2018 Subaru Outback & Liberty Review | Auto Expert John Cadogan | Australia

Outback and Liberty are twins under the skin – dizygotic twins, obviously, but still twins. They’re both very similar – down there – where it counts. I just spent a week sleeping enthusiastically with each one – and I have to say, they’re pretty impressive vehicles.

Subaru lent me the cars – it’s pretty hard to review them any other way – but no money changed hands, they don’t advertise, and they are of course free to suck it up in the ‘sticks and stones’ domain, should they form the view that my opinion of the product sucks.

Subaru has some core strengths, too – let’s not forget that. Two of them spring to mind: Safety, and Symmetrical AWD. And they’re very good at both.

I’d suggest that this latest version of Eyesight – the camera-based safety system – is awesome. It now sees the unfolding traffic environment even better thanks to ditching the CCD sensor technology and moving up to CMOS.

If you’re not a camera nut like me, the advantage of CMOS is better vision in low contrast environments – so, better low-light performance. And it sees in colour, too.

(There’s also front, rear and side cameras for human consumption.)

This latest EyeSight version is the third generation of a system that was already brilliant. It’s definitely looking out for you, should you fall asleep at the wheel, which you should never do, or unwittingly reverse out of a parking space and into the path of a pedestrian or cyclist, or something.

Of all the ‘safety assist’ packages from all the manufacturers – Subaru’s is the best in terms of integration, intuitiveness, minimisation of false positive alerts, etc. It’s really good.

EyeSight 3.0 also includes adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking through a significantly expanded range, and the CMOS cameras can see and identify brake lights ahead of you as well as just tracking the movement of traffic. It’s very clever.

The worst thing about EyeSight is the luddites who bitch and moan about this technology in the comments feed. Bottom line: There’s no reporting system for the lives it saves. Which is most unfair.

Both the Liberty and the Outback I slept with recently had the 2.5i powertrain – and I suspect the underlying cunning PR plan there was because this is the powertrain with the most tweaks.

The CVT copped a bunch of upgrades – it’s got a different chain that’s quieter and it extends the ratio range significantly. But the thing that hits you – at least it hit me – immediately is the improvement in software control.

I’d driven only a couple of hundred metres and that was blatantly obvious.

Subaru transmission programming propellerheads have done a great job – residual CVT drone has been eliminated. It’s quite smooth and satisfying to drive. It even feels snappy when you’re – let’s say – sleeping with it enthusiastically. And I never thought I would say that about a CVT.

Other tweaks include the bigger centre screen which now has Apple and Android phone integrations. Dear Toyota: See? It’s not that hard. You can do this.

These phone integrations mean you get voice command and access to all the certified for auto use apps – including things like voice-synthesis for inbound and outbound SMS messages.

The nav is Tom Tom, not some hateful, clunky, Guantanamo-inspired in-house system designed to make Tome Tom look even better than it is.

Externally, the new grille, bumpers, mirrors and wheels really have made a difference. Here I was, ready and waiting with a new Ray Charles allegation to level at the designers … but now I am gutted because it would be unfair to allege that the styling team was blind. It actually looks pretty good.

Outback and Liberty both feel very composed and upmarket – and the value proposition remains pretty strong. It’s still hard for me to justify the step up to 3.6R from 2.5i Premium – certainly you get substantially more performance, but the equipment spec is the same and it’s gunna cost you $6500.

It’s not like the 2.5i is an inadequate performer, either. For most people, the 2.5 is beyond adequate, and the six-and-a-half big ones could be better repurposed elsewhere in the family budget.

I’d be comparing the new Liberty to Mazda6 and Kia Optima, and maybe Hyundai Sonata.

Outback is locked in as a five-seater only. But it’s as big as a Santa Fe, so I’m certain Subaru could have engineered up an extra two seats. I’m sure they’ve got their reasons, but it’s certainly cost them some sales not to offer the vehicle as a seven seater.

As things stand, you get a cavernous luggage compartment with Outback. There’s additional ground clearance, too, and a bit more testosterone in the styling, compared with Liberty.

