First Drive

2013 Subaru Outback review

  • Revised Subaru Outback driven in UK
  • New diesel auto model; interior and exterior changes
  • On sale November 1, priced from Β£31,495
Words ByRory White

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The Subaru Outback was one of the first cars to try to straddle the gap between estates and SUVs, and it now features updated styling and a simplified range.

On the outside Subaru has tweaked the front grille and headlights, while interior changes are designed to make the Outback easier to live with.

However, the big news is that Subaru has dropped the 2.5-litre petrol engine from the line-up, leaving the 2.0-litre diesel as the only option.

For the first time in a diesel Subaru, this engine is paired with the company's Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission, although a cheaper version of the revised Outback with a manual gearbox will be added to the range next year.

This manual model will average 47.9mpg and 155g/km of CO2, but until it arrives the Lineartronic’s 44.8mpg and 166g/km are as good as it gets.

What's the 2103 Subaru Outback like to drive?

We drove the new automatic diesel, which Subaru expects to account for more than 90% of sales.

The engine provides enough power and torque to make the Outback feel comfortable on any road, plus it's impressively smooth, transmitting next to no mechanical vibration through the steering wheel or pedals.

Unfortunately, the CVT gearbox sends the revs soaring whenever you put your foot down, causing the engine to drone loudly. You're better off using the steering wheel-mounted paddles to switch between the seven pre-set ratios that you get in manual mode.

Elsewhere, Subaru has revised the Outback's chassis, steering and suspension settings with the aim of reducing body roll and creating a sharper drive.

The steering certainly has a nice consistent weight to it in fast corners, and it's light enough at low speeds to make parking easy.

What's more, body roll is now better controlled, even though the Outback still falls short of the rival Volkswagen Passat Alltrack in this area.

Unfortunately, the changes to the suspension have hurt ride comfort. Occupants are jostled around over broken urban roads, while at higher speeds the stiffer set-up is even more evident, causing ruts and bumps to thump into the cabin.

Motorway comfort is further undermined by the wind noise that intrudes at higher speeds and the roar that the Outback's tyres generate on anything but perfect road surfaces.

The Outback is more impressive when you head off-road; it coped well with our wet and rutted test route.

What's the 2103 Subaru Outback like inside?

The Outback’s interior remains one of its strongest suits, because the dashboard is logically laid out and it puts everything within easy reach.

Subaru has also moved the electronic parking brake switch to the centre console and redesigned the instruments to incorporate a new colour screen - two changes that genuinely improve things.

However, it's not all good news because most of the plastics feel quite cheap, and silver buttons sit on a silver dashboard, which makes them difficult to pick out at a glance.

More positively, head- and legroom for those in the front is excellent, and the wide range of steering wheel and electric seat adjustment (standard on every Outback) makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position.

It's also easy to get to the rear, thanks to wide-opening rear doors, and once there you'll find there's enough space for two tall adults to sit comfortably.

The boot is just as impressive, offering almost as much space as the gigantic Ford Mondeo Estate, plus the rear seats fold flat should you need even more luggage room.

Another of the Outback’s strengths is its generous standard equipment. With only one trim on offer, every car gets climate and cruise controls, alloy wheels, heated sports seats, a USB socket, Bluetooth, automatic wipers and a rear view parking camera.

Should I buy one?

For the relatively small number of people who buy Subarus as a working tools, the Outback will fulfil their needs. It remains good off-road and has the space and practicality to cope with anything a family can throw at it.

However, most people will be better off with Volkswagen’s Passat Alltrack. The 177bhp 2.0 TDI DSG version might cost Β£265 more than the Outback, but it's better equipped, more powerful, nicer to drive and cheaper to run.

Alternatively, you might want to consider a Land Rover Freelander. It can go farther off road than the Outback and offers a much more comfortable ride. True, the TD4 GS auto model isn't as well equipped as the Subaru, but it's Β£2700 cheaper, which helps offset its slightly higher fuel and tax bills.

What car? says…


Land Rover Freelander

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

Subaru Outback 2.0D SX manual
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from Β£29,995
Power 148bhp
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 9.7 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 47.9mpg
CO2 155g/km

Suabru Outback 2.0D SX Lineartronic
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from Β£31,495
Power 148bhp
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 9.7 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 44.8mpg
CO2 166g/km