Defining the 2017 Subaru outback
Over the years, the market share of Subaru vehicles like the Forester, Legacy and XV has grown as the brand’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive and boxer engines gained consumer recognition.
But there is one Subaru vehicle that remains somewhat under the radar.
It is not exactly an SUV like the Forester or the XV, nor a shooting brake like the Subaru Levorg.
The Subaru Outback defies definition. It has been described as the jacked-up, load-toting station wagon version of the Legacy, the Subaru sedan whose underpinnings and 2.5-liter boxer engine it shares.
“Jacked up” because the Outback’s ground clearance of 8.7 inches (221 millimeters) is the same as that of the Forester, the XV and the Jeep Cherokee, all of which are SUVs.
Yet the Outback is not an SUV or a crossover. And station wagons are rare these days, displaced in markets across the globe by SUVs and crossovers.
In other markets like Australia, the Outback is well-known as a rugged but family-friendly traveling wagon that has capably transported families and their stuff for 20 years.
Now Subaru, the car manufacturing division of Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries, has transformed the 2017 model Outback into a near-luxury level ride while retaining its versatility, practicality and utility.
MotorImage Pilipinas, the exclusive importer and distributor of Subaru, offers the 2017 Outback with two engine options: the 3.6-liter six-cylinder (P2.288 million) or the 2.5-liter four-cylinder (P2.068 million.)
The 2.5i variant, which I test-drove, delivers 175 ps and 235 Newton meters max torque.
Both engines are mated to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) that is so smooth and responsive that it feels like driving a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Long and tall
Subaru cars have never been known to turn heads with their stylishness, and the 2017 Outback sticks to this tradition with its blunt yet bland design.
It stands long and tall with a 4,815-mm overall length and 1,675-mm height.
It has a slatted front grille surrounded by chrome, LED headlamps with headlamp washers, front fog lamps, chrome trim framing the windows, roof rails that can carry as much as 68 kilograms, a power sliding glass sunroof, power tailgate, and roof spoiler.
The power tailgate’s opening height can be adjusted to fit under your garage’s ceiling.
Because of its 8.7-inch ground clearance, active torque vectoring and X-Mode (a software program that optimizes electronic control of the engine, transmission, AWD system, brakes, and the vehicle dynamics control system), the all-terrain capability and all-weather performance of the Outback has been further improved.
The Outback also aces in terms of plentiful and usable interior room for five.
Due to the slim windshield pillars, big windows and sunroof, the Outback feels spacious inside.
The rear doors open wide for easy ingress and egress.
The cabin exudes an upscale vibe with soft touch materials, premium leather everywhere, chrome accents, competitive switchgear, dual zone automatic aircon, paddle shifters, aluminum pedals, smart proximity entry, and push-button start/stop.
The audio system has a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, six speakers, and hands-free Bluetooth compatible system. There are two USB ports in front, none in the back.
Although it is a midsize vehicle, the seating and cargo areas are copious. Headroom and legroom are generous fore and aft.
Soft, supportive leather seats in front, an enormous back seat bench that can be reclined, rear aircon vents, and 512 liters of cargo space behind the rear seats complete the interior picture.
The boot is long and square with no lip between the boot floor and the outside, so you can easily slide in heavy suitcases or a folded wheelchair.
With the 60/40 split-folding rear seats stowed, cargo space expands to 1,801 liters.
The rear seat has not one, not two, but three Isofix anchors for child seats.
Boxer engine performance
The horizontally opposed, 4-cylinder, twin cam, 16-valve petrol engine of the 2.5i variant is a “flat” or boxer engine like the engines of other Subaru vehicles, and the Porsche 718 and 911.
In a boxer engine, the pistons move horizontally, in a side-to-side manner, like two boxers punching. The opposing pistons cancel out each other’s movement, creating a smoother, quieter running engine without the need for additional hardware that most V-shaped engines require.
The key benefit of the boxer engine’s horizontally opposed layout is not about its power output or environmental performance, but its contribution to the car’s balance, stability, and handling, especially when cornering or making rapid changes of direction—and the Outback gets all these in spades.
The 175-ps boxer engine of the Outback is adequate for the daily commute and family out-of-town excursions.
Aside from a reliable grip, the Outback has pleasant road manners, a quiet and comfortable carlike ride, and little body roll in corners.
On the other hand, the 2.5-liter flat-four engine would pack more punch were it not for the 1,622-kg curb weight of the Outback.
The hefty Outback’s acceleration won’t thrill car enthusiasts, although it beats its clumsier competitors in terms of a smoother carlike ride.
One of the safest
The 2017 Outback is one of the safest cars on the market today, in whatever category.
Aside from seven SRS airbags (two front, two side, two curtain and one knee airbag for the driver), and ABS with EBD, the Outback is equipped with vehicle dynamics control, active torque vectoring, blind spot detection, lane change assist, hill holder, hill start assist, rear vision camera, rear cross traffic alert, brake assist, brake override, emergency stop signal, safety pedal system, side door reinforcement beams, rain-sensing wipers, electronic parking brake, and automatic headlamps.
Premises considered, the 2017 Subaru Outback is a car-based, practical and versatile wagon with a spacious cabin, incredible cargo volume, above-average all-terrain capability, a refined and quiet ride quality on paved roads and outstanding comfort.
The Outback was not designed to be sporty nor was it engineered for speed. It has one purpose only: to cart five people and their stuff around in superior comfort and safety.
In other words, the Outback is Subaru’s updated, unabashed interpretation of the traditional Volvo station wagon.
For a family of five, the Outback would be a welcome revival of the station wagon genre.