And refinement doesn’t take too much of a hit. Outback’s a capable dirt-road driver – but you have to be realistic about off-road aspirations.

This class of softer SUV is designed for light duty off-roading at best.

Comments

vytis says:

2.5L It needs a turbo. Pretty gutless.

Polestar Wes says:

Outback sounds like it’s powered by 2 angry squirrels. CVT sucks but you love Subaru so of course it’s great. Stop reviewing Subaru because you are so bias it’s sad

Joe Hamelin says:

Hi John.

You really love your Subaru’s. You gush about in poetic rapture describing the inhuman life saving responses of the EyeSight system; improved this year! The joy of driving a well built and well supported car, and the dealers don’t suck. I get why you love your Subies. I do too. But I must disagree with you on one point:

The World is Flat! Or should be. I just love the 3.6R flat boxer engine. Smoooth…

I just returned in my 2017 Outback 3.6R from a 3337 mile road trip down the US West coast from (let’s call it) Seattle to Las Angeles, following the the ocean, then to Las Vegas (Baby!) to see my daughter, and then back up the other side of the mountains to home, mostly on back highways.

Passing was a fucking joy, and there was a lot of passing since about 2000 miles of trip was on two lane highway, lots of curves too. The 256HP the 3.6R provides, the way you can get the CVT to not fake shift if you work the gas pedal correctly, is so satisfying that only the deep tissue massage I had at the resort in Reno had me more glowing in my essentials.

I know that you want to recommend cars for most life styles and you do that well. But for men of a certain age, like us, that don’t have a family unit packed in the back, the 3.6R Legacy/Liberty or Outback with the six banger is much more satisfying and well worth the price paid back in smiles for the next 15 years.

Greg's Kitchen says:

your aussiness is going to trigger a lot of leftie sjws, keep it up!

Chris Charters says:

Yess!

whiteandnerdytuba says:

More evidence of Jesus than global warming

Abdullah Al Abdullah says:

*SUBARU ASCENT CHANNEL FROM YOUTUBE*
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCutDZH5NOLl9oswyYIxwMbw

Cav says:

This is a first. A video of a car review without a video of the cars. You dumb ugly Kent. 😉

Abdullah Al Abdullah says:

*SUBARU OUTBACK CHANNEL FROM YOUTUBE*
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAEGJmJgj27_G2VvP3S2nlw

Acousticmarine says:

Big fan, love your videos. Question: What is your take on the Gen2 Honda Ridgeline? I have seen your 2015 video about Honda being asleep at the wheel regarding innovation.

Pablo Rages says:

You knock Christians …..but believe humans cause global warming ! LOL

Antone Henderson says:

Another great one. Regards Tony Henderson

Based Xennial says:

Illiterate carpenter? There is a written account in the fourth chapter of Luke of Jesus reading from the book of Isaiah to refute your erroneous comment.

I’d rather take the word of a written account by alleged “bronze age control freaks” than a snide, acerbic, middle aged misanthrope with an atheist axe to grind, and an ego that is proportionate to his cognitive biases on the subject. Don’t fly too close to the sun!

The period in question actually falls almost 600 years after even the Iron Age – but don’t let that historical fact get in the way of an snarky atheist diatribe.

I think a lifetime of mixing metaphors as an automotive journalist has given you the illusion that you’re an expert in areas that extend beyond your area of expertise. How do you go from lambasting people for not maintaining their vehicles for 35,000 km, to talking about how entropy and cars, and everything else for that matter, is subject to this force, to it being an innate force in the universe from the beginning of time, and that disproves God? Leave metaphysics and epistemology to those who have their subjective cognitive biases in check, or at least are aware of them.

I want to buy another Outback, based on your review though, by the way.

