The New Subaru Outback – What Can You Expect

Hold your horses – this is going to get wild. The new Subaru Outback is here and we’re taking a good, hard look. With international travel being non-existent these days, 2021 is the year of the road trip. So the ideal car for everyday use and general road tripping fun should obviously be a car that is literally named after the most rugged and beautiful destination of them all.

That’s right. It’s the Outback. 

But enough chit-chat. To the car. 

The Subaru Outback is perhaps one of the more eagerly awaited station wagon-SUV types that have been released. That’s because the car promises a lot. 

Instantly likeable are its rugged looks, bold and dauntless body with acres of space in the boot, and solid Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Underneath the boot, expect to uncover a choice of four-cylinder 2.5L non-turbo and a spicier 2.4L turbocharged BOXER engine.

It almost goes without saying that neither of these options is going to whet the appetite of anyone chasing performance, but nonetheless, the ride is luxurious, balanced and with an enormous front cabin there is a sense that this car has been designed for the adventurous. 

So what’s new this year?

Seeing as 2020 was the year Subaru Outback got its big facelift, don’t expect to see any fundamental changes this time around. But there are a few additions worth mentioning. 

New adaptive headlights

First up is the curve-adaptive LED headlights – a welcome change for the lower trims, which had missed out on these in previous releases – resulting in slightly lower safety ratings. The new steering-responsive headlights create safer driving conditions at night when the roads get windier.

Essentially, the headlights turn slightly when the car is going around a corner – illuminating what would normally be a fast-approaching void of dark unknowns. For anyone living slightly out of the city with fewer street lights and larger kangaroo populations or winding roads around, this can be extremely helpful to avoid potential accidents. 

Rear seat reminder system

Next is a rear-seat reminder system. This well-meaning safety system targets anyone who may be in a rush, and despite all good intentions, accidentally forgot about precious goods in the back seat – like a baby, pet, or even groceries. 

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So how does that work exactly?

The Subaru Outback will register whenever a back door is opened within 30 minutes of the car being turned on. This system tells the car that something important was put in the back seat. When the car is turned off, the Outback will alert the driver with a friendly chime to open up the back and grab what’s there. Thanks for caring, Subaru! 

Passenger seat belt reminder

This is a new feature that you may be surprised to learn wasn’t in earlier models, but here we go – yet another safety upgrade for 2021. The passenger seat belt reminder is exactly what it says it is – instead of putting your neck out to see if the kids have their seatbelts on, the friendly beep from the car will let you know instead. 

Tech and infotainment 

Lower trims get a 7-inch touchscreen and higher trims snag the 11.6-inch touchscreen. Both sit comfortably in the centre console that brings the Subaru Outback into line with major competitors choosing to replace the middle cockpit area completely with screen. Not a bad idea either, as it affords easy access and simple, intuitive functions that make your interactions quicker and easier. As far as connectivity goes – expect the usual slew of Bluetooth phone connections with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto getting the go-ahead. For a little bit extra, built-in navigation, wireless charging, and a welcome Wi-Fi hotspot complete the package. 

Handling and performance 

Both flat-four engines with 182hp and 260hp respectively are mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission CVT system which continues to draw both friends and foes. The Standard All-Wheel Drive is no surprise and provides real benefits when you’re finding your way up a dirt track, but overall the transmission and acceleration aren’t the real head turners. 

When it comes to comfort and ride quality, however, the Subaru Outback offers a neat package of well-groomed interior luxuries which, coupled with a relaxing suspension system, makes the overall feeling at the wheel one of calm capability. 

8.7 inches of ground clearance allow this car to perform well on weather-stricken roads and rutted, dirt tracks that would normally put off your average car. Responsive steering and prominent ride height also give a sense of being in control of the road. 

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Daily living and costs

Take the car for a big weekly grocery shop. You’ll find plenty of room in the boot to put everything without having to actually think about where things go. 522L of flat cargo space translates into about 11 to 12 carry-on bags, which basically doubles when you fold down the back seats. There’s really an abundance of room here, which you’d struggle to find in competitors who also fall short of providing the same amount of legroom as the Outback. 

Pull up at the fuel station and you won’t be left surprised, with the Outback averaging around 7.3L/100km on official stats, giving way to a test score of around 7.9L/100km in the real world.

Buying and owning – the verdict

So what to buy? Base levels are now the best they’ve been in terms of what you get included, and higher trims are now offering more and more of what you would expect any other luxury small SUV model to offer. 

How much? At base level, $39,990 is possible before on-road costs but think carefully about what kind of features you may need for your lifestyle and situation. Overall, the Subaru Outback offers a practical package of all-round capability with all the extras you need to pull off a successful holiday with the whole family. Booking a test drive is easy too – just visit your local dealership and they will be happy to help. 

Johnny Thompson

Johnny Thompson is a senior reporter for Generator Research in Los Angeles, reporting on technology, business, finances, and more. He previously worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

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