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2022 subaru outback feature

2022 Subaru Outback Challenges Australia’s ‘Need’ for an SUV

While SUV sales continue to dominate the Australian car market, Subaru is standing its ground and blending the best of the SUV world with all the benefits of a wagon in the Subaru Outback. In fact, it’s challenging the ‘do everything’ category – that’s typically reserved for SUVs – by offering a practical wagon in SUV clothing that leans away from off-road capability in favour of rough-road comfort.

Don’t think for a second, however, that the Outback has gone ‘soft’ because it excels on broken tarmac, gravel roads, and just about everything this side of pure ‘off-roading’. In a bid to challenge Australia’s ‘need’ for SUVs, we strapped a Thule rooftop tent and an awning to the roof of our Subaru wagon and pointed the Outback at one of our favourite camping spots just outside of Sydney.

We spent time on the road, off the road, and on one of the country’s worst pothole-littered pieces of tarmac to prove that you can’t find a better all-rounder than the Subaru Outback at this price point.

RELATED: While we’re sticklers for wagons, this practical family SUV makes a great argument.

2022 subaru outback side angle
2022 Subaru Outback | Image: Ben McKimm

How Does the Subaru Outback Perform on the Open Road?

There are only a few things that can make or break a road-trip-ready car in our books; the comfort of the seats, suspension (ride quality), steering, visibility, and driver aids.

We’re pleased to say that the Subaru Outback ticks all these boxes in the first instance. Our test car was ‘Sport’ grade meaning the seats are heated in the front and rear while offering a unique neoprene-like ‘water repellent’ trim with green stitching that looks and feels premium.

They’re very comfortable to sit in, plenty wide enough for a 6ft male and offer a well-balanced driving position with plenty of visibility and enough security to hold you in the seat. The seats match the green highlights on the roof rails and a number of other touches on the wrapped dashboard and door trims. It’s a nice place to sit.

In terms of suspension, the Outback outshines most of the SUVs on the market. It’s very comfortable, with minimal body roll, absorbs bumps and potholes with ease, and is high enough off the ground (213mm ground clearance) to clear erosion mounds and washouts off road. Autoblog provides an in-depth look at what makes the Outback suspension so great, but it’s far from skin-deep with clever bushings, control arms, and suspension geometry suited for all surfaces. Subaru Symmetrical All Wheel Drive is faultless as always.

Subaru’s EyeSight technology can accelerate, brake and steer the car semi-autonomously. It does a fairly good job at managing on clearly marked surfaces, however, it’s quick to intervene when it gets confused and road markings disappear. If it was any more invasive we’d call it annoying, but it was there to save us when we looked away from the road and the steering assist helps manage fatigue.

Does it Need a Turbocharged Engine?

Our only major knock on the Subaru Outback is the engine, which is somewhat underpowered in its naturally aspirated form. Producing a mere 138kW of power, the 2.4-litre boxer would be an acceptable choice if the fuel economy wasn’t so average, and with a fully-loaded car for a weekend of camping, we managed anywhere from 8-10 litres/100km with a mixture of freeways and backroads. Not great.

To solve this, Subaru has begun rolling out the new 2.4-litre turbo-petrol engine that produces 183kW/350Nm. We’d recommend test-driving both to see if the extra power is something you crave on a daily basis, however, if towing is on the cards we’d go straight to the turbo engine. Don’t expect the fuel economy figures of the turbo engine to better the naturally aspirated motor, and upwards of 10-litres/100km average could be in store.

RELATED: If you’re looking for a sporty wagon with plenty of space for escapes on the weekend, check out the 2022 Subaru WRX Wagon we drove recently.

Subaru outback interior
Subaru Outback interior | Image: Subaru Australia

What’s the 2022 Subaru Outback Like on the Inside?

We like to measure practicality by testing our cars in real-world situations, which meant taking the Outback camping to put it through its paces. Here we found how many bags you can fit in the back, how useful the extra storage pouches are, and how well laid out the USB ports are as we use them for charging camera gear. We also cranked a few tunes on the freeway and played with the infotainment and various display screens.

Does it Have Good Infotainment?

The 11.6-inch portrait-style central touch-screen isn’t the highest resolution offering on the market, but its quality is reassuring amongst a number of systems in competitor cars that give the impression they’re nothing more than a cheap eBay Android tablet. It’s quick enough to respond, the buttons are well laid out, and they’re large enough to use on the move.

Unfortunately, the 2022 Outback doesn’t receive wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you’ll be stuck plugging your phone into the USB ports up front every time you step inside. There’s no wireless charging for your phone either, and Android Auto only displays on one-third of the screen, whereas Apple CarPlay is a two-thirds affair.

The updated 2023 Subaru Outback revealed at the New York motor show introduces wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, we’ll be driving this model in the next few months.

Does it Have Enough Space?

The cabin is roomy, the driver has plenty of storage space on offer, and our large Frank Green drink bottle fits in the door pocket. Rear seats have plenty of legroom for full-size adults, the centre console is nice and high so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road too much, and the two USB ports in the rear offer fast charging for quickly refreshing camera batteries.

Overall, it’s a lovely place to sit and headroom, knee room, and leg room are never an issue for any occupants.

What Can You Fit in the Back?

Most mid-size SUVs on the market win here because the Outback only has 522 litres of boot space, compared to cars like the Toyota RAV4 which has 580 litres.

Adventurous folks will appreciate the small touches, including the netting in the boot side pockets which do a great job of holding ‘stuff’ that doesn’t have a home in your luggage. It’s also worth mentioning here that there’s a full-size spare tyre for reassurance.

If any amount of camping is in store, we’d highly recommend choosing the ‘Sport’ variant from the get-go as it includes a boot cargo blind as standard. The optional cargo tray mat also did a great job of containing some spilt liquids from an exploded water bottle. Check out the time-lapse above where you can see just how much we managed to fit in the boot.

Related: 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx Review

Should You Buy the 2022 Subaru Outback?

It won’t come as a surprise, but we love the Subaru Outback. It’s all the car anyone would ever need in practical terms, and it leaves you scratching your head as to why we don’t see many lifted wagons on the road.

We’re yet to get behind the wheel of the Subaru Outback XT to determine if the trade-off in fuel economy for power would make it a more attractive package, however, those who aren’t looking to tow shouldn’t hesitate to test-drive the naturally aspirated engine. It’s powerful enough, just.

Could the Outback replace the small to medium-sized SUV that’s sitting in your driveway right now? Yes, it’s just as comfortable to live with, has plenty of space, and offers enough off-road capability to get you away for the weekend with kids. Most importantly, we’d prefer to drive a wagon every day, and it’s about time Aussies step outside the shadow of the traditional SUV and into something that’s equally as practical, better to drive on a day-to-day basis, and far better looking.

There are only a handful of companies sticking with the wagon body style, and even though Subaru is blurring the lines with the Outback, it’s one of the best all-rounders on the market.

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