From what we can ascertain on paper at least, it seems worth a much closer look than before.
After the local demise of the Subaru Legacy, the Subaru Outback has become that much more important. It is that rare of SUV-wagon species that we seldom see on our roads. Perhaps, we will get to see a few more as the new Outback lands in SA in late April 2021 and looks like a lot more car than we’ve seen from Subaru before.
Subaru will offer Outback in two grades this time. The Field – a grade that is aesthetically more focused on adventure and outdoorsiness. And then a Touring grade that is more Urban in design. An easy way to differentiate them is – more use of black on the Field and less so on the Touring.
Let’s start with the questionable news – the engine is seemingly a rework of an old engine. Subaru SA will offer one engine choice this time, a 2.5-litre normally-aspirated boxer engine that is tuned to deliver 138kW of power and 245Nm of torque. It’s more powerful than the previous 2,5-litre model, but we’ll miss the more powerful 3.6-litre that was available next to the 2.5 on the outgoing model. Transmission is the expected CVT, but its new this time with an 8-speed manual mode, lighter and more efficient but also better at launch responsiveness. So that’s not a great start, but it is everything else that has us a little more interested.
Subaru speaks of safety as a key pillar in their strategy and the Outback seems like it’s gone all out. The stand out features are the new body shell said to be 100% better on energy absorption and 70% more rigid than before. It is also equipped with 8 airbags including one that deploys from under the passenger seat to ensure the best positioning of the body for minimal damage.
The Outback also employs the latest version of EyeSight, Subaru’s suits of assistance systems. Reported to now include vibrations through the steering and steering assistance to keep you in the right lane, its said to be much more effective all round.
If you notice the images, the cabin is unlike any Subaru currently on sale. I’m taken by the adoption of the 11.6-inch portrait screen and the design carried right down to the gear selector and armrest. It looks properly cool.
And then there is mention of a new driver monitoring system that checks for driver fatigue or low concentration levels - nothing new there, but it’s how this happens that has me intrigued. It’s a facial recognition camera system that keeps an eye on you (conspiracy theorists be quiet) and gives you warnings to either take a break or keep your eyes on the road. The same system also allows you to programme settings for up to 5 different drivers, i.e. seat distance, climate control preference and user settings on the infotainment screen. As soon as you climb aboard, it reads who is driving and adjusts according to who is in the seat. More cool neh?
Fine Nappa leather and a Harman/Kardon high end sound system are part of the standard offerings, but nothing has been compromised in the Outback’s practicality and capability. It’s larger than ever before and Subaru has done clever things to make the load space even easier to use. The other big news is a hands-free bootlid opening mechanism. Apparently you wave your hand or elbow in front of the Subaru badge at the rear and voila, it opens.
Pricing for the Outback Touring is starting at R729 000 and the Field version is R699 000. Subaru has announced that dealers will be receiving the first shipment of stock in late April/early May.