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Subaru outback xt offroad test 1

2023 Subaru Outback XT Offroad Test, Taking it Where Others Won’t

The Subaru Outback has been a favourite of mine ever since I spent a month with one over Christmas. However, there was one major feature that I thought needed addressing: power.

With the launch of the Subaru Outback XT earlier this year, it received the 183kW turbocharged horizontally opposed DIT Boxer 4-cylinder petrol engine that it always needed, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy me. I wanted to push the new Outback further than any ‘reviewer’ would dare and really test the limits of the new X-Mode terrain system. Could the Outback XT keep up with a dual-cab ute on some mild off-road obstacles?

Subaru customers want to know just how far their car can go offroad, so let’s find out.

RELATED: We published a dedicated article talking about the new tech upgrades in the Subaru Outback XT.

How Much Does the New Subaru Outback Cost?

First things first, how much does the new Subaru Outback cost? Well, if you’re reading this for it’s offroad capabilities you probably don’t care as it’s the only vehicle in this class that will take you far off the beaten path. However, if you’re looking to compare it to cars like the Citroen C5 X, then I suggest you read my full in-depth review of that car right here.

The 2023 Subaru Outback XT costs $52,190 plus on-road costs in ‘Sport’ trim level as I tested. It’s a relative bargain by new car standards and the ‘Touring’ variant will come in at $55,990 plus on-road costs in Australia. The naturally aspirated version costs from $42,690 plus on-road costs, while the naturally-aspirated ‘Sport’ costs $47,1290 plus on-road costs.

  • Outback AWD $42,690 plus on-road costs (up from $39,990 in 2021)
  • Outback AWD Sport $47,190 plus on-road costs (up from $44,490 in 2021)
  • Outback AWD Touring $50,990 plus on-road costs (up from $47,790 in 2021)
  • Outback AWD Sport XT $52,190 plus on-road costs (new)
  • Outback AWD Touring XT $55,990 plus on-road costs (new)

If you can stretch the extra $5,000 AUD plus fuel costs, I think it’s definitely worth your money, especially if any amount of adventuring is on the schedule.

2023 subaru outback xt launch
Photos from the launch of the Subaru Outback XT | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

New Subaru Outback XT Finally Has Power it Deserves

 2023 Subaru Outback XT Performance
Engine2.4-litre boxer-4 turbo-petrol
Power183kW @ 5200-6000rpm
Torque350Nm @ 2000-4800rpm
Acceleration8.6 seconds (est.)

As you can see from my full feature article, I gave the Subaru Outback props for its ride quality, the amount of space, clever storage options, and its ability to go just about anywhere the average punter would point it. But when I loaded up the car with a rooftop tent and enough equipment to survive for a few nights camping, the Outback really struggled with the added weight on my journey across the Blue Mountains.

I’m very pleased to say that the new turbocharged engine addresses all of the power complaints I had before. Of course, you’re never going to want to push the car through bends at your local driving road thanks to a CVT transmission that seems happier cruising around on the highway, but it’s a step in the right direction.

You’ll sacrifice fuel consumption by going for the XT variant over the naturally aspirated engine, it’s thirsty (over 10 litres/ 100km) but it’ll change the way you think about the platform as a whole.

2023 Subaru Outback Gains The Most Advanced X-Mode System Yet

I’ve always known Subaru for its impressive off-road credentials. In fact, I’ll never forget following a lightly modified Subaru Forester through some pretty gnarly obstacles on a camping trip into Bendethera Valley as a young whipper snapper.

It was raining and I’ll never forget my dad saying “They’re going to bring that thing on this track? They must be crazy,” before the Forestor walked its way up every steep hill in front of it.

Fast forward many years later and I’m presented with a brand new Subaru Outback XT in my driveway. I know it has more power than before, and I know it finally has full-screen Android Auto. However, what I don’t know is how far it’ll go offroad without bending any panels.

It wasn’t long until I locked in a route to one of my favourite lookouts on the Central Coast, the same one I took the Land Rover Defender 90 back in 2021. Only this time the tougher than ever thanks to months of rain. I sent it anyway, all in the name of science.

