The Subaru Outback might just be the perfect car for Canberra

James Coleman 10 June 2021 42
Subaru Outback and the Mandalay Bus

It turns out the new Outback is nearly as long as the Mandalay Bus in Braddon. Photo: James Coleman.

It’s higher off the ground than any of its rivals. It has an all-wheel-drive system and driving modes for deep snow and mud. It has wheel arches and roof racks that would make a tank quiver in its boots. And it can tow up to two tonnes.

The Subaru Outback has to be the most rugged wagon out there, and it has only become more so with this year’s all-new model. I’m driving the Sport version, and you would think the most appropriate thing would be to immediately point it into the wilderness and see how it lives up to all the tinsel.

We’ll get there, but first – the Subaru Outback also happens to be a rather fitting car for the centre of Canberra.

Subaru Outback

Line markings? Where we’re going, there are no line-markings. Photo: James Coleman.

The ACT Government’s obsession with speed humps means that even the smoothest roads now have massive lumps in them. The Outback doesn’t care about these. And is the road too narrow? Gutters won’t phase it either.

This go-anywhere attitude has nearly always been the unique selling proposition for Subaru and the Outback is a solid option for anyone who feels the need to go to the office and up a mountain all in a day.

There are three trim levels available starting from $43,759 driveaway, all equipped with the all-wheel-drive system, 2.5-litre petrol boxer engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) we’ve come to expect from Subaru.

Subaru Outback cabin

The 11.6-inch touchscreen even comes with acceleration and angle displays. Photo: James Coleman.

On walking up to my test example in Ice Silver Metallic, I may have been fooled into thinking the Outback isn’t that big. However, once I’m on the road looking into the cupholders of seven-seaters like the Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger, I quickly realise that this is a proper SUV.

The engine might be a little gruff and the chassis and bodywork rough and ready, but as a whole package, it’s like Dwayne Johnson after he’s slipped on a collared shirt and a pair of suede loafers.

The interior is very spacious with lots of hidey-holes. Genuine leather is saved for the top-of-the-range Touring model, but the Sport comes with water-resistant faux leather, and where other manufacturers might think red stitching is pretty flash, this leather is garnished with lime-green. Even the indicator stalks are designed to glide back into position after use to avoid an uncouth click.

Outback offroad

Taking the Outback for a walk in the park. Photo: James Coleman.

Little details are about as crucial as rose petals in a bathtub, but it’s worth remembering that a premium feel is built on little details. And gizmos.

The massive touchscreen also shares some space with a display showing the percentage of acceleration and angle of the car at any time – pointless information that made me strangely happy.

Press a button near the gear lever and this display also comes alive with views from the external cameras, so no need to spend your parking manoeuvres fearing you’re about to gash the Sport’s 18-inch dark-metallic wheels on the curb.


READ ALSO: Network deal to boost number of EV fast chargers across the ACT


I’ve trundled through the city for long enough now because although it’s easy-going enough, there’s the distinct feeling this car is bored. It wants to make mud pies and climb rocks.

A few turns and I’m at a rutted dirt track that rises to a swathe of open paddock. I go for it, and without touching either of the two “X Modes”, it’s a walk in the park for the Outback.

Because that’s the other thing about Canberra – you’re never too far away from the bush, which makes the Subaru strangely happy.

Outback Sport model

The Sport model is marked by its black wheels, grille and mirror caps. Photo: James Coleman.

2021 Subaru Outback AWD Sport

  • $48,319 driveaway (5-year unlimited-kilometre warranty)
  • 2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol, 138 kW/245Nm
  • CVT automatic (with manual mode), all-wheel-drive
  • 7.3 l/100 km combined fuel use, 91 RON
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

This car was provided for testing by Subaru Canberra in Phillip. Region Media has no commercial arrangement with Subaru Canberra.


What's Your Opinion?


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42 Responses to The Subaru Outback might just be the perfect car for Canberra
James Forge James Forge 6:52 pm 17 Jun 21

A shame they canned the Liberty wagon with its sportier ride height in pretty much the same car.

