By Lethbridge Herald on November 27, 2020.
Since I first test drove it for a week back in the 1990s when Subaru launched it, the Outback has been a car or sport utility vehicle I’d recommend to anyone.
This all-wheel-drive wagon has always showcased unmatched versatility with plenty of space for passengers and gear plus good power and plenty of bad-weather capability. It’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance will surely come in handy around southern Alberta with the recent snowfalls and subsequent drifting.
For 2021, the Outback is better than ever thanks to a refreshening that also brings to the table a new engine.
While the Outback is still available with the fuel-efficient and competent 2.5-litre Boxer engine which now has a power boost to 182 horsepower, gone is the popular V6 engine.
In its stead is the 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that also powers the bigger Ascent. Cranking out 260 horsepower, the turbo-four is a revelation in the Outback as this week’s test showed.
My tester is a 2021 Outback Outdoor XT model with adventure package, provided by Luke Davis of Subaru of Lethbridge.
Priced at $42,128, this grey XT with black wheels is a stunner. It comes loaded with the creature comforts we who live in colder climes will appreciate including heated leatherette seats front and rear and a heated steering wheel.
It also has a power rear hatch to access the cavernous cargo space. With the second-row bench in use, the Outback can carry 32 cubic feet of gear. That space increases to 76 cubes with the seat folded flat.
If more cargo capacity is needed, all Outback have roof rails with integrated crossbars that can quickly be put into place for the installation of a storage box. This is a superb feature that will be appreciated by active families.
The interior of the 2021 Outback is highlighted by a new available 11.6-inch touchscreen. Through this screen, a driver can quickly access all necessary information and controls, including the seat heaters. To turn those on, a driver just presses an icon which turns the screen to a second page where the heat settings can be quickly adjusted.
The large screen is legible and extremely easy to use. The Outback has plenty of storage space including an innovative shelf above the glove box and a deep centre console.
Front cupholders are actually situated side-by-side, an intelligent layout that makes grabbing the right cup of java a cinch.
For warm days, the tester also has a one-touch power sunroof.
For navigating treacherous weather conditions, the Ouback’s X-Mode system has three different settings for Snow/Dirt, Normal and Deep Snow/Mud.
The Outback has a full suite of safety equipment included in its EyeSight system. Those features include lane departure warning, blind spot detection, reverse automated braking mitigation and pre-collision alert. A surround view camera gives a birds-eye view for drivers when parking.
The turbo engine, which runs on regular grade gasoline, is mated to a continuously variable transmission that mimics the shifts of a more traditional unit. The CVT works seamlessly and with the engine, delivers great fuel economy of 10.1L/100 km city, 7.9L/100 km highway and 9.1L/100 km combined.
On the highway, the Outback has plenty of power and is supremely quiet at speed. Drivers have great visibility even though the step-in height which is low — this alone will make the Outback compelling to families with young kids — or even seniors.
The driver’s seat has eight-way power adjustability and a two-way power lumbar support.
Even though the sound system has only six speakers, this base unit — like the one in the Ascent — is exceptional with great clarity, depth and richness.
For cargo, the Outback has a low load floor and the interior should be able to carry a lot of gear and maybe even some smaller furniture.
The tester has a 3,500 lb. towing capacity if a driver needs to haul a small trailer. Even with the base engine, the Outback can tow 2,700 lbs.
The adventure package contained on the Outback is also available on the 2021 Crosstrek. That popular compact SUV also has as available equipment the Outback’s base engine, its 182 hp being a big jump from the 152 hp that the Crosstrek’s former only available powerplant — a 2.0-litre four-cylinder — cranks out.
After all these years, the Outback is not only a standout in the mid-sized SUV market but the 2021 version is more compelling than ever.
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