|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
With the all-new 2015 Outback, Subaru has comprehensively reworked it inside and out, without shaking up the formula that made the nameplate a success in the first place. While there’s nothing truly radical about the Outback, it’s still new with a much more refined design. The overall shape has been smoothened out and the proportions tweaked to give it a ruggedly handsome look. It’s still evident that there’s a Legacy somewhere underneath the body cladding, more prominent fog lamps, and roof rails, but you shouldn’t care. Designers have done a great job of making the Outback look complete on its own.
The lovely thing about this tougher looking design is that it’s been done for the sake of function. There’s 220 millimeters of ground clearance on hand (or 213 mm according to the global site) and 500 millimeters of water wading depth, pretty good numbers considering the low overall height of 1,675 millimeters. And although it’s not much larger than the outgoing model, it’s much roomier. It feels absolutely huge with no shortage or head, leg, shoulder, or hip room for both front and rear occupants. In addition, the cabin experience is appreciably of higher quality.
Eschewing the previous model’s fake wood and beige leather seats, the all-new Outback has a more straight-laced cabin with black leather seats, metallic highlights, and piano black inserts. All the materials, especially those that come in contact with the driver or passenger’s hands, are of higher quality with soft-touch paneling. Ergonomically, all the controls are clearly marked and well-placed—a far cry from the “confuse and conquer” layout of its rivals. In front of the driver is a new instrument cluster with binocular-style gauges with a central LCD display. An interesting feature is that the meter rings have a setting that allows you to customize its color (or turn it off). This automatically switches to amber when you slot the shifter to M or Manual mode. The seats also feel plusher and offer power adjustment for the front passengers. The rear seats offer adjustable seat backs in a 60/40 split.
The prehistoric-looking infotainment system has always been a sour point for Subaru, but that problem’s been rectified here. The new large touchscreen features a fresh looking and modern interface complete with gesture controls. It works well and manages good tactile operation thanks to a balance of both physical and touch-sensitive controls. It has robust voice-activated controls, but most importantly, it benefits from usable Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming aside from two USB inputs. Playback is through a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system with a 576-watt GreenEdge amplifier.
It also shines when it comes to cargo carrying capacity. Aside from the larger luggage space than its predecessor, it now has a power tailgate. And if that’s not enough reason to love the Outback, the roof rails come with an ingenious foldaway crossbar for fitting things like luggage racks and bike carriers without the need to purchase a separate accessory. What’s more, they’re rated up to 50 kilograms.
Under the hood, the Outback has a sole engine: the 3.6-liter boxer 6-cylinder engine largely carried over unchanged. Still, the EZ36D engine does benefit from a re-tweaked Mitsubishi ECU instrumental in flattening out its peak torque curve of 350 Nm which is now available from 2,000 to 6,000 rpm. Peak horsepower remains unchanged at 260 horsepower. Mated to this engine is a “high-torque” Lineartronic CVT shared with the WRX. Unlike other CVTs which just drone up the power band, this one’s actually good, mimicking gears complete with shift points thanks to a new kick down algorithm.
The Outback 3.6R-S is plenty powerful and fast with a quoted 0-100 km/h time of just 7.3 seconds. However, the experience is not about copying the WRX. Instead, speed is delivered in a linear and progressive manner. There’s an initial jumpiness to the throttle engagement, but it’s easy to adjust for that. In city traffic, it’s more than enough to keep the Subaru SI Drive to ‘I’ or Intelligent and let the car adjust drivetrain performance for fuel efficiency.
In fact, it feels more than enough even on open roads. However, if you want even more power, you may want to engage ‘S’ or Sport or even ‘S#’ or Sport Sharp on the steering wheel. Not only does the throttle feel lighter, but the CVT alters its ratios. In S, the CVT is kept just below 2,000 rpm, where peak torque occurs. In S#, it’s at 2,000 rpm. Therefore, expect a locomotive-like sensation each time you gun the throttle. This can get tiring during long drives, so again, leave things in Intelligent unless you need that burst of power. And goodness, the boxer-6 sounds great, growling at full throttle while you see your fuel economy dip quickly. In that regard, the Outback still does better than you think doing 6.5 km/L in heavy city traffic, 8.9 km/L in light city traffic, and 13.7 km/L in highway situations.
More than just straight line performance, the Outback is surprisingly good in corners. The electric power steering is somewhat dead on-center, but serves up plenty of feedback during turns. The increased steering ratio makes it feel quite spirited despite the crossover appearance. Toss it around corners and the body rolls, but the degree of stability and confidence provided by the Outback is unmatched by any other midsize SUV or crossover out there. As always, the Symmetrical All-Wheel drive is blissful and invisible, serving up perfect amounts of grip on all four corners all the time. It also has Active Torque Vectoring giving an additional safety net.
On tarmac, the Outback offers a smooth and confident ride enabling it to absorb any and all imperfections with ease and poise. There’s a slight degree of firmness felt from the rear suspension, but it feels much better than any other crossover out there, even those twice its price. Plus, it serves up better driving dynamics even when compared to other executive sedans. It’s mighty quiet too with excellent degree of NVH isolation. What’s more, it’s equally capable off-road as well. Aside from the generous ground clearance, it has X-MODE which alters several vehicle parameters. And though hardcore SUVs would be more appropriate in tackling trails, none can match the capaciousness or efficiency of the Outback, especially when the trail turns to tarmac.
Obviously, you don’t anticipate the all-new Outback doing anything but good for Subaru. It’s been vastly improved in every way. It doesn’t shake up the formula and it isn’t even a great departure from the outgoing model, but that’s all fine. The good-to-drive, ready-to-play nature has always made it very popular to a select few and this new one builds up on that thanks partly to a more aggressive price (P 2,288,000) along with a longer list of features. It also addresses all the negative points of the outgoing model while improving upon what made it good. Say what you want about the Outback’s non-traditional form—in this case, it’s good to be different.
2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R-S
|Ownership||2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R-S|
|Vehicle Classification||Mid-sized Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||F6|
|BHP @ rpm||260 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||350 @ 4,400|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 95~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,698|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport 225/60 R 18 V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||No, Rear Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual Zone, with Rear Vents|
|No. of Speakers||12, Harman/Kardon|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|