Louis Larcan Louis Larcan 4:49 pm 17 Jun 21

And a bonnet scoop !

Antony Vyt Antony Vyt 9:30 am 16 Jun 21

Lee Eaton Rahal all over it

Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:08 pm 15 Jun 21

Is the Nissan Cedric still available? It would be compatible with Canberra.

James Andric James Andric 3:56 pm 15 Jun 21

Kristian Dosen hahahahahha 🐐

Greg Hollands Greg Hollands 3:48 pm 14 Jun 21

Had Subies, most models, for many. Since CVT I won't go near them. Spoilt what was a super car. Bring back gears!

Mandy Charlton Mandy Charlton 3:23 pm 14 Jun 21

Rhonda Owen trend setter

Michael Hill Michael Hill 10:46 am 14 Jun 21

Great in hero green too….

Lisa Nichols Lisa Nichols 7:18 pm 13 Jun 21

No blinkers??

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 6:42 pm 13 Jun 21

Perfect for mounting the kerb as Canberrans seem to do a lot. Shame about the unreliable CVT.

TimboinOz TimboinOz 1:34 pm 13 Jun 21

A Forester is even better. More ground clearance makes it’s reach / range into bushland a good bit better. And it’s just as good at everything else.

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:46 pm 13 Jun 21

When I bought my last car, I chose a compromise between driving in urban areas and country driving. I chose the Subaru XV because it is smaller and easier to manoeuvre in urban areas. And more in my budget. Disadvantage; lacks the power of the Outback, but if there are no really steep, gravel hills, it has been okay for me.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:55 pm 13 Jun 21

    The difference here was the Subaru Outback I was following got over that gully...on three wheels with one corner in the air, but I had to turn back. (Later though on that drive I was told, the XV was witnessed experiencing a moment on three wheels in a tight spot. I am pleased I didn't notice that :D I was nervous enough.) The XV is underpowered in comparison, but that was the compromise; my budget (it's cheaper), and urban driving.

    The car I want is at least AWD, has clearance and can be driven on both electricity (for urban driving) and on petrol where an electric car can't go. It can't be charged overnight where there is no electricity.

Mel Casao Mel Casao 12:10 pm 13 Jun 21

Mark Casao Jason Walker Thought it was news that Mandalay is back up and running :'(

Acton Acton 11:49 am 13 Jun 21

I had a 3 litre Outback for about 5 years and it was a good car to drive but does’nt have the storage space of other SUVs and requires more frequent and more expensive servicing.

Arun Sasidharan Pillai Arun Sasidharan Pillai 11:36 am 13 Jun 21

I need a tank on Canberra roads

    Greg Hollands Greg Hollands 3:51 pm 14 Jun 21

    Arun Sasidharan Pillai Canberra roads are great when VIC is in lockdown.

Ken Owers Ken Owers 11:01 am 13 Jun 21

7.3/100km? Really? I have the Forester with CVT and TBH I preferred the transmission in my previous 2012 Forester as it seemed to run more efficiently. Maybe the Outback is better suited to the CVT.

    Jeff Shapiro Jeff Shapiro 7:39 pm 13 Jun 21

    Ken Owers you need an idrive adapter or buy a Mercedes

rationalobserver rationalobserver 11:01 am 13 Jun 21

With the ongoing deterioration of the ACT road network, this car just might future proof the driver.
As an added bonus, it is also suited to roads in the Pallerang shire which already demand AWD if not 4WD.

Robert Ern-yuan Guth Robert Ern-yuan Guth 10:55 am 13 Jun 21

Peak Inner North

Michael Bradshaw Michael Bradshaw 10:51 am 13 Jun 21

No no no, THIS is the perfect car for Canberra

    Paul Leins Paul Leins 11:12 am 13 Jun 21

    Michael Bradshaw Almost. Need 4 doors and the cargo space in the back for the groceries.

    Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 1:03 pm 13 Jun 21

    Michael Bradshaw and it’s EV.

Nick Savino Nick Savino 10:37 am 13 Jun 21

Great another high headlight beast shining in to my eyes .

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