Subaru: When is an SUV Not an SUV?
The 2018 Subaru Outback is indeed a very practical station wagon with surprising, SUV-like ground clearance—8.7 inches, in fact. Many, including loyal customers, refer to their beloved Outback as an SUV or even a crossover. Regardless, whatever folks call it, this particular iteration will fulfill the needs of most people looking for a compact SUV—without a ridiculous price tag, yet it’s laden with tech and value.
In fact, in the time that I spent driving the V6-powered Outback through some pretty disgusting weather in Central Ontario in January, I was continually reminded that in some ways, the Outback was much like the late comedian, Rodney Dangerfield—it just can’t get the respect it deserves. Which is unfortunate since, on balance, this vehicle really has something for everyone—including loads of space, a simple, yet somewhat elegant interior and generally speaking, a pretty smooth ride.
In truth, the Subaru Outback has achieved the near-impossible since its initial introduction for the 1995 model year and has adapted extremely well to the onslaught of SUVs and CUVs which account for 70 percent of vehicle sales in Canada these days. Thanks in part to standard all-wheel drive and some plastic body cladding, Subaru is able to market the Outback as, dare we say, a more than capable SUV alternative.
A New Look Which is Not a Drastic Departure
For 2018, the Outback gets revised front and rear styling, but the new look isn’t a dramatic departure. Perhaps the most noticeable exterior change is a new set of headlights with Subaru’s “Konoji” LED daytime running light signature. The Outback is essentially unchanged mechanically. In our test vehicle, there was a capable 3.6-litre flat-six, generating 256 horsepower and 247 lb. ft. of torque, mated to CVT automatic transmission and, of course, Subaru’s famed symmetrical all-wheel drive system.
It’s on the interior that the differences become more obvious. In fact, Subaru added more safety tech for 2018, including a standard rearview camera on all trim levels and steering-responsive headlights that turn as the driver steers. The Outback gets Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with a new 8.0-inch touchscreen on our test vehicle, the top-of-the-line-trim, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The top-end Premier’s interior is notable. Seats are clad in leather and there are subtle touches of woodgrain and accent stitching. The rear seat is pretty spacious for at least two adults (if there are three, someone ends up “riding the hump”. When the rear seats are laid flat, the available cargo room is impressive. From a driver point of view, climate control is easily adjustable, thanks to large dials and buttons. The infotainment system also combines hard buttons with a fairly simple touchscreen. While it may not be the fanciest, these obvious controls work—other OEMs would do well to make note!
We would be remiss if we did not mention some of the other included features: a power sunroof, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate and a backup camera. The Premier trim also adds a heated steering wheel, power-adjustable passenger seat, heated rear seats, and a navigation system that works well via voice command.
What is likely most interesting, is the notable addition of the third-generation version of Subaru’s EyeSight® driver assist suite as an option. This “package” includes, but is not limited to, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, steering responsive headlights, and lane keep assist. EyeSight has evolved into one of the best-rounded safety packages on the non-premium market today.
Let’s put some of this into perspective: the reverse automatic braking system works in the same manner as forward collision braking—with one significant difference: it’s geared toward low-speed scenarios such as backing out of your driveway. How many times have you politely asked your kids to move their toys or bikes from the driveway or pleaded with your better half to bring in the trash cans on garbage day? Rhetorical questions, but you’ll soon understand. In the event a bicycle or garbage can is left on the driveway, EyeSight will audibly alert the driver as the vehicle reverses. If nothing is done to avoid the obstacle, EyeSight will intervene by applying the brakes to bring the vehicle to a jarring halt.
In summary, this is a capable, economical vehicle which will earn your respect—and trust! And remember, Subarus, more than almost any other vehicle, hold their value—and are hard to find in the pre-owned selling arena. Why? Families like and enjoy them so much, they tend to be passed down—like an heirloom or an inheritance!
2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R
Body Style: Subaru’s official description? A mid-size SUV alternative.
Drive Method: Front-engine, with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive.
Engine: 3.6 L Dual Overhead Cam 24-valve Boxer engine, producing 256 hp and 247 lb. ft. of torque, mated to a high-torque Lineartronic®
Cargo Capacity: With the rear seats in place—1,005 litres. With the 60/40-split seats folded flat—2,075 litres.
Fuel Economy: Stated—12.0 L/100km city, 8.7/10.5 L/100 km (highway/combined).
Price: $43,920 (Includes freight and PDI. HST extra.)
David Taylor is an independent automotive lifestyle writer, producer, and editor based in Barrie, Ontario who is fascinated by innovation and technology which enhance the overall driving experience. He’s also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter @Omemeeozzie or on Instagram @hugoscaroftheweek.