Gareth Butterfield takes a drive in the latest version of an old favourite – the Subaru Legacy Outback
WHILE the world has been turning to the crossover and SUV market in droves, there’s been one pioneer of this sector that’s been quietly evolving in the background.
Before we all turned our backs on terrestrial suspension setups and anything that didn’t have chunky plastic bumpers, the Subaru Outback had already offered us a jacked-up estate car – long before everyone else got in on the act, and a long, long time before it became the “in” thing.
And the latest Outback doesn’t make much of an attempt to outcompete these new pretenders because, quite frankly, it doesn’t need to.
While the current crop of mud-plugging soft-roaders tries hard to win our favour with the latest gadgets and trendy new looks, the latest Outback just gets on with doing what it’s always done best – winning over its fans with its simple, hard-as-nails versatility.
And that simplicity has carried over to its external design. There’s not much to distinguish it from its older versions, but that’s not to say it looks dated. It’s instantly recognisable as what it is, and it’s refreshingly un-fussy.
The same can be said for the interior. Subaru’s dashboards are far nicer than they were a decade ago, but they’ll still feel very much function-over-form to, say, a Volvo driver.
That’s not to say it’s a drab layout though. Some silver bits lift the looks of the cabin and the buttons are all nicely laid out and feel well-weighted.
There’s now a responsive 7.0-inch touchscreen interface, some modern trinkets such as Apple CarPlay and the driving position and comfort is absolutely fine.
In fact, there’s an overbearing feeling of solidity and simplicity to the Legacy’s cabin. The controls feel great, from the steering to the pedals. It’s a genuinely nice car to drive.
Interior space and comfort is great, too. It’s one of the biggest estates in its class and it’s nice to see a competent estate car still being offered in a world that’s going SUV mad.
There’s only two engines on offer. A punchy 2.5-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre diesel, but they both put power through a torque-sapping CVT gearbox in a bid to coax better fuel economy. It’s not one of the worst setups on the market, but you can’t help feeling the engines could be shown in a better light.
But it’s not as if the Outback is designed for blasting along a race track. It’s very much a multi-purpose machine which drives well on the roads, but performs miracles off road.
Subaru’s off-road pedigree still shines through in the Outback and this is where it makes up plenty of ground on its rivals, which would never manage to out-compete it when the going gets tough.
Sadly for Subaru, these capabilities won’t matter to the mainstream buyer, who only buys an off-road equipped vehicle for the two or three times they might find themselves in a pickle – but for the loyal fans of the brand, the Outback certainly hasn’t gone soft.
And that really is its trump card. It’s still an incredibly versatile car for people who genuinely do need versatility in their choice of transport.
It might not be as exquisitely furnished as an Audi Allroad, but it would run rings around it in a ploughed field.
And it’s refreshingly understated, surprisingly likeable far cheaper to buy and built to last.
If you’re after a competent, fuss-free all-rounder, look no further.