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Subaru Outback [BS] (2015 - 2021)

OUT OF AFRICA (some text hidden)

By Jonathan Crouch

Introductionword count: 100

Subaru's Outback isn't an SUV but offers most of what that class of vehicle provides in a package that's a little more rugged than your average jacked-up large 4x4 estate. After all, its permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system will keep you going long after most other all-wheel drive estates, Crossovers and compact SUVs have waved the white flag. In 2015, Subaru brought us a fifth generation 'BS'-series Outback model that was smarter, safer, cleverer, classier and a little more efficient. It might remain a rare choice - but for the right kind of buyer, it's potentially a very good one.

Modelsword count: 11

5dr estate (2.0 diesel / 2.5i petrol [SE, SE Premium, Limited])

Historyword count: 418

The Subaru Outback. With a history going all the way back to 1995, it was the original off-road-orientated family estate, with an image that, at the turn of the century, placed it comfortably alongside big Volvos and Land Rovers as a preferred choice for the tweed jacketed country set. In more recent times, it's been a rarer sight on our roads - something that back in 2015, Subaru's importers wanted to change with the introduction of this much improved fifth generation 'BS'-series version. The Japanese brand reckons that this was the original 'Crossover' vehicle. Now this may be true but the way the market now understands 'Crossovers' (as Nissan Qashqai-like SUV-styled family hatches with little off road ability) doesn't fit the Outback's remit at all. With a core market following in wild parts of Australia, America and Asia, it has to be pretty capable in the rough - or at least pretty capable for something that remains a conventional estate car. The Outback has always been based almost entirely on Subaru's Legacy Tourer estate, though it offers a tougher look and extra ground clearance, both key ingredients for the small but significant market niche of capable all-wheel drive estates that back in 2015 was popularised by cars like Audi's allroad models and Volvo's XC70. It was in response to competition of this sort that Fuji Heavy Industries brand introduced the fourth generation 'BR/BM'-series version of this Outback in 2010, making it bigger and more capable than before. It wasn't enough - for three key reasons. There was the initial problem that early MK4 models couldn't be ordered with the diesel/automatic combination most buyers wanted. Plus a standard of interior quality that even Subaru later admitted wasn't a match for premium rivals. And neither of these concerns were helped by unfavourable exchange rates that made the car look expensive. Compared to this, the MK5 Outback was a decent step forward. From the beginning, it got the option of the brand's smooth Lineartronic auto gearbox as a smooth, willing partner to the 2.0-litre Boxer diesel engine most customers wanted. This unit was partnered by a 2.5-litre petrol unit mated only to auto transmission - until 2018, when the diesel was dropped. The MK5 Outback was much nicer inside too. And there was smarter exterior styling, sharper handling, lower running costs and greater safety provision, all matched to the same tough, practical 4WD package. The MK5 Outback sold until 2021, when it was replaced by an all-new sixth generation 'BT'-series version.

What You Getword count: 424

One of the things that's characterised Outback development over the last few generations is the way this car has progressively got a little larger. Back in the Nineties, it was merely a dressed-up, rugged-ized version of Subaru's Mondeo-sized Legacy estate but in more recent times, it's needed to be a little bigger than that. After all, buyers need an incentive to stretch to this car over the brand's already reasonably spacious Forester estate model. And in any case, the company's dealers want this Outback to be able to compete on equal terms with slightly larger rivals like big Volvo estates. So this fifth generation version gained 20mm, both in width and length. It's in profile though, that the more significant changes become obvious if you're more familiar with earlier Outback models. With this MK5 version, the base of the A-pillar was brought forward by 50mm and there was more rake to the windscreen, along with a smoother, swept-back silhouette. This, combined with extra length and a prominent shoulder line that rises gently from the front bumper before extending to the rear light clusters delivered a more dynamic-looking shape. It's up-front though, that the biggest improvements were made. Silver highlights run across a dashboard that was offered in a choice of colours and fashioned from high-grade soft-touch materials that even extend to the door armrests. The key feature though is the high-resolution 7.0-inch colour infotainment touchscreen that dominates the centre of the dash. It was standard across the range and allows the driver to access sat nav, audio, phone and information menus with the same swiping and pinching motions you'd use to control a smartphone. And in the rear? Well though this fifth generation model wasn't very much wider than its predecessor, revisions to the door structure and the trim made it feel as if it was, these changes liberating 30mm more shoulder room, 38mm more elbow room and 67mm more hip room than was available in the previous MK4 version. The car's extra length meant there was 10mm more legroom too, while the fact that the front seats were placed slightly further apart made it a little easier to sit in the middle. You'd expect the slightly sleeker lines to marginally compromise boot space but in fact, once you raise the tailgate - something you can do electrically on plusher models - there's actually a little more room on offer (559-litres). If you need more space, then flipping the useful levers by the tailgate flattens the 60:40 split-folding rear bench and frees up 1,848-litres.

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Category: Crossover or SUV 4x4s

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This is an excerpt from our full review.
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