• Reliability
    • Comfort
    • Sheer competence in a braod range of conditions
    • Servicing
    • No seat cooling
    • Missing small equipment details
    5 Star

    About the Subaru Outback

    Michael Pless purchased this Subaru Outback new with additional options for $42,500 (including all on-road costs). Michael Pless would buy this car again because: “It is such a capable vehicle, quite apart from meeting our needs in providing good load space. Quality of finish is good, and it has been impeccably reliable. Running costs are generally okay.”

    How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

    The car itself has been mechanically reliable, with absolutely no faults. However, after 4 years, it is now on its third set of plastic boots that surround the in-built roof bars.

    In each instance, the car was needed in the workshop for a full day, but replacement of them was never a warranty battle.

    What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

    Overall it has been quite good, and I quickly came to expect it to be capable of whatever it was that I needed of it. Not once has it failed my expectations of being a comfortable, capable (a word I use often to describe the vehicle), and reliable vehicle.

    How has the purchase and aftercare experience been with your car?

    Very poor. The service departments in Victoria seem to have hit new highs of disinterest and laziness.

    When the roof bar boots needed to be replaced, never once was the interior trim replaced properly and I got the car back in one instance with large boot-print on the centre armrest. There’s also a significant superciliousness to many of the service departments too: a couple of dealerships really talked down to me when I raised a query.

    Furthermore, a strange email I received three weeks after a service warned that I needed to book the vehicle in for urgent repairs. A call to the dealership resulted in a lot of evasiveness, especially when I asked why there was no mention of these safety defects in the service report.

    The person who wrote the email was never there, according to the manager of the service department. If he doesn’t know anything about this, what does that say about how well he does his job? I concluded that this was merely a scam and eventually the claim was that my car needed a new battery.

    A trip to get an independent test gave results that the battery was in extremely good condition. I know that dealerships rely on their service departments to make a profit, but scamming customers is not the way to do it: competent, experienced, diligent, and honest service staff is the best start that I can suggest.

    I’ll be taking my new Subaru to an independent service agent. One final issue: the rear bumper protection strip was coming off and when I asked if it could be replaced, I was told to take it back to where I bought it from – in those words – despite Subaru Australia telling me any service department would honour the warranty work. (The protection strip was installed as an option prior to purchase and therefore covered by Subaru Australia’s warranty.)

    Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

    Yes, very happy overall. There’s a couple of shortcomings, like only the driver’s window has a single-press lower/raise function. This ought to have been standard. An auto-dipping rear-view mirror on the passenger side would have been great but then again, with the higher-profile tyres on the car, most kerbs will not scrape the wheel rims, much to my wife’s pleasure.

    The lack of parking sensors quickly became a non-issue, and for some reason every member of my family not only enjoyed driving the vehicle, but had no trouble parking it. And for leather seats, cooling ought to be standard in Australia.

    What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

    Is there any word more inclined to give a poor impression than “adequate”? Yet this is how I’m inclined to describe its performance. I always would have liked more acceleration, but I never feared for my life when overtaking someone on a country road.

    I don’t participate in “traffic-light grand prix” but don’t hang around either. The car just accelerated…adequately. The same can’t be said for the fuel consumption, which I’d rate as very good.

    Cruising at 110km/h up the Hume towards Albury-Wodonga, the trip computer would read low 7 to high 6 L/100km. The error in reading was about 8 per cent optimistic. This is far better than I ever achieved in the smaller-engined, smaller-bodied, and lighter vehicle before it. I could probably have made it from Melbourne to Canberra on a single fill, but always chose to take a break at Albury. The engine never had to thrash and roar to get up hills, which is as it should be.

    What do you think of the technology in your car?

    EyeSight is terrific, by and large. It saved me when I was entering a stream of freeway traffic, and I was glancing over my shoulder when the car in front slammed its brakes on. The Outback did the same.

    The car following me had to use the emergency lane to avoid a collision. That said, it isn’t perfect: EyeSight will switch off when the cameras struggle, like when driving into the sun, or when the rain is very heavy. These are times when it is needed most.

    Annoyingly, my vehicle always would sound an alert when I got near a red-capped fire hydrant in my street which I quickly learnt to ignore as I followed the road around the bend. One thing that characterises all adaptive cruise control: if the car ahead lets its speed creep down, so too will yours, and it’s possible to lose 20km/h or more if you don’t check the speedometer regularly.

    The satellite navigation is generally okay, but also at times excruciating when it decides to divert you down side streets and zig-zag you along part or all of your route.

    The sound system is okay, but if trying to play music from a thumb drive, there are handicaps like maximum number of songs (very low) in each directory that it will read, and on switching off the engine, the system forgets where it is up to and on restart rescans the drive and starts at the first song in your first directory.

    The head unit in the car also caused my iPod to seize up randomly. Very annoying, and very poor. The voice command system would sometimes take over half an hour to “wake up” and only understood a very limited number of things.

    Again the execrable service departments were no use, declaring it fast to load and fully functional, despite my sitting there in front of them one day demonstrating that it was simply not loading. This was never fixed. The drive train technology is great for a cross-over style of car and I had no trouble making progress in soft sand one day. Dirt roads are handled easily.

    What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

    It really is great. The seats never made me squirm – a lower-back and coccyx injury means I need a very good seat – and this says a great deal. They could use more side-bolstering for when the cornering speeds build, but this is a minor criticism.

    The car tracks around corners well – in dirt or tarmac – and it handles all but the most extreme corrugations very well, feeling stable and secure, with no trace of axle-hop. As I said earlier, it is a quiet, comfortable touring car – we don’t have to turn up the sound to drown out any tyre or wind roar. It is so very competent at covering Australia’s distances in comfort and at speed.

    Do you have any additional comments about your car?

    I’ve tried to be fair and honest, but really, the worst part of owning an otherwise fine car is the lack of adequate or at times, even interested service departments. Throw in incompetence and dishonesty, and it’s easy to see that Subaru Australia is letting-down its product badly.

    I always filled-in the customer satisfaction survey and never once got a call back regarding their poor work. That said, owning and using the vehicle has always impressed me and never once have I regretted buying it.

    My new Outback is just weeks away and I’m sure I’ll have no regrets about a repeat purchase because the new model addresses almost all issues I’ve mentioned and rendered improvements in most, if not all those positive aspects of ownership.

    Overall Rating

    Ride & Handling9
    Price & Features8.5
    Purchase & Aftercare1
    Performance & Economy8.5
    Ownership Experience7.5