NEW YORK – Traditionally, Subaru has been one of those outlier brands; posting modest sales but boasting a staunchly loyal fan base rooted in individualism. Once known for their quirky, yet tough and capable all-wheel-drive vehicles, they found greater success in the pursuit of mainstream acceptability. It’s paid off for them with 64 consecutive months of growth.
Subaru’s bestselling Outback has been a significant part of that sales momentum: from 2,070 units sold here when it debuted in 2009, to 11,255 last year.
The 2018 Subaru Outback is basically a refresh, but introduces a number of technical upgrades and driving refinements.
Outwardly, it remains pretty much the same but for more rugged front and rear fasciae, more aggressive grille openings and front under-cladding to protect it from rocks and gravel when off-roading. Apparently, the new C-shaped headlamps and character lines leading outward from the grill are a subtle design homage to the Boxer engine’s piston thrust.
The doorsills function as step rails to provide easier access to rooftop cargo such as kayaks or tents. Roof rails are standard on all models, and those on Touring trims are low profile with detachable crossbars.
According to Subaru, the Outback has the most interior space in the sports-utility wagon segment with 1,005 litres of trunk space, expanding to 2,076 litres of flat load space with the 60/40 split rear seats folded. Addressing their reputation for dreary cabins with sub-par plastics, the interiors are a step up in refinement with more premium materials, genuine stitching details, and an available 8-inch display. featuring Subaru Starlink Multimedia with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and navigation.
There are some new additions to Subaru’s suite of driver-assist safety systems. Available to LED-headlight-equipped models is a new Steering Responsive Headlight system, which helps illuminate the curves by turning in the same direction as the wheels. Range-topping models with Eyesight technology now have automatic high-beam assist.
Ride and handling also receive some upgrades in the form of retuned suspension dampers, new brakes and recalibrated, more direct steering. Better insulation and acoustic side-glass isolated road and engine noise, and the engine and continuously variable transmission have undergone some quieting tweaks.
The powertrain choices remain the same: a 2.5L, four-cylinder Boxer engine with 175 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.6L six-cylinder Boxer producing 256 hp and 247 lb-ft, and the sole transmission choice is the CVT with a seven-speed manual mode.
The 2018 Outback is expected in dealerships in summer, with pricing available closer to arrival date.
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