Browse over 9,000 car reviews

    Subaru Outback 2021 review: AWD Touring off-road test

    The new Subaru Outback is very much like previous generations of the SUV/wagon in that it supposedly gives owners the opportunity to explore a little bit further afield even if they spend the lion’s share of their time on city and suburban streets.

    But this time the Outback has more onboard equipment and driver-assist safety technology than ever before. The AWD Touring variant is the top of the range with some fancy gear over its stablemates, but is it worth the extra cash? Read on.

    Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring is the top dog in a three-variant Outback range. It has a Manufacturer’s Suggested List Price of $47,490 (excludes on-road costs).

    The Subaru Outback Touring has a new 11.6-inch touchscreen multimedia unit, with satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.  The Subaru Outback Touring has a new 11.6-inch touchscreen multimedia unit, with satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. 

    Standard features include LED headlights, LED foglights, push-button start, keyless entry, electric park brake, rain-sensing wipers, heated and power-folding side mirrors, heated seats (front and rear outboard), sports pedals, dual-zone automatic climate control, and power tailgate.

    It has a new 11.6-inch touchscreen multimedia unit, with satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity

    The Touring has an electric sunroof. The Touring has an electric sunroof.

    It also has a heated leather steering wheel, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, Nappa leather interior trim, driver’s seat memory settings, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, an electric sunroof, satin-finish door mirrors, silver highlight roof rails (with stowable crossbars), and gloss-finish 18-inch wheels.

    Driver-assist safety tech includes Subaru’s EyeSight forward-facing camera system (comprising AEB, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control etc), as well as a driver monitoring system (which alerts you if your eyes stray from looking ahead through the windscreen for too long), a reversing camera, and more.

    It has gloss-finish 18-inch wheels. It has gloss-finish 18-inch wheels.

    Colour options on the AWD Touring include Storm Grey Metallic, Crimson Red Pearl, Crystal White Pearl, Magnetite Grey Metallic, Ice Silver Metallic, Crystal Black Silica, Dark Blue Pearl, Autumn Green Metallic and Brilliant Bronze Metallic. These are all at no extra cost.

    Is there anything interesting about its design?

    This new Outback looks suitably and unmistakably like an Outback – it’s adventurous-looking and inoffensive enough to satisfy those who prefer their high-riding SUV-wagon with a touch of low-key styling.

    Design changes are generally subtle, but the use of LEDs (in the daytime running lights, self-levelling headlights, front fog-lights, and rear brake-lights, as well as inside), as well as roof rails incorporating stow-away roof racks are nice touches.

    This new is adventurous-looking. This new is adventurous-looking.

    What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

    All of the new Outbacks have a 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer petrol engine – producing 138kW at 5800rpm and 245Nm at 3400-4600rpm – and that’s mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

    The Outback has permanent (aka “symmetrical”) all-wheel drive and Subaru’s X-Mode system that includes Normal, Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. These driving modes adjust engine torque, throttle response and traction control, among other things, to suit the conditions.

     All of the new Outbacks have a 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer petrol engine. All of the new Outbacks have a 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer petrol engine.

    How practical is the space inside?

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring has five seats, two in the front and three in the rear. 

    There’s plenty of room in the front and in the rear, in terms of being able to actually stretch about a bit and roll your shoulders without feeling cocooned.

    The interior, in Nappa leather trim, looks and feels pleasant. The interior, in Nappa leather trim, looks and feels pleasant.

    The driver's seat is eight-way power-adjustable with dual memory; and the front passenger's seat is eight-way power-adjustable. 

    The rear seat is a 60/40 split folding configuration and is equipped with three child-seat anchor points, and two ISOFIX child-restraint anchor points.

    The interior, in Nappa leather trim, looks and feels pleasant.

    The new multimedia system’s 11.6-inch touchscreen dominates upfront, bringing to mind the portrait-style unit of a Tesla, or even a Ram 1500 Limited I recently tested. It’s easy enough to use after you get your head around the fact you have to operate buttons on the screen and off of it to keep everything working to your satisfaction.

    The rear seat is equipped with three child-seat anchor points, and two ISOFIX child-restraint anchor points. The rear seat is equipped with three child-seat anchor points, and two ISOFIX child-restraint anchor points.

    Connecting my Android Auto smartphone was simple and we experienced few issues with this set-up in the time I had this Outback.

    Charging facilities for your devices include four USB ports: two upfront, and two in the rear.

    Storage spaces include a small shelf under the multi-media screen, a shallow grippy, textured shelf for the front passenger, a lidded centre console, cup-holders between the front seats, as well as the usual bottle holders in the doors.

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring's cargo capacity, with five seats in use, is listed as 522 litres. With the second row stowed away, cargo capacity increases to 1267 litres.

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring's cargo capacity, with five seats in use, is listed as 522 litres. The Subaru Outback AWD Touring's cargo capacity, with five seats in use, is listed as 522 litres.

    And most of the cabin’s handy life-friendly additions I reckon are in the load space and those include cargo hooks, flip-down tie-down points, cargo nets, cargo cover, and a power socket.

    All in all, the interior is a pleasant mix of practicality and comfort, with a nice premium feel about it. 

    What's it like as a daily driver?

    Pretty impressive.

    For starters, visibility is good with a clear view in all directions from the driver’s seat.

    Steering is well weighted, at low and high speeds, making it an easy steerer for parking and when on-road scenarios demand livelier rudder action.

