At school, there’s always this group that we call the nerds. These are the students who would rather spend their time in the library than trying to be popular. I know because I’m one of them. I’m one damn nerd.
Most nerds aren’t exactly the basic definition of beauty; save for some lucky individuals, of course. More often than not, though, nerds have something to offer beyond their physical appearances, oftentimes surprising people once they get to know them.
The 2022 Subaru Outback, now on its sixth version that’s based on the seventh-generation Legacy midsize sedan, represents the nerds of the automotive world. And here’s why.
At this point, I think I’ve already established that the Outback isn’t the definition of a beautiful vehicle. It does take a lot from its old timer, while its stance is quite confusing. Is it a wagon or a crossover? Or is it a full-fledged SUV? You might even mistake it as a bigger XV.
But just like us nerds, the Outback has great redeeming qualities.
The all-LED lighting makes the Outback stand out, front and rear, while the thick claddings evoke an athletic aura. It definitely isn’t the most attractive family car out there, nor is it the most contemporary-looking vehicle on offer. Its Subaru badging and exterior build quality do make it look expensive – just like when nerds dress up for an occasion.
Size-wise, the Outback is almost as long and wide as the popular midsize SUVs in the Philippines, but not as tall. However, it has a generous ground clearance somewhere north of 210mm, which is at par or better, even, with some full-fledged SUVs in the market.
While the new Outback’s exterior doesn’t reflect a revolutionary update in terms of design, the cabin begs to differ. The improvements in layout and quality are night and day, especially with the vertical command center lodged in the middle of the well-trimmed dashboard. And of course, you can’t go wrong with Nappa-upholstered seats that feel really good to the touch.
What you’ll love about the Outback is its massive interior space. As a five-seater, the front, rear, and cargo areas are all spacious even for tall individuals, while the multitude of seat adjustments amplify the luxury of comfort. There’s also a single-pane sunroof, which makes me wonder why Subaru didn’t go all out on a panoramic sunroof to sweeten the deal.
Overall, the interior amenities prove that outside appearances are superficial; it’s what’s within that matters. If there’s any real, albeit minor, caveat with this whole new cabin setup, that would be Subaru’s decision to retain scratch-prone piano blacks that populate most of the center console’s real estate. So yes, keep those long fingernails away from the shiny noir areas, okay?
Tech & Safety
This is where the new Subaru Outback shows that it’s the biggest nerd out there. The bevy of in-cabin tech and safety features warrants their own article, so I will not spend a lot of time enumerating and describing them all here. But the notable need citation, starting with the tablet-like infotainment at the center of the dashboard.
The new Outback’s crisp-looking vertical touchscreen, which houses the car’s drive modes, vehicle settings, and climate control, has a steep learning curve. It’s definitely not for those allergic to high-tech stuff, serving as a turning point into a natural evolutionary process of mankind’s infotainment usage. It’s kind of like the very thing that separated neanderthals from modern humans; it’s your choice now if you want to stay behind.
I’m exaggerating, of course, but the point is, the Outback takes the status quo up a notch, and that isn’t a bad thing.
Also part of the deal is the Outback’s facial recognition system that works in conjunction with driver profiles. The system stores your seat position, mirror adjustments, and even climate control settings under your driver profile, then applies them as soon as it recognizes your face upon entering the car. It’s a practical and cool feature if your Outback will serve as a family vehicle with several people getting behind the wheel. Most importantly, it didn’t fail during my tests (without the mask, of course).
Subaru’s award-winning EyeSight also gets an upgrade for the Outback and is now on its version 4.0. The cameras are more sensitive than before and can detect oncoming traffic at an intersection. It’s also more refined than ever – and all of these are on top of EyeSight’s already high-tech catalog of safety features that make Subaru cars the safest vehicles on the planet.
The trippiest/trickiest toy included in the EyeSight 4.0 is the lane-centering feature, which steers the car autonomously by detecting road markings and/or the vehicle in front. Yes, even on bends – especially on bends. Although, the system will constantly remind you to keep your hands on the tiller, so no hands-free driving… for now. But as it stands, it’s the closest thing the Philippines could get to self-driving.
Truth be told, the EyeSight 4.0 is the benchmark of how radar-based adaptive cruise controls should behave. As the cliché goes, the future is here.
Driving & Handling
Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed to learn that Subaru dropped the flat-6 boxer engine option from the global lineup to give way to a turbocharged flat-four that’s also found in the Subaru Ascent (also known as Evoltis in the Philippines).
However, the Outback that we got here has the base naturally aspirated 2.5-liter FB25 gasoline engine, which was a carryover from the previous generation. While its 186hp and 245Nm torque sound okay, they were actually just adequate during actual testing. And that’s the kicker – they’re just enough for mundane driving tasks but there were times that I was looking for extra grunts such as when overtaking.
That said, the Outback ticked the boxes as an extremely comfortable family cruiser but unlike its six-pot predecessor, it didn’t provide a sporty drive. Good thing its symmetrical all-wheel-drive kept the car planted at all times plus its steering returned great feedback, which in a way made up for the lackluster power delivery.
Plus, with a good space from the ground and the availability of X-mode, the Outback is a capable intermediate off-roader if you choose to, or when there isn’t any road left – and that’s without sacrificing ride quality. Talk about flexibility.
With a mix of highway and city drives during my tests, the Outback wasn’t a thrifty vehicle at the pumps. The family cruiser returned 6.5 km/l at the end of the lendout. Considering that I spent a good amount of time on the highway to test the EyeSight feature and other high-tech amenities, that was a bit anticlimactic.
At P2,380,000 the Outback is a huge ask but lest you forget, that’s actually more affordable than the outgoing six-pot model. In exchange for the oomphs and grunts, the Outback becomes an attractive nerd you never thought you’ll fall in love with, enough to supersede whatever your reservations are with its bland design.
Sedate engine notwithstanding, the 2022 Outback knocks this thing out of the park. Its tech superiority proves that we Filipinos can have good things, even at a relatively affordable price point. Yes, affordable, because remember that luxury brands that have a comparable system to what the Outback has on board offer cars that are double, triple, or even quadruple the Subie’s price.
As always, I implore you to test drive one so you’d understand what I wrote here. There are things that I couldn’t just describe through words, which you’ll discern once you’re inside the car.