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Subaru Outback Sport 2022 review

 

Rugged looks and a water-repellent interior make the Subaru Outback Sport appear adventure-ready – so we headed on-road and off to test this popular family vehicle


Good points

  • Excellent blend of off-road ability and on-road comfort
  • Roomy, comfortable interior
  • Good fuel economy
  • Huge list of active safety tech

Needs work

  • Sportier handling would suit ‘Sport’ badging
  • Engine/CVT combo lacks urge
  • Strict driver assist tech
  • A few options could liven up the cabin

The Subaru Outback. This side of the Holden Jackaroo it’s the most Aussie badge to ever grace a car.

It’s a deserved name too. This wagon-cum-SUV with ample off-road credentials makes a strong argument as the most suitable family all-rounder for the sunburnt country.

Subaru’s been shifting Outbacks here since 1996, and last year achieved its 150,000th model sale.

We welcomed the sixth-generation Outback in early 2021 and it enjoyed a stellar sales year. Only the Toyota Prado and Isuzu MU-X sold more in the large SUV segment, meaning the Outback comfortably outperformed the Toyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Everest. Big scalps.

Chasing Cars editor Tom Baker acknowledged the Outback as a “very accomplished family car” in his launch review, so what better way to properly test this than fling my two adventurous offspring in an Outback Sport AWD for a typical week of school runs, weekend sports and off-road exploring?

Subaru Outback Sport 2022 silver black-7

I’ve a soft spot for wagons and lament their demise as the hurricane of SUVs fill showrooms and driveways. For me, the Outback comes across more as an off-road wagon rather than a cumbersome large, high-riding SUV. A rival to the VW Passat Alltrack, Audi A6 Allroad or Volvo V60 Cross Country; all criminally underrepresented in our sales charts.

The Outback AWD starts at about $45,500 on the road; our Sport from about $50,000 and the luxe-filled Touring about $54,200. A new “Premium Special Edition” grade includes a few high-end treats and should also cost about $50,000 drive away, while there are increasingly strong whispers a 194kW 2.4-litre turbo Outback could grace the line-up.

With no current replacement for the dearly departed six-cylinder Outback 3.6R of old, all Outbacks – including our Sport – feature the rather tame 138kW/245Nm naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre boxer four-cylinder petrol.

Subaru Outback Sport 2022 silver black-8

The Outback Sport’s engine may not have a sporting bent, but it’s certainly aimed at those keen on a sporty, adventurous lifestyle. Or at least the perception of it.

It scores black exterior highlights and badging exclusive to the grade, dark metallic 18-inch alloys and ladder-type roof rails with little green flashes. The ‘Outback’ lettering on the chunky plastic body cladding also stands out in sparkling green.

Its overall design favours rugged, adventure-ready looks over the chrome-heavy over-styled bodies ubiquitous on many large SUVs these days. Fair play to Subaru, the Outback appears properly fit for purpose.

How does the Outback Sport drive?

Let’s start off the sealed stuff. You’ve got permanent all-wheel-drive, Subaru’s impressive traction-bringing X-Mode system, decent 213mm ground clearance and fat (for these days) 225/60×18-inch Bridgestone rubber.

No, it won’t climb mountains as there’s no low-range 4WD or proper all-terrain tyres, but if you want to tackle not-too-deep sandy tracks or some lumpy gravel routes, you may be surprised how capable an Outback is.

Our route through Queensland’s Maleny National Park involved some sizeable, exposed rocks and steep inclines and descents. Included Hill Descent Control kept progress smooth and controlled on loose gravel downhills, while with some careful positioning we managed not to bottom out over some of the chunkier rocks.

Subaru Outback sport-2

Front, rear and side-view cameras, accessible at the touch of a button, prove incredibly useful to avoid scrapes and knocks.

The X-Mode alters the likes of traction control, throttle response and torque. In Normal mode it seems to work things out efficiently, but there are Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes if you’re on set terrain. The Deep Snow/Mud option is fun as it offers maximum torque and allows a good deal of wheelspin, just in case your off-road route permitted such things.

While it excels off-road if you’re not into the really hardcore stuff, the Outback’s less impressive on sealed roads. It’s not bad or uncomfortable by any means, it’s just a dash joyless and certainly feels more ‘large SUV’ than sportswagon.

With the ‘Sport’ badge on ours, better cornering skills and slightly more power would properly differentiate this grade.

Subaru Outback Sport 2022 silver black-1

Its 2.5-litre boxer four-cylinder petrol was apparently 90 per cent new when this generation arrived last year, but offered only 7 percent more power over old. That’s peanuts when the outcome is just 138kW/245Nm.

The Mazda CX-9, for example, gives you 170kW and 420Nm from its 2.5-litre petrol thanks to its handy turbocharger bolted on.

Subaru has a 194kW/375Nm 2.4-litre turbo petrol in its arsenal, doing duty in the States in the Outback XT. Please, Subaru Australia, can we make the same happen here? It would surely bring new customers towards an already very popular product.

The sole Outback engine we’re given makes a nice note – not rivalling a WRX but certainly better than many diesel SUV rivals – and the CVT auto gearbox is one of the better ones. You score a bit of control through steering wheel paddles to nudge through eight artificial steps, mimicking proper gears.

Subaru Outback sport-3

Driving enthusiasts will lament no torque converter automatic (and of course no manual – it is 2022, after all), which would really add some driver involvement.

Floor the throttle and things get a bit shouty without much in the way of rapid forward progress, but keep it smooth and it’s a refined cruiser with very little noise troubling the cabin.

The Outback’s a nicely balanced thing with responsive steering and decent grip meaning, overall, it’s well fit for purpose. It always feels safe and comfy – big ticks for family life – but it’s no dynamic superstar.

