned upon the reviewer that unlike most other AWD cars, the drive went on four wheels almost all of the time. Most of the competition has systems driving 2 wheels with the rest only being called upon when required. No doubt, the surprisingly fantastic handling through corners is due to this drive to Subaru’s proven AWD Technology, which is controlled, depending on the prevailing conditions, via Active Torque Vectoring and the accompanying systems.

The ventilated brakes worked like a horse and firm, and the SUV, weighing in at 1.6 tons, could stop without much hassle; even at a relatively higher speed. There was very minor cabin noise even at cruising speeds, thanks to the new aerodynamic aid and acoustic glass. However, cabin noise began cropping up at speeds above 160 kmh, but only slightly.

In Malaysia, it is unlikely that the Outback would be used for more than urban or highway drives and might perhaps never venture off-road. But if it does do so, the Subaru 4WD symmetrical system coupled with its X-Mode and electronic hill ascent and descend assistance, will allow for true off-road driving. The front’s overhang is unlikely to be sufficient for hardcore off-roading, but you should really be looking at something else for that purpose. Pressed into having to traverse challenging terrain, it would be safe to assume that the Outback’s electronic features and safety nets could ensure that you’d never have to break a sweat.

In our market, the Outback is likely to remain a leftfield choice given the range of other comparable SUV/Crossovers available. Its design is elegant though a tad conservative. This car would be perfect for those who wish to distinguish themselves a little more from the herd and those who appreciates the somewhat stoic design as well as the surprisingly excellent handling. As with so many Subarus before it, the Outback has a range of capabilities which would be more apparent on the road.

The fully-imported Subaru Outback retails for RM224,846.30, including insurance, GST and a 5-year warranty. Color options included for the new Subaru Outback are: Crystal White Pearl, Ice Silver Metallic, Tungsten Metallic, Dark Grey Metallic, Crystal Black Silica, Lapis Blue Pearl and Platinum Grey Metallic; along with leather black or ivory and fabric black or ivory interior combinations.

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Subaru Outback Test drive details:

Drive locations: Damansara,Tropicana, Kepong, Ulu yam, Genting, Karak, Duke to Sunway Damansara

Zero to 100km run:
Location: Sunway Damansara
Mode: S Setting, Launch at 2K rpm.
Three runs:
Run 1: 9.93
Run 2: 9.92
Run 3: 987
Average fuel consumption: 5.8 ltr per KM on highway drives
Average speed 110km
Fuel distance : 560km

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