Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback lr
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By Tim Saunders

“It’s too big, I can’t drive it,” says my wife when she tries to drive the Subaru Outback. True, it is a large vehicle. But if given the chance it exceeds expectations. Because here we have an estate that boasts a massive boot, large enough (once the retractable cover is removed) for all the stuff that the Saunders family regularly travels with: two pushchairs, travel cot, luggage and lots of food. And there’s still room to change my young son’s nappy. But the great thing is that when behind the wheel the driver forgets that it’s an estate car. This is a thoroughly capable vehicle both on and off road because it is equipped with all symmetrical all wheel drive. Basically this is as safe as it gets with all the wheels talking to each other and working together to produce a perfect driving experience no matter what the terrain. “I can’t drive this it’s not a manual,” says my wife. “And where’s the handbrake?” It’s at times like this that Caroline and I are at loggerheads. I try as best I can to point her in the right direction but she simply refuses to accept the changes in technology. Her loss is my gain because I can drive it even more. Instead of a traditional handbrake there’s an electric one operated at a push of a button. Its seven speed automatic gearbox can also be driven like a manual thanks to the paddleshifts either side of the steering wheel but this isn’t up Caroline’s street either. Driving in automatic mode the dials have a blue glow but select manual mode and the glow changes to red.
During my time with the Subaru I take it for a run down the M25 where I see some truly appalling erratic driving. A newish Mercedes undercuts at speed a row of crawling traffic in the outside line and then veers in and out of the traffic in a similar fashion to a slalom skier. This is a heart in the mouth moment. Moments later we pull over for a police car. Was the driver trying to evade the police, was he fed up with queues of traffic or was he on drugs? It’s a worry. Britain’s motorways do leave drivers feeling like they are on a conveyor belt; no matter what speed you do it seems impossible to become the car in front – during the day at any rate. The Scooby Doo is fitted with an intelligent cruise control which delights in moments like this because it will brake and accelerate itself all the while keeping a set distance behind the car in front. These systems are always too slow for me when it comes to accelerating but I expect this is all in the name of economy. What I do like is that the driver can override by pushing the accelerator to the floor and then once you’re going fast enough you can take your foot off the gas and the system will take over once again. Cruise control is useful on these dull motorway journeys.
I soon discover that lots of fun can be had around the country lanes of Suffolk. There are some splendid roads near Halesworth in particular. With little traffic about it is possible to floor the Subaru on occasions and really put it through its paces and it does not disappoint.
Well designed both inside and out, the ride height is higher than normal, which gives the driver greater confidence, I find.
During a heavy persistent downpour I find that when the wipers are at their fastest the right one rubs over the edge of the windscreen making an unnerving sound. I am sure this can be easily remedied. The car itself handles itself very well indeed no matter what the conditions. My wife and children complain about the sharp braking and naturally blame me. The suspension provides a comfortable ride, not too soft or too hard. Being slightly wider than most cars there is a good amount of space for rear passengers and three children’s car seats fit in without issue. However, it can be awkward to fit the seatbelts on the two outer seats when Henry’s car seat is fitted.
I am fairly impressed with the satellite navigation in the Subaru.  It can definitely be relied upon for those shorter journeys. However, there is room for improvement when using it for guidance over longer journeys. Returning from Suffolk it wanted to take me via Royston, Cambridge and Watford. My wife was adamant that we didn’t want to do this and so to keep the peace I followed her advice, which shaved 30 minutes off the suggested journey time.
I am undecided about the power tailgate. During the test it is blisteringly hot and so parked by the roadside I push the button to open it. This saves me from getting out of the car, which at this particular moment is a great help. A lovely draft wafts through and then even more of a breeze comes as I open the sunroof and all the windows. Great. But these power tailgates have their downsides; accidentally catch your finger under it and you could lose it; these systems don’t seem to stop for anything. Then there’s the issue that it can be easy to forget that there is a power tailgate and the boot is closed manually which can’t be good for the system.  
The Outback is an extremely capable vehicle but the fuel economy could be improved.

Facts at a glance

Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic AWD
Price: £34,995
0-60mph: 9.9secs
Top speed: 124mph
Power: 150bhp
Economy: 40mpg approx

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