Sitting majestically big and bold, the all-new 6th-generation 2015 Subaru Outback takes its place on the top tier replacing the Legacy as the flagship model in Malaysia when it was launched earlier in April this year. The flagship switch was done because Subaru said it did not want its Legacy sedan to compete with other D-segment cars here, which are mainly dominated by German marques. Fortunately, during its regional launch held at the Thailand International Motor Expo in Bangkok, we managed to get a short test of the new flagship.
But before we get to that, let’s have a look at its background. Named after the vast, remote and arid outback regions in Australia, the crossover first came out in 1994 under two different Subaru models, the Legacy wagon and the Impreza wagon. It is said that the Outback was introduced to compete in the sport-utility vehicle class and proved to be a sales success for Subaru. It became its own model in year 2000.
Now in its 6th-generation re-iteration, the Outback wears Subaru’s signature hexagonal front grille flanked by a set of ‘hawk-eye’ headlights and sharp contour lines. It measures at 1,675 mm tall, 1,840 mm wide and 4,815 mm long, with a wheelbase measuring at 2,745 mm. Being a crossover version, it gets a higher ground clearance of 213 mm compared to the 150 mm on the Legacy.
Apart from the wagon rear end, in which Subaru has discontinued its Legacy wagon variant in favour of the Outback model, the crossover gets tough-looking plastic cladding that surrounds the entire vehicle. It also gets LED headlamps with auto leveler, roof rail, roof spoiler as well as an active grille shutter that opens or closes automatically according to driving conditions.
Inside the cabin, Subaru features a three-dimensional dual gauge cluster, power adjustable seats, multifunction steering wheel, Smart Entry and push start button and dual-zone automatic air-conditioning. Infotainment system comprises of a multifunction touch screen, Bluetoth, USB, AUX and speakers from Harman Kardon. Unfortunately, because of time constraints, we didn’t have time to try out any of the systems.
Going back to the short test we had, right after the regional launch ceremony at Impact Arena, Exhibition and Convention Centre in Muang Thong Thani, we were brought to a nearby parking lot where Subaru had laid out a short cordoned-off track to test out both the Legacy and Outback models on Speed, Brakes, 2 slalom tests, a Lane change test, 2 Jungle tests and a Free run course.
Due to the limited time and test area, Subaru had actually designed the course to showcase the vehicles strengths. For the speed and brake test, Subaru had us accelerating only to about 70 km/h before jamming the brakes really hard. We’re not sure about the claimed 9.1 seconds it takes to get to 100 km/h, but its accelerates quite well for a wagon that weights 1,659 kg. Power comes from a naturally-aspirated, 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder, boxer engine that churns out 173 hp at 5,600 rpm and 236 Nm of torque at 4,100 rpm mated to Subaru’s 5-speed Lineartronic CVT gearbox. There is a bigger 3.6-litre, flat-six engine, but that is not offered for our Malaysian market. Brakes are surprisingly good for a vehicle this big and heavy, with ventilated discs at both front and back.
The slalom and lane change test, in which i personally thought would be fun, turned out the total opposite. Although there was some body roll, being a big heavy wagon, its Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Active Torque Vectoring safety systems kept the car in shape and ran smoothly through the obstacles. Boring. But then again, boring is safe, I guess.
It’s the ‘Jungle’ test, or rather the uneven metal obstacle course, is where the Outback truly shines. Subaru’s ‘X-Mode’ control system, first equipped in the Forester model, together with its famed Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, guided the big wagon through the course, which was meant more for SUVs, with no hassle at all, showing impressive tyre travel and flexibility. The X-Mode programme is said to optimise engine, driveline, and braking behavior on slippery surfaces. They even had a small patch of sand to test out this function.
In short, as a flagship model, the Outback does have all the bells and whistles, plus more actually. Not only does it look up to par with European marques in terms of aesthetics, its entire interior is covered with uprated materials and soft-touch surfaces. Little things such as gas-powered hood, electronic rear-hatch (which is rather slow), latches in the boot to lower the rear passenger seats, does make things more convenient.
Safety features like front-seat side, side curtain and seat cushion airbags, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, frontal collision-warning and -mitigation system with brake intervention, hill descent control and hill start assist, are expected and available as standard.
With this much tech, I have to say that the Outback well deserves its position as the flagship Subaru model here in Malaysia, and with a price tag starting at RM224,846, those who are in that niche market looking for a big, bold and majestic looking crossover, should really give this wagon a second look.
|Price (RM)||RM224,846 OTR|
|Engine Type||DOHC In-Line Flat-4|
|Power||173 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Torque||236 Nm @ 4,100 rpm|
|Gearbox||5-Speed Automatic Lineartronic CVT|
|Kerb Weight||1,659 kg|
|Front Brakes||Ventilated Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Ventilated Disc|
|Tyres Size||225/65 R17|