The Subaru Outback joins our long-term family
For me, Subaru has always had strong affiliations with motorsport. I remember in the late-'90s Colin McRae defying the laws of physics in his 555 Impreza World Rally Car, contributing to Subaru winning three consecutive constructors' championships back to back.
It was the success of the Impreza that made a name for Subaru as one of the very best and most desired performance cars of its generation.
Twenty years on though and Subaru as a brand is in a very different place. Instead of dining out on its motorsport heritage, it now seems to be targeting a more grown-up, more sensible type of customer. Out go the helmets and racing boots, in come the flat caps and weekend driving gloves.
Even the much-loved Impreza has fallen in line with the rest of the Subaru family, with one eye on practicality and sensibility rather than all-out thrills and spills. Now, before the Subaru purists start tearing their hair out with comments such as "What about the WRX STI and BRZ?", of course the WRX STI will still set many a heart fluttering, but without a WRC reputation it doesn't have the same allure as previous generations. As for the BRZ, well, that's just about how much fun you can have going sideways, rather than all-out brute force.
But when it comes to practicality, quite possibly the most sensible offering in the Subaru family is the Outback, and the 2.0-litre Boxer diesel version becomes the latest addition to our long-term fleet. There's no question it's got some big shoes to fill. For the past few years my Nissan Pathfinder has been the weapon of choice for the video team. Its spacious cabin and go-anywhere ability have made it a valuable crew member.
While the Outback may have four-wheel drive and 'race car-style' flappy paddles, it's most definitely not what you'd call a thrill-a-minute driving machine. It's very much a workhorse and will fit in perfectly with the demands thrown at it by the team. Not only will it be used to lug kit to and from shoots, but it will also be put through its paces on all manner of terrain, from motorways and city runs to beaten tracks and mild off-roading.
At first glance there's a lot to like about the Outback. The version we have on test – the SE Premium Lineartronic – is pretty well equipped and is armed with all the toys that you'd expect in a car that has a £35k price tag. It features heated electric seats, climate control, powered tailgate, and a seven-inch
touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, Bluetooth phone connectivity plus a pretty good sound system.
It's also impressively safe, boasting seven airbags, brake assist, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and the Subaru's Eyesight accident avoidance system, which warns of a potential collision ahead and – in extreme cases – applies the brakes. Subaru was one of the first manufacturers to bring such technology to market and it's a system that is extremely effective, although sometimes I've noticed it gets a bit paranoid and has warned of cars turning ahead of me when they don't pose any danger.
The touchscreen Starling infotainment system is also one of the features that we'll be putting through its paces. So far, though, I've been slightly disappointed with it. On a couple of occasions it's frozen for about 20 minutes, leaving me with no radio or nav. It's not the quickest to respond, either, and some of the buttons can be a little fiddly to operate while on the move. The other thing that's frustrating is that there's no DAB radio – something that's pretty much standard on lesser-priced cars.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE MONTH: Really love the blue instrument dials that light up when driving at night.
MODEL: Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium Lineartronic
MAX SPEED: 124mph
0-60MPH: 9.9 seconds
MPG (COMBINED): 46.3mpg
EMISSIONS: 159 g/km CO2