Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium 2010 new car review

We opened up the new top-spec Outback 3.6R Premium to check if it has all the tools for success.

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

It does seem a touch odd that Subaru’s crossover wagon is named after a flat, dry, straight expansive centre of Australia when it takes oppositional conditions to reveal its true strengths. But the new 2010 Outback isn’t just about using its trademark boxer engine and all-wheel drive system to expertly negotiate twisting mountain passes, it has serious intent as a spacious, family-hauling all-rounder.

The three previous generations of Outback have developed a reputation of Swiss-army-knife practicality for the new model, so can it raise the bar even higher? We opened up the new top-spec Outback 3.6R Premium to check if it has all the tools for success

The good
  • High handling abilities
  • Powerful engine
  • Refined ride quality
The not-so-good
  • Styling won’t appeal to all
  • Premium specification comes with premium price tag
  • Sparse interior switchgear

Inside and out

Sitting 70mm higher than its Legacy stable mate, the Outback casts a burly purposeful shadow. An increase in width over its predecessor helps negate the raised ride height and creates a balanced stance. A thick strip of black plastic cladding protects the bottom edges of the car and houses silver-ringed fog lamps out front. The winged grille and frowning headlights give the Outback road presence and the 17-inch 6-spoke alloys are a good match despite struggling to pack out the high wheel arches.

Aesthetically, the Outback isn’t a natural beauty and has clearly been styled with the American market in mind. That said, it has a modern, clean look that’s well colour-coded and has some nice touches like tinted rear glass, integrated roof rails and subtle use of silver trim.

While the Outback interior received criticism in the third-generation model most of those issues now appear well sorted. There is good space on offer all round, with generous legroom in the back and comfortable leather seats up front with electric adjustment.

Cargo space is equally practical with a 490-litre capacity with rear seats up expanding to a massive 1,690-litres when laid flat. If that still isn’t enough this Outback can haul a 1,800kg braked trailer (750kg unbraked). Small storage is handled by a large glovebox, deep centre console bin and door pockets.

The dashboard on the Premium model is a mixture of brushed metal and black plastics with contrasting glossy walnut trim.

The centre control stack is elegantly styled and logically laid out but appears a bit sparse and dated without the full-size LCD control screen that’s a feature of American-market models. The instrumentation is a treat with cool blue illumination on the silver-ringed dials and the leather-wrapped steering wheel houses handy audio and cruise controls.

Other standard equipment on the Premium Outback includes 6-speaker, 6-disc Kenwood CD stereo, Bluetooth, tilt and rake adjustable steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, smart key entry, rain-sensing wipers, trip computer and auto headlights. The self-leveling xenon lights are particularly impressive under full beam, reinforcing the Outback’s go-anywhere credentials. Overall, the Outback interior feels durable, is spacious and well equipped.

Inside and out

Although the Outback is a tidy piece of kit inside and out, like all Subarus it draws its true identity from what’s hiding inside the sheet metal. The new Outback continues Subaru’s signature marriage of a horizontally opposed Boxer engine with a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Under the bonnet lays the largest engine ever put into an Outback – a petrol-powered 3.6-litre 6-cylinder unit.

This twin-cam, six-banger pumps out 191kW of power and a healthy 350Nm of torque. Interestingly, this engine is only 4kW short of Subaru’s turbocharged 2.5-litre GT motor in terms of power and matches it exactly for torque.

It moves the Outback along nicely with some serious mid-range punch and a lively 0-100kph sprint time of 7.6 seconds.

The power delivery is smooth and consistently delivered while the engine has a quiet and fairly refined demeanor. There is also a practicality to the performance with the motor running on 91 RON petrol and returning a respectable 10.3l/100km fuel economy on the combined cycle.

Unfortunately, Subaru’s new CVT automatic transmission isn’t available with the larger 3.6l engine but the Outback uses a very capable standard auto box. This 5-speed gearbox is generally relaxed with few problems finding the right gear and is capable of firing off rapid downshifts on demand.

Manual changes are possible through steering wheel-mounted paddles that function well but do have a slight lag. The transmission is given extra character and control by Subaru’s SI-Drive system. This allows the selection of three different driving styles ranging from an economy focus to a sharpened sports mode.

On road, the Outback has a no-fuss, go-anywhere attitude that translates well into urban traffic or pot-holed gravel roads and everything in between. During cornering the Outback makes the most of its AWD grip and even at higher speeds stays stable only displaying understeer when pushed hard.

The 213mm ride height allows for good suspension travel and a compliant ride that shelters occupants from most uneven road surfaces. There is some body roll, but generally, the Outback is well poised and capable in all conditions. It also has a refined ride quality with just a whisper of engine and road noise and only a small amount of wind noise is generated from the large wing mirrors.

Safety bases are covered by various electronic aides that include ABS brakes with brake-force distribution, stability and traction control systems. There’s also a hill-start assist function and seven airbags in total including a driver’s knee bag. But parking sensors are notably absent.

Verdict

So does the Outback Premium have the skills to pay the bills? The short answer is, yes. However, the styling won’t appeal to all tastes and while the interior is spacious and well equipped the materials are of mixed quality and the look is slightly awkward. In 3.6l Premium trim, a hefty price tag just short of $60k might see many buyers opting for lower-spec versions, but it’s a supremely confident and capable vehicle.

The excellent AWD system and raised ride height allow it access to places other wagons couldn’t reach and the 6-cylinder engine is smooth and powerful. A spacious, all-wheel-drive wagon will always find keen buyers in the Kiwi market and the Subaru Outback Premium is a very good example within this popular niche.

Note: this was reviewed as a new vehicle.

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Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

I've been writing about the automotive industry for 16 years, and lead a range of publications through Auto Media Group. I play with my 1984 Toyota MR2 and travel in my downtime.

Opinions are my own and not those of Trade Me.