Review: Subaru Legacy/Outback (2009 – 2014)

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Rating:

Capable and solidly built. Spacious interior. Works well with Lineartronic gearbox. Revised from late 2013 and much improved.

No petrol engines in UK models from late 2013. Expensive to buy. Material quality isn't as good as rivals.

Subaru Legacy/Outback (2009 – 2014): At A Glance

The 5th generation Subaru Legacy and Outback was launched at the Detroit Auto Show in early 2009 and went into production in May 2009, but did not reach the UK until October 2010 (leaving a bit of a hiatus while 2004-2009 model Legacys and Outbacks were sold off).

As with all Subaru models, the market for the Outback is niche but fairly dedicated. Introduced with a selection of petrol and diesel engines, the range was revised down from late 2013 to be much more simple, with a single, 2.0 boxer diesel engine and one trim level - SX. Additionally a Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission was added to the range. It works well and while the diesel engine isn't the most efficient it provides useful everday performance.

The Outback has a proper all-wheel drive system that isn't simply for helping out when there's a patch of snow on the drive - it offers useable off road traction for use in wet fields and over muddy, rutted terrain. Consequently it's ideal for rural buyers who tend to get trapped by snow and ice and who need to travel across fields. It's also a competent tow car.

It's not a pretentious vehicle - the interior is solidly finished and feels built to last, but it does without fancy embellishments like soft touch dashboard coverings. Instead it feels no nonsense and durable, which will appeal to some as much as it detracts others. There's a lot of space in the cabin with a cavernous boot and ample leg and headroom for rear seat passengers, making it a practical family choice.

It's likely to remain a niche, outside choice however, because it's simply too expensive to compete with the mainstream. Following the 2013 update the range starts at just under £30,000, which is more than the larger, more luxuriously appointed Skoda Superb 4x4. However for rural buyers who truly depend on their car every day, regardless of weather, the Outback should deliver. 

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What does a Subaru Legacy/Outback (2009 – 2014) cost?

Subaru Legacy/Outback (2009 – 2014): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4775 mm
Width 1820 mm
Height 1605 mm
Wheelbase 2745 mm

Full specifications

One area in which the Outback lags a little behind rivals is the interior. The selection of plastics has clearly been chosen for its hardwearing nature and while that means the cabin should stand up to years of abuse it isn't exactly luxurious and plush - and for the price you would probably expect it to be. That said the facelifted car from late 2013 has a nicer selection of trim materials including some dark brushed aluminium effect inlays which help lift cabin ambience. 

The minor controls and switches are all solid but they're not exactly a joy to use and the layout of the centre stack isn't great. For example the radio controls all feel about five years out of date and while there is a reversing camera it's hardly clear and crisp. Additionally there is no standard fit sat nav, although there is one on offer as a cost option. It'd be nice to see one as standard equipment at this price. 

On the other hand there is a lot to like about the Outback's cabin, not least the practicality it offers. The seats are comfortable and there's space in the back row for adults, with loads of head and legroom. Add to that a cavernous boot with a flat floor and there's much to recommend for people who transport a lot of bulky stuff or who have a family to move around. 

Standard equipment from 2013:

SX trim includes: 17-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, power folding door mirrors, roof rails, sun roof, HID headlights, fog lights, windscreen wiper de-icer, cruise control, heated front sports seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and reversing camera. 

Child seats that fit a Subaru Legacy/Outback (2009 – 2014)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Subaru Legacy/Outback (2009 – 2014) like to drive?

Following revisions in 2013 the range has been simplified, meaning there's only one engine choice - a 2.0-litre boxer diesel with 150PS. It's a decent performer thanks to a healthy 350Nm torque output that's on tap from low rpms. Two transmissions are offered - a six-speed manual and a Lineartronic CVT automatic. 

The big surprise is the Lineartronic. While most CVT transmissions are loud and feel almost disconnected from the engine the Lineatronic is smooth, quiet and relaxed unless tasked with a sudden full throttle burst. It's an impressive transmission that adds to the appeal of the Outback, but that comes with a £1500 premium over the manual. 

Driving the Outback is easy - it's a large and heavy car, but it feels well-planted and safe with lots of traction even in wet, slippery conditions. Controls are comfortably well weighted and inspire confidence and the suspension offers a good compromise between ride comfort and handling capability, which makes the Outback an ideal car for rural roads. 

The Outback rides fairly high and has all-wheel drive, which makes it a good car for farmers or game keepers who want something as sensible and practical as a traditional estate, but with the capability to deal with hills, fields, mud, snow and ice - and it should prove capable in those tough conditions. 

Unfortunately that capability and the selection of a boxer engine come at the expense of fuel economy. The official combined cycle figure for the Outback 2.0D manual is 47.9mpg, while for the automatic it's 44.8mpg. On paper those figures aren't brilliant but on the plus side Subaru tends to score well in our Real MPG section, so they should be fairly realistic. 

That said, the annual tax bill will be fairly expensive - the manual model emits 155g/km and falls into VED band G, while the automatic produces 166g/km and falls into band H. That's not very good going and is worth factoring in as an ownership cost, particularly if you're planning on buying for the long term as many Outback customers will. 

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
2.0 D 48 mpg 9.7 s 155 g/km
2.5i Lineartronic 34 mpg 10.4 s 194 g/km
3.6 R 28 mpg 7.5 s 232 g/km

Real MPG average for a Subaru Legacy/Outback (2009 – 2014)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

98%

Real MPG

30–55 mpg

MPGs submitted

103

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Subaru Legacy/Outback (2009 – 2014)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Subaru Outback has a whirring noise in gearbox - what could it be?

We have owned a Subaru Outback diesel from new in September 2009. At the last MoT, it was found that one of the steering gaiters had perished causing rusting to the steering system. A new one was over £1200, so we had it re-furbished. Now there is a whirring noise, apparently coming from the gearbox. Are the two issues connected?
Not in any way connected. The whirring is usually the idle shaft bearings at the top of the gearbox that suffer the most corrosion damage and the least lubrication from the transmission oil. Worth inserting a container of molybednum disulphide based transmission oil additive.
Answered by Honest John
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