Subaru promises its flagship Outback is set for epic adventure. We did just that
There’s an incredible spectacle late every winter that we do our best to go and see. They call it The Daisies. The trick is to go on a sunny weekday, arrive early to avoid the crowd and behold the flowers at their midday finest. Best of all is that the roads to drive there and back are among the finest in Africa. So this annual sojourn makes for the perfect opportunity to test a proper adventure car while we’re a it.
THE PERFECT STEED FOR FLOWERY NEEDS
This year the stars aligned perfectly at flower time. We just happened to have an all-new Subaru Outback 2.5i-Field ES on hand for the trip. Subaru tells us this latest Outback packs its best ever technology, innovation and engineering excellence into its most capable and safest car yet. Dynamic and solid, active and tough, they say the rugged and adventurous Outback will stimulate the most epic journeys and adventures. The perfect steed for our flowery needs then.
Set out by a sharper glasshouse that offers class-leading visibility out, Outback has slimmer LED headlamps with signature C-shaped Daytime Running Lights and indicators. Its black grille and trim are offset by darkened metallic 18-inch alloys and butch body cladding for a more rugged balance. Our crystal white pearl Field adventure version gets even more black silica trim that spreads to the under guard and roof rails, along with a splash of green.
It was dark and fresh as we packed. Arriving with seven things hanging off my body, the convenient hands free tailgate worked a treat. Just cover that Subaru logo with your hand and hey, sesame! It opens wide to reveal a broader gate and a hungry 522-litre cargo floor. It grows to 1267-litres with the rear seats stowed. The bay has a 12 V power socket, cargo hooks and side nets for easy storage and a complicated new cover. Ouback also has a 1.5-ton braked towing capacity.
HAPPILY ALL STRAPPED IN
Settled in behind the heated multifunction steering, the comfy silver upholstered 8-way adjustable power-memory front seats are multi-contoured to ensure all bodies are well supported and reduce long journey fatigue. All seats are heated, so the four of us were soon warm and happy, strapped in with Subaru’s new adaptive tensioner seatbelts. They read your body type to regulate energy absorption and better secure your waist in a collision.
Outback’s cabin highlight is however its giant 11.6-inch portrait touchscreen infotainment display that dominates the centre of the dashboard. Happily, the most used volume and climate controls remain buttons and dials, while secondary functions are by familiar smart device swipe, drag and touch on the Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and 4 USB rich system.
Outback is of course powered by Subaru’s latest hallmark boxer four. 90% new, this 138 kW 245 Nm 2.5-litre turns an 80% new lighter weight Lineartronic CVT enhanced to improve pull-away. It also settles to a lower engine cruising speed for an improved average 7.3 litres per 100km claim. The ‘box has an 8-step paddle shifter manual mode and propels Fuji’s WRC developed symmetrical all-wheel drive. Outback also adds terrain selectable X-Mode and Hill Descent Control.
MORE THAN JUST FOUR BY FOUR
It’s all aided and abetted by Vehicle Dynamics Control that includes electronic stability control with active torque vectoring and auto vehicle hold. ABS anti skid brakes have electronic distribution. Outback’s eight airbags meanwhile include a pioneering passenger seat cushion bag.
Our route from the Winelands through the wheat fields up to the West Coast is pretty straightforward. Sill, Africa is no place for sissies and traveling on country roads can be challenging. Our route included some treacherous stretches. So it was reassuring to know we were cocooned by that significant Subaru safety net. Just in case…
EyeSight uses dual camera tech to integrate the car’s assistance systems including pre-collision. It now adds autonomous steering to its braking function; steering vibration rather than only an audio beep and increased emergency braking response. Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping and Departure, Sway and Lead Vehicle Start Alerts also improve. EyeSight also features Subaru Vision Assist to assess movement behind the car through its various systems.
OUTBACK CAN DRIVE ITSELF, BUT…
All of which means Outback’s lane centring is more corrective to better hold position while using adaptive cruise control. In fact you can even let it drive for you. Until Attention Assist notices you buggering around and issues a curt reprimand! Eyesight now also adds speed limit sign recognition to work with the intelligent speed limiter and automatically adjust speed to the marked limit.