    This boxer engine is claimed to produce 7 per cent more power and 4.2 per cent more torque than in the previous generation, but, sans any turbo influence, it feels underpowered and is consistent rather than gutsy, with a rather lazy delivery of power and torque. Still, an unfussed workmanlike performance that you can rely on is better than a lacklustre alternative.

    The steering is well weighted at low and high speeds. The steering is well weighted at low and high speeds.

    The Outback’s CVT works fine most of the time, although it can sometimes hunt energetically for the sweet spot – but, to negate that, the driver can use the paddle shifters to cycle through manual shifts.

    Ride and handling are generally fine, with a suspension set-up – MacPherson struts at the front; double wishbones at the rear – that’s aimed at yielding a compliant, comfortable experience and, for the most part, succeeding. 

    The Outback’s low (compared to most other SUVs) and wide stance lends itself to achieving that goal of settled and trustworthy ride and handling.

    What's it like for touring?

    It does a very decent job in light- to medium-duty off-roading* and that’s no surprise because Subarus have a good reputation at that level of adventure for a reason. (* Driving on well-maintained gravel tracks or dirt roads in dry weather, or coping with minor corrugations, or muddy potholes on dirt or gravel tracks in wet weather.)

    Traction control systems and other assorted tech wizardry go a long way to helping a vehicle get further than you might reasonably expect it to. Add in judicious tyre-pressure adjustments and your city-friendly SUV wagon may be able to well exceed your expectations.

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring is an all-wheel drive vehicle, so it should be able to go a fair bit further than a 2WD, but it’s important to remember that AWD is no magic pill that somehow turns any vehicle into a go-anywhere machine. 

    The AWD system at work here is intended to keep you safe on less-than-ideal terrain – such as on rain-splattered wet blacktop or loosely gravelled bush tracks, or slightly muddy dirt roads – rather than transform the Outback into a rock-crawling beast. Afterall, this is not a 4WD with low-range gearing, ample ground clearance and aggressive all-terrain tyres.

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring is an all-wheel drive vehicle. The Subaru Outback AWD Touring is an all-wheel drive vehicle.

    AWD does give the driver a little bit more flexibility and confidence in terms of what they might be willing and, more importantly, able to take on in such a vehicle. Having said that though, Subaru’s X Mode system – with snow/dirt and deep snow/mud modes – does add another dimension to the Outback’s capability levels. These modes tweak acceleration, off-road traction-control activity and front and rear axle limited slip function, among other things, to suit the terrain you’re driving on, and, working in conjunction with driver-assist tech like Hill Descent Control, the Outback handles light- to medium-duty off-roading, no worries. 

    Anything more than that though and you risk damage to the vehicle’s body or undercarriage because an AWD like this is ultimately hamstrung by its low-slung stance – even though 213mm ground clearance is pretty good for an SUV of this nature – and its shallow off-road angles (approach, departure and ramp-over).

    Other than having to make sure the vehicle is driven within its mechanical and physical limitations, everything else checks out: visibility is good, as is steering, and the engine and CVT are still a low-key and effective combination, even in terms of maintaining smooth momentum on surfaces rougher than bitumen.

    Ride and handling remain fine, with the suspension helping to mostly soak up the more dramatic dips and lumps on bush tracks.

    Listed maximum towing capacity is 750kg (unbraked), and 2000kg (braked).

    How much fuel does it consume?

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring has an official combined-cycle fuel-consumption figure of 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

    On test, we recorded actual fuel consumption of 9.0L/100km, from fill to fill.

    The Outback has a 63-litre fuel tank.

    What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring does not yet have an ANCAP crash test safety rating, but its safety gear includes eight airbags (dual front, front side, driver’s knee, passenger centre-front, and full-length curtain), AEB (between 10km/h and 160km/h), as well as pedestrian AEB (1km/h to 30km/h) cyclist detection AEB (60km/h or less) and rear AEB.

    It has lane keeping assist with emergency lane keep assist that can steer the car away to avoid collisions with cars, people or cyclists (approximately 80km/h or less), lane departure prevention works from 60km/h to 145km/h, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, speed sign recognition, as well as a driver-monitor camera that alerts the driver if their attention span is not up to the vehicle’s high standards.

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring does not yet have an ANCAP crash test safety rating. The Subaru Outback AWD Touring does not yet have an ANCAP crash test safety rating.

    What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

    Service appointments are scheduled for every 12 months/12,500km.

    CarsGuide-sourced services cost details are $345 (12 months/12,500km); $595 (24 months/25,000km); $351 (36 months/37,500km); $801 (48 months/50,000km); and $358 (60 months/62,500km) – that’s an average of $490 per service.

    Pricing & SpecsInsurance Quote

    The Subaru Outback AWD Touring does its intended job of balancing city and suburban duties with having more than enough dirt-driving ability to take you to your favourite National Park campsite, within reason, of course.

    This adventure wagon is nice to drive, comfortable, has improved safety tech, and it also manages to carry on the Subaru tradition of being practical without pretensions.

    $47,790

    Based on new car retail price

    VIEW PRICING & SPECS

    Daily driver score

    3.9/5

    Adventure score

    3.8/5

    adventureguide rank

    • Light

      Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

    • Medium

      Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

    • Heavy

      Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

    Subaru Outback

    Browse all 496

    Subaru Outbacks

    listed for sale on Autotrader

    Autotrader A smarter way to trade auto
    Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.