Subaru Outback (2014 – 2021) Review

Subaru Outback (2014 – 2021) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Subaru Outback isn’t a car you buy on a whim. It’s the kind of vehicle you purchase when you demand total reliability and a go-anywhere spirit.

+Supremely confident in all weathers and on all roads, excellent level of standard equipment, large boot and spacious cabin.

-High running costs most notably the fuel economy, limited range of options with just two trim levels, cabin lacks the perceived quality of European rivals.

New prices start from £27,995
Insurance Groups are between 18–23
On average it achieves 91% of the official MPG figure

The Subaru Outback is not the cheapest estate car you can buy, but when you factor in the long list of standard equipment, the reassurance of all-wheel-drive, Subaru’s reputation for dependability, and an excellent five-year warranty, the Outback starts to make a lot of sense. Rivals include the Audi A4 Allroad, Volvo V60 Cross Country and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack. It can’t match the Germans and Swedes in terms of interior quality, but the cabin is built to withstand a lifetime of abuse.

The Subaru Outback appeals to a select group of buyers. Not to be confused with one of the countless SUVs you can buy in 2020, the Outback is a proper go-anywhere estate car that rivals the likes of the Audi A4 Allroad and Volvo V60 Cross Country.

It’s not a big seller. Sales are hampered by the fitment of a 2.5-litre petrol engine, which seems at odds with the shift towards small turbocharged petrol engines and electrification. There’s no diesel option and you can’t even buy a new Outback with a manual gearbox. A diesel engine was available in the past but has been removed from the Outback range.

Another factor working against the Outback is its interior, which lacks the premium feel of some rivals. It’s a hard-wearing and robust cabin, but it can’t match the perceived quality of the German and Swedish competitors. Not that we see this as a problem – the Outback has been built to withstand years of off-road abuse.

Central to its appeal is Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system. It sends power to the wheels with the most traction, so you can corner with confidence – all weathers, all seasons and all road conditions. The Outback offers a level of surefootedness you will rarely find elsewhere.

It’s also brilliant off-road, which makes this the ideal car for anyone living at the end of a rutted track, at the bottom of a deep valley or half-way up a mountain. Owning an Outback could mean the difference between getting out or being stranded at home.

The driving experience majors on comfort, with the raised suspension cushioning you from all but the worst road imperfections. There’s a little body-roll when cornering hard, but the limpet-like grip never feels like it’s going to break free.

As you’d expect from an estate car, there’s loads of room inside. The Outback strikes a great balance of luggage capacity and cabin space, with a boot that’s one of the largest in its class. A low boot lip and wide opening combine to make loading a doddle, while the SE Premium model comes with an electric tailgate.

Not that we see the need to upgrade to the top trim level. The SE trim covers all the essentials, with a list including 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic headlights, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, cruise control, X-Mode off-road assistance and the excellent EyeSight suite of driver assistance systems.

In fact, aside from the fuel economy and cost of servicing, it’s hard to find any genuine problems with the Subaru Outback. It comes with a five-year warranty, an excellent reputation for reliability, and an overriding sense that it’s built to survive the apocalypse. Buy one and you’ll be part of an exclusive club. 

Ask Honest John

Is there a suitable replacement for a Land Rover Defender?

"I have a 25 yr old Land Rover Defender 110, it gets used for taking the dogs walking, runs to the tip, shopping, tows a caravan to the odd muddy festival I working on summer time. I’d like to get something newer to give it a rest from the winter salt, I do not want a pick up as they are classed as a commercial vehicle, that causes issues running garden rubbish to the tip. I live rurally in the Fens, anywhere I take the dogs is pretty muddy at this time of year, so some ability to get in and out of mud is vital, single track roads, you get forced onto verges to pass oncoming traffic. Most modern SUVs appear full of needless technology and lacking in robustness, my wife has a Kia Sportage and tested a Dacia Duster, I include these in this assessment. Also not a fan of more recent Land Rover offerings, due to reliability concerns. Part of the worry is my wife had a 2014 Kia Rio, had trouble with the power steering, a new steering column cost £2200 all told, I don’t think I’ve spent that much on servicing the defender in the last 5 years. I also own a C250 Mercedes estate, purchased due to a good local specialist, I bought it towards the end of lockdown but find myself using the defender still for the reasons stated above. I guess the annual mileage of the two vehicles is 10k, I drive a Transit connect 20k per year on top of this. It appears to me that modern SUV are aimed at town drivers or school run folk, and aren’t very utility at all. £15k budget, less would better. What do you recommend please?"
Replacing a Defender is a difficult task, simply because the age of its design means there are no real equivalent vehicles made in recent years that are not more sophisticated and therefore more expensive to repair. If you are set on a second car we would suggest looking at the Subaru Outback, which has useful off-road ability, is tough (although not as tough as a Defender) and offers a good degree of comfort and refinement. Alternatively you could consider investing your budget in upgrades to your Defender to ensure its longevity as it seems like the perfect tool for your needs.
Answered by David Ross

What's the best used car with 4WD under £7000?

"Currently, I'm driving a 20-year old Mercedes C-Class automatic (love it, besides its rust and repairs). I'm looking for a spacious, used car under £7000, so we can go camping, to the beach and into the mountains. I've been looking at the Skoda Octavia Scout, SEAT Altea Freetrack and Subaru Outback. What similar cars could you recommend? 4WD preferred, but not a must. Automatic would be nice, but again, not a necessity. Thanks in advance."
I'd recommend the Subaru Outback, Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V. All three are available with four-wheel drive and all have an excellent reputation for reliability.
Answered by Dan Powell

How much weight is it safe to tow with our car?

"I am interested in a 2.5i Subaru Outback which is plated to tow 2 tonnes. Our trailer plus horse is 1350kg. 85% of the Outback's kerb weight of 1612kg is 1370kg, so scrapes in the Caravan Club's old "85%" rule so I should be able to stay both legal and safe. Do you think I need to be aware of anything else? I have to say that I'm not sure about the CC's advice as it would mean that the big Land Rovers, Land Cruisers and Shoguns of the world would only be able to tow about 1.5 tonnes against the 3.5 they all claim. "
The CC "85% rule" is for towing two wheel caravans with two wheel drive cars. It's because light and boxy caravans are less stable things to tow than, for example, a racing car on a trailer.
Answered by Honest John

Why has the oil in my diesel car turned jet black?

"I have a Subaru Outback 2.0d Premium which I have owned from new. It has done 11000 miles (mostly high speed long distance and motorway) and I have noticed that the oil level is creeping up. The car was serviced (oil change as well) at 8700 miles and the oil is already black as pitch. Subaru dealer says I need to thrash it more but my right foot is fairly heavy and I suspect my clean licence has more to do with good luck. Any ideas?"
The DPF is not actively regenerating and instead the extra diesel injected into the engine to promote regeneration is sinking into the sump. It urgently needs to be drained out and replaced to the correct level. Diesels can blacken their oil very quickly, but there is something wrong with yours. If the supplying dealer won't fix it, write a letter to the dealer principal expressing your misgivings and demanding he take the car back and fix it. Send this by post office special delivery, keep a copy and staple the certificate of posting to the copy. If this isn't fixed quickly the compression ignition engine could start running unstoppably on the oil in its sump and could blow itself up.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What does a Subaru Outback (2014 – 2021) cost?