We rode along to some soothing tunes as Outback purred along delivering consumption numbers close to that claim as day broke. Packing latest generation MP3 or AAC audio quality 12-speaker Harman/Kardon sound with a sub-woofer in the cargo area, audio sound quality is great. It made our splendid dawn drive through the glorious Swartland all that much more pleasant.
It seemed that two hour drive was done far quicker than that time. Our plan worked too — no kilometres queue at the gate and the park was still quiet as we paid the pittance to go in. The diaisies are another hour’s drive away at 50 km/h. But what awaits in those hills and dales adjacent to the Atlantic coast, is utterly spectacular. Literally billions of flowers cover the valleys. With the sun behind you, it’s difficult to believe what actually you see, smell and sense.
THE DAISIES MAKE A REAL FAIRYLAND
That carpet of every imaginable colour stretches as far as the eye can see in a literal dreamland. There are hartebeest, zebra and wildebeest; tortoises, even puff adders and Cape cobra. And splendid coastal coves ready for your picnic. But the flowers are Postberg’s proudest end of winter stars.
Tempus fugit, as they say. Even the flowers need to sleep and before we knew it, the day had slipped away as we turned for home. Still, with a just a little spare time on our hands, we took in a few dirt roads to round off our Outback experience. That turned out to be a clever choice, as it outed perhaps this car’s greatest asset. The Subaru Outback is plausibly the best sorted dirt driving car out there. I’m not talking 4×4, rather its ability on unpaved sand roads so prevalent in SA.
Much of that is down to Subaru’s new 70% tauter, Global Platform shell. They tell us that it not only absorbs 100% more energy in a collision, but also that noise and vibration is dramatically reduced via improved door and floor materials. Along with more direct steering and less body roll. On a dirt road, that translates to a literal magic carpet ride as Outback quite literally soaks up all the bumps, ruts and serrations. A though they’re not even there.
OUTBACK HAS SECRET OFF ROAD ABILITY
Outback isn’t at all bad if you go full 4×4, either. It has always been good in the rough and secretly boasts great off-road capability too, with an impressive 213 mm of ground clearance, 19.7 degree approach and 22.6 degree departure angles. It’s long droop suspension also maintains traction in the most surprising of driving situations. And talking about that chassis, it is 50 mm longer and 35 mm wider for more leg and shoulder space. That’s the largest Outback cabin to date.
Heading home out of the sunset, I copped a few more driving warnings from Attention Assist as I played with the various EyeSight advantages. We decided that while some of us may still think we’re too clever for all that, the type of guy or girl who buys one of these will love it all. I also struggled a bit with that IMAX screen size infotainment, set-up, but I fear it will be great once mastered. A few days was not enough to get my had around it. As an owner, there’s more than enough time to figure it all out.
At the end, we were all super impressed by this epitome of Subaru tech and innovation. Nobody needs tell you about that Subaru boxer and symmetrical AWD advantage. And this one has every additional safety gadget you could ever dream of on top of that. Outback stars on space and practicality too, but this car’s trump card has to be its dirt and rough road capability. In that respect, the Subaru Outback is unbeatable. No matter how many millions you spend.
All in all, we took the magic carpet to the spectacle of the flowers. I’d not hesitate to take it anywhere, and everywhere else too. — Michele Lupini
Images: Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Subaru Outback 2.5i-Field ES Engine: 138 kW 245 Nm 2.5-litre H4 Drive: CVT automatic AWD TESTED: 0-60 km/h: 3.87 sec 0-100 km/h: 8.94 sec 0-120 km/h: 11.84 sec 0-160 km/h: 22.58 sec 400m: 15.9 sec @ 140 km/h 80-120 km/h: 6.07 sec 120-160 km/h: 9.76 sec CLAIMED: VMax: 200 km/h Fuel: 7.3 l/100 km CO2: 168 g/km Warranty/Service: 5 y 150K 3y 75K km LIST PRICE: R699K RATED: 8
Learn more about the Daisies here. It makes for a glorious day trip from Cape Town, but remember it only happens in late August and early September. And get there early!