The new Subaru Outback is a joy to drive and has a more premium feel than its predecessor, writes car reviewer Tim Barnes-Clay.
Launched in Europe in 1996, the original Subaru Outback pioneered the crossover motor concept.
It combined the comfort, interior space and superior on-road handling of a family estate with the off-road capability and ground clearance of a sports utility vehicle.
The original Subaru Outback looked a little insipid but the 2014 model has a definite authority in its stance. The car is styled in a masculine way too.
This is accentuated by Subaru's signature bonnet scoop, which gives the impression of a car with power under the hood.
Also, emphasising the Outback's sense of toughness and ability to tackle all roads, the latest model features body-coloured cladding in place of the previous model's black plastic.
The ride is typically Subaru with a Velcro-like grip and a slightly cushioned feel thanks to the comfortable seats.
In fact, as part of its 2014 upgrade, the car's handling characteristics have been enhanced with revised suspension components.
It also sports the latest incarnation of Subaru's Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC).
This technology, along with alterations to the front and rear suspension, gives a stable on-road feel.
In addition, the Outback fills you with confidence in the wet or the snow – or indeed on anything without a pasting of tar.
Subaru's legendry all-wheel-drive credentials just work: no fuss, no fiddly buttons, the technology simply kicks in whenever you get to slippery terrain.
Subaru Outback: Powertrain pairing
The most significant change for the Outback is the introduction of a new powertrain pairing.
In a world first, Subaru engineers have combined the popular 2.0-litre Boxer diesel engine with a Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic gearbox.
The result is mixed. The power is there alright, but it's released in a way that doesn't really blow you away.
The engine steadily cranks up the clout until you're nearing the maximum speed limit without even realising it.
With the new engine and gearbox combination the fresh Subaru Outback can return an average fuel consumption of up to 44.8 mpg whilst emitting 166g/km CO2.
The figures aren't astounding, but they're not bad - especially for a car with more gadgetry to keep it from straying off the road than the average new motor.
A lot of car for £31,495
The upgraded cabin of the current Outback features clearer and more modern instrumentation.
It includes the addition of a liquid crystal instrument cluster display and new materials for a number of dashboard elements.
Black metallic panels bring about a more modern and quality appearance and feel, while a power-sliding glass sunroof and UV protected front, side and rear glass also feature.
The car I drove, the Subaru Outback 2.0D Lineartronic SX, has flagship levels of standard equipment inside and out.
Subaru Outback: Spec
For the exterior there are new 17-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, along with body-coloured power folding door mirrors with integrated LED indicator repeaters, and matching colour-coded door handles.
Silver roof rails and a roof spoiler are other external accents.
What's more, self-levelling automatic headlamps and rain sensing wipers add extra convenience.
That's a lot of car then, so when you think about it, £31,495 isn't really that outrageous a price. Especially when compared with German models of the same ilk.
Subaru Outback: Pros & cons
- Good-looking √
- Ride √
- Grip √
- MPG could be better X
- Co2 emissions still need improvement X
Subaru Outback: Fast facts
- Max speed: 121 mph
- 0-62 mph: 9.7 secs
- Combined mpg: 44.8
- Engine: 1998cc 4 cylinder 16 valve Boxer diesel
- Max. power (bhp): 148 at 3600 rpm
- Max. torque (lb/ft): 258 at 1800 rpm
- CO2: 166 g/km