Subaru Outback Touring on test: do you miss those extra two cylinders?
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Subaru Outback Touring
- Posh Nappa leather in perky colours
- Luxury-car refinement,
- Outstanding value for money
- Most conservative looking of new range
- Performance doesn’t feel that premium
- Nagging Driver Monitoring System (DMS)
Subaru New Zealand adds a lot to its flagship Outback Touring.
For $2500 over the price of the off-road-themed Outback X, the Touring boasts more exterior bling, power sunroof, dual-memory seat adjustment with an enhanced Driver Monitoring System (DMS) that sets the chair and mirrors to your liking once it’s seen your face, Harman Kardon audio, heated steering wheel and soft Nappa leather upholstery that can be specified in awesome tan (as per our test car), ivory or basic black.
But there’s also something missing from the top-line Outback: a couple of cylinders. The previous flagship Outback ran a grunty 191kW/350Nm 3.6-litre boxer-six engine that had a very loyal following (20-25 per cent of buyers in its heyday).
That six is no more. Instead, the new Touring has the same (new) 2.5-litre four as the rest of the range, which is cleaner but a whole lot less powerful.
So the question is, does the new Touring have enough equipment and refinement to compensate for the loss of that six-pot powertrain?
If we’re looking at the Outback as a potential luxury machine, the new interior must get a thumbs-up. It’s Euro-flash, but also nicely styled, well finished and a bit special with that 11.6-inch portrait touch screen. Definitely the best Subaru interior ever.
The Nappa leather in the Touring also gives it a real lift and Subaru has been pretty bold in its colour options. You can have basic black if you want, but the tan in our test car would be worthy of a BMW; you can also have ivory, which would be worthy of a Volvo. Perhaps not to all tastes, but we loved it.
The Outback is dripping with high-tech driver-assistance features, including a new iteration of Subaru’s EyeSight system. But crucially, it’s also impressively quiet and refined: continuously variable transmission (“SLT” in Subaru’s world) may not make for an enthusiast powertrain, but the Outback is faultlessly smooth – if a little lethargic off the line.
The ride is cushy, and while the car rolls a bit in corners it’s still an engaging machine for the driver. Subaru is pretty good at uniting the seemingly contradictory aims of comfort and handling in its mainstream SUVs, and this one is no exception. Road and wind noise is also extremely well suppressed. It’s a very relaxed way to travel.
The Touring certainly offers a level of refinement and equipment that belies its sub-$60k price (it’s also a snip cheaper than the old 3.6, by the way).
As a premium package, it’s a winner. But there’s no point pretending that you won’t miss the throatier performance of the previous boxer-six. The new 2.5-litre four is smooth but not exciting. So there’s opportunity cost there.
However, there’s a 193kW/360Nm turbocharged engine currently offered by Subaru in the US that is on the way to the NZ-market Outback. Whether it’s offered in the Touring, a completely different model (like the Wilderness just announced in the US) or as option across the range remains to be seen. But it will add some worthwhile grunt to what’s already a great and great-value luxury crossover.
SUBARU OUTBACK TOURING
ENGINE: 2.5-litre horizontally opposed petrol four
GEARBOX: Continuously variable automatic (SLT) with eight-step mode, AWD
O-100KM/H: 9.6 seconds