Subaru Outback

By Tim Saunders

The adventurous are the target market for Subaru with its Outback crossover. With its permanent four wheel drive there’s excellent road holding no matter the terrain. As the name suggests you can quite imagine it making its way through the plains of Australia without issue. It looks cool too with its roof rails, matt metal power folding wing mirrors and overall design that screams take me into a field. Pleasingly, this is just what we’re able to do when we go to an excellent charity family day organised by Michael Thornton at Fort Purbrook in Hampshire where we have to make our way down a rough gravel track and park in a field.

On another occasion I take the Subaru Outback on a spin down the A303 to Wiltshire and wish I hadn’t. The Outback is a splendid driver’s car but the A303 is the dullest road I have been on for a very long time. “You’re not being fair,” chides my wife, Caroline. “The surrounding countryside is beautiful.” That’s all very well and the A303 does lead you past historic Stonehenge, I admit, but the problem is that there are so many speed cameras along the way, spoiling a driver’s enjoyment. There’s even a hidden camera at the foot of a hill where a dual carriageway starts. This is just unfair. Having been subjected to a wide load for some 15 miles that I could not overtake I am finally presented with an opportunity when this dual carriageway emerges. I put my foot down, only for a 60mph sign to flash up on the Subaru’s instrument panel. I brake quickly as I start to overtake, not wanting to be booked for speeding. Completely unsafe. I always thought that you could travel at 70mph on a dual carriageway and when I return home I check this to discover that the RAC agrees with me. Thank goodness.

I hadn’t actually selected the A303 in the first place, the Outback’s TomTom sat nav had. This system takes some getting used to because at first I cannot get it to acknowledge my destination but then eventually work out how to get it to do this. It’s not as clear as other systems but once understood instructions are clear and reliable.

Motorists are an impatient lot and when confronted by wide load convoys they all get as close as possible tailgating each other and pushing in where possible. In such situations I pull well back and take a deep breath.

Repeatedly throughout this journey, the Subaru informs me that I should be travelling at no more than 60mph on dual carriageways. Then I find that when travelling down hill the cruise control does not maintain my desired speed but exceeds it, only by a few mph but enough to set a speed camera off, I’m sure. Which means that when I am driving in a 30mph zone down hill, I have to keep on top of the cruise control by pushing it down to 25mph at times and then back up or driving without cruise control on. Or using the speed limiter.

What my family and I love about the Outback is its DAB radio which allows us to play our favourite ‘80s radio station. We love our 80s music and this is the perfect backdrop to our journey to and from Wiltshire.

On our return journey the sat nav must understand my dislike of the A303 and thankfully guides me onto the A36 to Salisbury, which is a far more pleasurable route for me for the simple reason that it is not so littered with speed cameras.

Put your foot down in this petrol Outback and it does have some life, quickly reaching a decent speed. The automatic box is an old man’s way of driving but there are gear shifts either side of the steering wheel for the youngsters. This is quite a chunky estate car, which is great for the children and the cavernous boot is, dare I say it, too large for us! There are useful roof bars, too. Overall it’s a striking estate and this model is finished in khaki, which matches my son Henry’s shorts so he’s happy. We like the tilt/slide electric glass sunroof, too – just the thing for a decent summer’s day.

Another journey sees me take the Outback down the A31 to Bovington and I wish I hadn’t done that either. Roadworks during this trip in the height of the summer holidays, causes an hour-long delay, which is unnecessary and unfair to all the motorists along this painful stretch of road. You would expect to see a roadworker but there are none. The Outback remains calm, the engine stop start cutting in as required while I seethe. But I cannot understand why the sat nav does not alert us to roadworks and divert us accordingly. Surely that would make such technology useful. Anyway, we resolve not to travel along this route on our return journey and instead head for Ringwood on the A35, which is a good decision, until we reach the start of the variable speed limit section of the M27 where Highways England has thought it sensible to reduce the four lane motorway to three by installing a series of cones. There is absolutely no rhyme nor reason why this has been done other than to cause yet more pain and suffering to commuters and travellers. In the midst of our crawl along this section a fire engine with his blues and twos splits the traffic up to get to an accident along the stretch. And then miraculously the traffic starts to flow again.

The Outback has an enormous boot that allows me to take a lot of clutter to the tip. It’s a great vehicle and as we wait for the tip to open Henry discovers that the back of his rear seat can be adjusted and that the camera allows you to see various views outside, helpful for alerting the driver to obstacles.

Facts at a glance
Price from: £36,990
Engine: 2.5-litre petrol
0-60mph: 8.6secs
Top speed: 129mph
Power: 173bhp
Economy: 32 to 29mpg


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