Japanese all-wheel-drive specialist Subaru has ditched its 3.6-litre flat-six engine in favour of a more powerful and thriftier turbocharged 2.4-litre flat-four for its premium sixth-generation Outback SUV, which is expected to go on sale in New Zealand later next year.
The big difference between the two engines is not so much in terms of kilowatts but in the delivery of torque. The outgoing naturally aspirated six generates 191kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm at 4400rpm; the new boosted four delivers 194kW at 5600rpm and 370Nm at 2000rpm.
It’s the first time in around 10 years that Outback gets an engine with forced induction. The new Outback was unveiled at the New York motor show, where Subaru said it would be available in North America with either the new 2.4-litre or an updated version of the existing, naturally aspirated 2.5-litre flat-four.
The direct-injection 2.5-litre engine is almost 90 per cent new, says Subaru, and delivers 135kW at 5800rpm and 235Nm at 4400rpm. It’s claiming fuel use of between 9 and 12 litres/100km for the boosted 2.4-litre engine and 8 and 11 litres/100km for the 2.5-litre.
Outback 2020 is based on the Subaru Global Platform, first used on the Impreza in 2017. Subaru says the Outback structure is 70 per cent stiffer in both torsional and front-suspension rigidity and, compared to the outgoing platform, 100 per cent stiffer in both front and rear subframe rigidity. The new Outback body absorbs over 40 per cent more energy in front/side crashes than the current model.
Outback’s suspension system has also been reworked to be lighter and more responsive. MacPherson struts up front get new internal rebound springs, aluminum lower L-arms and new 23mm hollow stabiliser bar. The rear double-wishbone layout comprises subframe, coil springs and new 19mm hollow stabiliser bar.
Ground clearance remains at 22cm but braked towing capacity, on the premium boosted model at least, raises to just short of 1600kg. The X-Mode system, which optimises off-road going, is standard equipment.
Standard also is Subaru’s EyeSight, a driver assist technology considered one of the most complete in the automotive world. Depending on model, it comes with adaptive cruise control and a host of other safety aids, including cameras providing facial recognition and a view of the road ahead.
Inside, Outback takes what New York show-goers say is a Tesla-esque leap into the future. All but the entry-level model get a 30cm touchscreen oriented vertically like an iPad.