Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
We’ll get straight to the point here and say that the Subaru Outback is slow compared with its competition, with an official 0-60mph time of 10.2sec.
You might not be overly concerned by that, but it does make passing slower traffic or merging on to a busy roundabout more of a hassle. For comparison, the slowest of its key rivals is the B5 diesel Volvo V90 Cross Country (7.5sec).
The four-wheel-drive system does what it says on the tin, providing excellent traction in all situations. That's good news for caravan owners who wish to get out of a muddy field without assistance.
The 2000kg towing limit for a braked trailer is good, but it's not the greatest in the class, and the Outback isn’t as stable when you're towing something as the Golf Alltrack. The brakes are strong, though, and very easy to modulate for making smooth stops.
Sadly, ride quality isn’t the Outback’s strongest suit. It settles down a bit once you’ve built up a bit of speed, but it's not as supple as it should be given its jacked-up suspension and relatively small 18in alloy wheels with a generous amount of rubber.
The trade-off would be that the Outback is one of the most rugged estate cars off road, with better ground clearance than most to clamber over obstacles.Its low levels of suspension noise help you feel confident that you’re not going to break it while driving over rutted terrain.
Refinement is decent during ordinary driving, too. There’s not much road noise at a cruise and the engine is reasonably muted when you’re not demanding a lot from it. The only gripes are wisps of wind noise from around its rather upright windscreen and large door mirrors, and a rather abrupt engine start-stop system.