On lumpier bits of road it bounces a bit much for my tastes, and let’s just say it doesn’t love roundabouts – decent body roll was noted in faster turns.

Visibility is superb through the Outback’s large windows, and the safety suite’s comprehensive. There’s auto emergency braking front and rear, but the latter jammed brakes on rather disconcertingly when I’d reverse out of my driveway, seemingly confused by a tree.

Subaru Outback Sport 2022 silver black-2

With a lane centering function, autonomous emergency steering, lane keep assist, lane departure warning (with steering wheel vibration) and lane departure prevention, the Outback really, really wants you to stay between the white lines.

The beeps, buzzes and tugs at the steering wheel get annoying, and it does seem overly-sensitive at times. For additional nannying you can set the intelligent speed limiter and the car won’t exceed the last speed sign it recognised, while a ‘distraction warning’ is part of the driver monitor system. It Big Brothers your eyes and tells you off if it thinks you’re distracted. Excellent in general, but I was chastised for apparently spending too long looking both ways when approaching a junction.

Overall the systems are welcome from a safety perspective – well done Subaru for making them standard through the range – but you may find yourself disabling them once you can no longer abide your car constantly telling you off.

Drivability scorecard
Power & performance
6.0
Ride & refinement
8.0
Handling
6.5
Safety
7.5

How is the Outback Sport’s interior?

After too long dishing out dated-looking cabins, the Outback’s a big improvement over the previous-generation wagon.

Front and centre is an iPad/Tesla-like 11.6-inch infotainment system, vertically mounted and, using Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, as easy to operate as your smartphone.

Subaru Outback Sport 2022 silver black-12

It’s quick to respond but you can easily get lost on the streets of Menu-ville when searching through audio, navigation and turning off those driver assist systems. Set up a few shortcuts and functionality improves, while proper buttons for temperature and stereo volume are far swifter to use than through a touchscreen.

Interior space is vast and there’s strong build quality throughout, albeit short on goodies. Green stitching for the seats, doors and dash add a welcome dose of colour.

Subaru Outback Sport 2022 silver black-10

Water repellent sport seats are there for your active lifestyle; they feel quality, are well-bolstered, heated and power multi-adjustable. Quite firm, though. You need to hop in the new Premium or range-topping Touring to score Nappa leather.

It’s been well-considered for family use. Rear seat space is vast, the two outboard chairs are heated and the whole row can recline for laid-back long journeys. There’s a brace of USB ports, air vents, padded doors, centre arm rest and acres of rear headroom.

Subaru Outback Sport 2022 silver black-9

It won’t concern many buyers, but the trade-off is no option for seven seats as found in other large or medium SUVs. A 522-litre boot is average at best – a Mazda CX-9 or Kia Sorento has over 800L for instance – but at least there’s a full-size spare lurking under the floor with easy hands-free auto tailgate access.

A couple of ‘surprise and delight’ features would be welcome. Cabin colour is grey/black only and some ambient lighting would jazz things up. No digital dashboard or wireless phone charging also makes the Outback feel a bit passé.

Interior scorecard
Layout & materials
8.0
Cabin technology
7.0
Driver comfort
9.0
Passenger space
9.0

What are the Outback Sport’s running costs?

Our test – including a lengthy off-road segment – returned a solid 8.2L/100km using regular 91 unleaded; not far off the claimed 7.3L/100km.

Most impressive was its frugalness when highway cruising. At 100km/h the engine settled to just 1550rpm and was drinking a little over 6L/100km. Ideal for those embarking on lengthy road trips, and if you use the 2000kg braked towing capacity, hopefully (we didn’t conduct a tow test) you won’t be stung too harshly hauling extra weight behind.

Subaru Outback Sport 2022 silver black-11

Services are every 12-months/12,500km which is a cost and convenience saving over the six-month intervals Subaru insisted on before. Many rivals only need servicing every 15,000km, and five years of Outback servicing total almost $2500.

As with all Subarus there’s a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

Running costs scorecard
Consumption
Good
Servicing
Average
Warranty
Good

The final verdict

We have picked a number of holes in the Outback Sport here, but I came away from the test with a great deal of warmth and respect for the big Subaru. None of its relatively minor flaws stop this vehicle from being a versatile and impressive SUV that feels like good value for money.

The engine’s underdone, it’s no dynamic ace on road and a bit more cabin sparkle wouldn’t go amiss. A glut of rivals cover those bases, but few trouble the Outback Sport for off-road clout, smart cabin space, long-distance comfort and rugged good looks.

2021 Subaru Outback Sport silver SUV wagon - taillight

Its lengthy safety suite – although nannying at times – is well-intentioned and adds greater credibility to this wagon-like SUV as an adventure-ready family hauler.

If your journeys are often off the sealed stuff, for $50,000 on the road you’ll struggle to find a more accomplished all-rounder.

Overall rating
Overall rating
7.5
Drivability
7.0
Interior
7.0
Running costs
Good
Overall rating
7.5
Drivability
7.0
Interior
7.0
Running costs
Good

Variant tested AWD SPORT

$45,190
Details
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges
$47,594

Key specs (as tested)

Engine
Capacity
2498 cc
Cylinders
4
Induction
Flat
Power
138kW at 5800rpm
Torque
245Nm at 3400rpm
Power to weight ratio
85kW/tonne
Fuel
Fuel type
Petrol
Fuel capacity
63 litres
Consumption
7.3L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
863km (claimed)
Drivetrain
Transmission
Automatic
Drivetrain
All Wheel Drive
Gears
Single gear
Dimensions
Length
4870 mm
Width
1875 mm
Height
1675 mm
Unoccupied weight
1629 kg

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