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Subaru does the obvious, gives the Outback turbo power

Hold onto your hats. Subaru has swiped the WRX’s 183 kW 350 Nm 2.4-litre turbo boxer four and snuck it into the Outback wagon. Turning a default lightweight Lineartronic constantly variable transmission and all four wheels anon via Subaru’s magnificent 8-step paddle shifter manual mode Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, this engine upgrade has utterly transformed the car.

Let’s cut straight to the chase, we tested a 138 kW 245 Nm normally aspirated 2.5-litre Outback Field ES to do 100 km/h in 8.94 seconds, this month two years ago. We concluded the test by admitting that we were super impressed by the epitome of Subaru tech and innovation. And that epic symmetrical AWD advantage. But we did concede that while adequate, its performance would not to it too many favours at the traffic lights.

Roll on two years and WRX power has now outright transformed the Outback. No longer the laggard it once was, this new 2.4T XT is right up there. A 2-second gain to 100 km/h, a second quicker standing quarter at a significant 18 km/h faster terminal speed, and the rest of the numbers at the foot of this story more than attest to that. Two seconds quicker between 80 and 120 km/h, and three and a half quicker from there to 160, are even more impressive.

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Subaru snuck a turbo WRX engine into Outback

The difference the new engine makes both on the road and off it, seems far more dramatic that that impressive data even suggests. No more the laggard, the Subaru Outback 2.4T XT now has a huge amount more go to add to the show. Never mind that newfound grunt also brings a 300 kg improved towing capacity up to 1,800 kg. Takes it from borderline to adequate. But fuel economy takes a bit of a knock. Horses for courses.

Besides Fuji’s default WRC developed symmetrical all-wheel drive, Outback also benefits terrain selectable X-Mode and Hill Descent Control. That’s all aided and abetted by Vehicle Dynamics Control comprising electronic stability control with active torque vectoring and auto vehicle hold. ABS anti-skid brakes have electronic distribution. Outback also packs eight airbags including a pioneering passenger seat cushion bag.

A handsome car, Outback has slim LED signature C-DRL headlamps and a chrome finished black grille and it gets body cladding to make it more rugged balance. Tell the Outback XT apart by its new face polished 18-inch black alloy wheels, while the biggest change inside, is that the big, bright portrait-style infotainment now also gains wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.


Big infotainment gets wireless Carplay, Auto

Subaru’s giant 11.6-inch CarPlay, Auto, Bluetooth and 4 USB-rich portrait touchscreen infotainment dominates the centre of the dashboard. Unfortunately the majority of the most used volume and climate control functions are by this new-fangled smart device-like swipe, drag and touch. We don’t mind touch too much on secondary controls, but why not just keep the buttons, knobs and sliders for the most important audio and climate functions?

Speaking of audio, Outback’s latest generation MP3 or AAC quality 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound has a sub-woofer in the boot to ensure great quality and further complement a splendid driving space. Not that our autumn green XT sampler lacked for anything.

It has a heated multifunction steering wheel. Comfy 8-way adjustable power-memory multi-contoured front seats support any stature to reduce long journey fatigue. All seats are also heated, and Subaru’s clever tensioner seatbelts read your body type to regulate energy absorption and better secure you in a collision.


Turbo adds to Outback AWD, kitchen sink

Outback’s convenient hands free tailgate works a treat to reveal a broad and hungry 522-litre boot. It grows to 1,267-litres with the rear seats stowed. The bay has a 12V power socket, cargo hooks and side nets for easy storage, and a complicated new cover. That’s another huge Subaru advantage. Outback literally comes fully stacked with the kitchen sink, all-wheel drive and now even a turbocharger on top of that erstwhile tech, innovation, and engineering excellence.

Subaru’s revolutionary EyeSight for instance uses dual camera tech to integrate the various assistance systems. Now with pre-collision, It includes autonomous steering and braking and increased emergency braking response. Speed limit sign recognition complements adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and departure, and other alerts. It even monitors movement and obstacles behind the car. Eyesight can even be coerced to see Outback drive itself. Until Attention Assist figures you out and demands you take the wheel!

Subaru Outback is plausibly the best sorted dirt driving car out there. We’re not talking 4×4, but rather its ability on semi-prepared gravel roads so prevalent in SA. Much of that is down to its 70% tauter, quieter platform delivering even more direct steering and less body roll for a literal dirt road magic carpet ride. Outback soaks up all the bumps, ruts, and serrations as if they’re not even there. And now it even has the grunt to extinguish all those nannies and deliver an exceptional WRC-like turbo AWD dirt driving experience. If you’re ever so inclined.


Outback unbeatable on gravel roads

Now don’t go thinking that there’s any trouble with this car when it comes to real 4×4, driving, either. Did you know that all Subarus secretly boast great off-road capability too? This Outback is a case in point. It has impressive 213 mm ground clearance, 19.7 degree approach and 22.6 degree departure angles to start. But it’s that long droop suspension that really does the trick. It allows the wheels to drop way down to maintain traction in even the most surprising driving situations.

Nobody needs tell you about Subaru’s boxer and symmetrical AWD advantage. This one has every additional safety gadget you could ever dream of on top of that. Outback stars on space and practicality too, but itss trump card has always been its dirt and rough road capability.

The Outback has always been the epitome of Subaru tech and innovation. There used to be a cracking flat-six boxer version to cater for the power hungry. We tested that car to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds in ’98. But it seems that this green nonsense put paid to all that. So it’s been straight aspirated boxer fours ever since. Until now that is.

Now Subaru’s done the obvious and slipped a turbo WRX lump under this long Outback bonnet. And it’s made this car a winner, in every plausible respect. We dare you to find a better equipped, more sophisticated, and downright capable car than this Subaru Outback 2.4T XT. No matter how many millions you spend! — Michele Lupini Images: Michele Lupini

Testing & images: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Subaru Outback 2.4T XT
Engine: 183 kW 350 Nm 2.5-litre turbo H4
Drive: CVT automatic AWD
0-60 km/h:        3.69 sec
0-100 km/h:       6.97 sec
0-120 km/h:       9.22 sec
0-160 km/h:       15.59 sec
400m:             14.9 sec @ 159 km/h
80-120 km/h:      4.07 sec
120-160 km/h:     6.37 sec
Braked trailer:   1800 kg
VMax:             220 km/h
Fuel:             9 l/100 km
CO2:              204 g/km
Range:            700 km
Warranty/Service: 5 y 150K 3y 75K km
LIST PRICE:       R969K
RATED:            9
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