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Subaru Outback

ESTATE OF THE ART (some text hidden)

The Subaru Outback has carved a reputation as one of the more rugged all wheel drive estate cars. June Neary tries the current version for size.

Will It Suit Me?word count: 121

To be honest, I was a little intimidated by the image of the Subaru Outback. It's probably not the sort of car I'd instinctively lay down my own money for, being a little too macho for my refined sensibilities. The latest car pulverises such generalisations. Although it rides at 200mm, it's a good deal more refined than I expected and the interior quality has been immeasurably improved. There's also less body cladding than I remember older versions having, which means it no longer looks quite so 'military surplus'. The big bumpers and flared wheel arches mark it out for the country set and the side protectors give it a chunky profile. Suddenly I didn't feel at all embarrassed by the Outback.

Practicalitiesword count: 173

Subaru have listened to customer feedback and acted accordingly. Previous owners had raved about their cars' engines, running gear and reliability but weren't quite so keen on the materials used in the cabin and felt the exterior styling wasn't the sharpest. The latest Outback concentrates on these twin Achilles heels with some success. With soft touch surfaces and smooth, damped stalks and buttons the cabin feels a good deal more upmarket. The fascia, the door trims and roof lining all now benefit from extra padding and texturing, Subaru benchmarking the best German manufacturers to get a feel for what was required. Interior space was never a problem with the Outback but in the latest car it's better than ever, with more shoulder, leg and elbow room for front seat passengers. As ever there's the added attraction of all-wheel drive to haul you out of the mud. The boot measures 512-litres to the tonneau cover, with 2,000-litres available when the seats are folded. That's way bigger than, say, Volvo's V90 Cross Country can offer.

Behind the Wheelword count: 82

The Outback sticks rigidly to the tried and tested Subaru formula of 'boxer' engines and all-wheel-drive. Customers today are limited to a 2.5-litre 175PS four cylinder petrol powerplant mated to a Lineartronic automatic gearbox. Well, when I say 'automatic', it's strictly speaking a seven-step constantly variable transmission with 'virtual' ratios, but you get the idea. There's no clutch pedal. As you'd expect from a car like this, there's AWD - but not just any AWD system but Subaru's acclaimed permanent Symmetrical set-up.

Value For Moneyword count: 192

Subaru pricing used to be at the mercy of the Japanese yen, but these days, the currency fluctuations have settled down and this car looks decent value again. Prices start at £30,000 for the base 'SE' model, rising to around £33,000 for the plusher leather-lined 'SE Premium' variant. Both versions come only in 2.5-litre petrol Lineartronic automatic form. The most recent updates include the addition of a new front view camera, which has been positioned below the brand badge on the front grille. This can monitor a 180-degree area in front of the car that would normally be in the driver's blind spot. A furtherl side view camera is mounted at the base of the passenger door mirror. A 'view' switch positioned next to the X-Mode button by the gearstick allows the driver to move between display options on the centre touchscreen. Other more conventional standard kit features include automatic LED headlamps and headlamp washers, cruise control, Active Torque Vectoring, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, electrically-adjustable driver's seat and privacy glass, as well as a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, incorporating satellite navigation, audio, smartphone connectivity and a rear view parking camera.

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Category: Crossover or SUV 4x4s

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