Subaru outback xt offroad test
Testing the Subaru Outback XT | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

What is Subaru X-Mode?

Put simply, X-Mode is your cheat code for offroading in the Subaru Outback. It has the ability to control engine torque, transmission, front and rear axle limited slip function, hill descent control and automatic restore control. It’s similar to feature that you’ll find in most dual-cab utes and larger four-wheel drives. In my testing, I found that it works very well, provided you have traction through the tires.

X-Mode has two mode functions, they’re as follows.

  • Snow / Dirt Mode, which is designed for slippery, snowy roads, black ice, gravel and unpaved surfaces, this mode uses Traction Control.
  • Deep Snow / Mud Mode, which is designed for surfaces where the tyres can become partially buried, such as deep snow, mud, sludge and dry dirt. Traction control is turned off, while torque control is activated to quickly generate maximum torque and produce a moderate amount of slippage in the driving wheels. This improves escape performance on road surfaces where tyres can become stuck.

How Did it Work in My Testing?

I mostly made use of Snow / Dirt Mode on most of the obstacles in this article. This is the best option if you want traction sent to the wheel that has the most on offer during wheel articulation. You might feel a wheel slip for a moment before the car figures out which wheel to send power to and drags you out of the situation.

On the other hand, Deep Snow / Mud Mode is better used where tire traction is an issue. This mode directs power to individual wheels while producing a little slippage in the process to get you unstuck. It works well, but it isn’t the limiting factor for the Outback offroad. That would be tires.

The only time I managed to get close to being stuck was in some deeper mud. Ground clearance wasn’t an issue, but the highway terrain tires weren’t cutting it. Thankfully, plenty of the right foot and some X-Mode ‘Deep Mud’ goodness was enough to get me unstuck. If you’re planning on actually taking the Outback offroad regularly I highly recommend a set of tires.

RELATED: 2022 Subaru WRX Wagon Review.

Subaru outback xt offroad test front end
Testing the Subaru Outback XT | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

What Else Helps the Subaru Outback XT Offroad?

A good powertrain, gearbox, and traction control system would be the most important things to consider when looking at the Subaru Outback’s offroad credentials. However, I’ll also note the impressive amount of ground clearance on offer here at 213mm, which is only a hint less than that of the Toyota HiLux SR (4×4) which offers 216mm ground clearance. It’s enough to avoid contact on most erosion mounds and helps with the approach angle of 18.6 degrees at the front and 21.7 degrees of departure angle at the rear.

There’s also a custom suspension tune on the Outback XT to suit the 2.4-litre DIT Boxer engine. Subaru says the damping force has been adjusted on the front and rear dampers, while the spring constant of the front coil springs has also been fiddled with. It’s about as comfortable as I remember the previous non-turbo Outback I tested.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the offroad capabilities of the Subaru Outback XT. And while the trails never look as steep or technical in photos, this car performed perfectly and never got stuck. Even if it did pick up it’s fair share of wheel lifts along the way.

2023 subaru outback xt
2023 Subaru Outback XT | Image: Subaru

Man of Many’s Verdict on the Subaru Outback XT

When I reviewed the 2022 model Subaru Outback in naturally-aspirated form, I was impressed with the day-to-day driving characteristics of the vehicle. It was a little slow, but if you weren’t adventuring with a rooftop tent on the roof it was OK. However, as soon as you loaded the car up and started doing real ‘Subaru owner things’ it became a bit of a slug. And that’s where the XT comes in… because the XT solves any issue I had with the powertrain, even if it’s a little thirsty on fuel.

The technology upgrades I spoke about have only taken the car to the next level, combine that with a sophisticated offroad capable X-Mode system and it’s looking like the perfect all-rounder. If I had $60,000 AUD to spend on a car, I’m probably buying a Subaru Outback XT and a set of offroad tires. That’s unless the Outback Wilderness decides to make its way Downunder. Hmm.

Check out the Subaru Outback XT

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