Casey Stoner says:

Come on John, fair suck of the old sav, we could all use a higher power savior in our lives.
I for one could use your fuel savior, “Helping us burn less in this life and the next”

Bridgette West HERE says:

I need reverse sensors so I can get my fat ass in mcdonalds

mukov says:

You’re VW cough made me laugh so hard :)

Daniel Beard says:

John, these religious fucktards may actually have a point for once. Jesus was not illiterate, as you stated in the vid. He was illegitimate. Just another bastard.

I look forward to seeing the video where you correct this little oversight.

Bryce Letcher says:

I have to complement Subaru at Essendon Fields. I took my nearly 10 year old Forester in for the airbag recall last week and they provided a new Forester for the day. No charge at all, not even for the fuel I used. Brilliant customer service and the new Forester was a very nice relaxing drive with the CVT.

Graham Jones says:

See you in hell too! Looking forward to it immensely.

LEEDAQ says:

Surely John hates forester, not a word on the new forester 2019

Ricardo M. Nogueira says:

No subtitles

Vaclav Adamek says:

Is CVT transmission more gas efficient then manual gearbox?

Charlie Wolf says:

Somewhere along the line, the religeous got Heaven and Hell backwards. Spending eternity in Heaven, praising a jelous, genocidal manic, that inflics plague, famine and floods just for fun, surrounded by the faithful, Creationists, Flat Earthers, Catholics, Mormons, Christians Muslims and others. Now that really does sound like Hell.

Pitt Brad says:

Oh fuck i rolled of my chair laughing John, keep it comin’ man, keep it coming!.

hunter3333333 says:

I dont want to see something like a recently importored Mr thia lady and god i hope there are no gingers! But the could open a new world!
Origin a good energy as the ad goes by hmmmm

Bern Che says:

“Of all the safety assist packages … Subaru’s is the best”. John, find a way to get hold of a Mercedes Benz with multibeam LED (84 LEDs in EACH) headlamp to watch it selectively screen out the high beam to individual cars. I’m no Audi or MB cheerleader and sure, both these manufacturers may be dodgy in other respects but credit where it is due… multibeam LED is an incredibly useful technology which one uses all the time if one drives country roads at night. Most safety tech only engages if you’re about to or are in an actual crash. Multibeam LED makes driving at night safer, less stressful and would this prevent accidents – and you get to use it all the time… you don’t have to wait for an accident to see it bounce into action. No doubt Subaru would be working on a similar matrix headlight system for their future models but until then, you can’t claim they have the best safety assist package. Over to you John…

Paul Foot says:

Love my Imprezza, awesome vehicle. All the onboard electronics are incredible. The voice commands that can read and make text messages, making and answering phone calls etc…and the Eyesight system is incredible.

Jurassic Tech says:

Why they didnt make the outback a 7 seater… uh… the Ascent.

Wayne Dawson says:

If I had the money I would be in the cvt for sure loved in when I test drove the wrx

Terry Edgerton says:

Dear John. Ahhhh, so here it is. You spent two weeks with the Subaru. You have never owned one and had to put up with the poor long life of these vehicles. Your bias towards certain vehicles is stupid. Put your reputation before cash. Your obsession with toys and gadgets overlooks poor life span of the vehicles. How much are you pocketing for this advertisement. A lot of crap.

The Simple Cyclist says:

I love your elegance and savagery at the same time.

mollydooka17 says:

John, if the 2.5 Outback had more grunt, they’d sell a lot more cars. Why does Subaru maintain the sluggish outdated engine, when the 2 litre WRX’s have considerably more power and torque? Even the shitbox Equinox produces 188kW & 353Nm from a 2-litre Chevrolet engine?? Those 2 cars are turbos of course, and both consume just over a litre more per 100kms than the Outback, but still more economical than the 3.6R.
I’ve been driving a 2003 3.0 litre Outback for 5 years, and can get better fuel consumption than the stated figures using various fuel-saving techniques, and still have the extra grunt on tap if I need it. Hard to downgrade to the lumbering 2.5l after driving the 3.0l………

Adam Dixon says:

I’m sorry but I need to correct you on Jesus. You claim he died 2000ish years ago. Fact is he never existed. Not one real record of him for 200 years. Not 1 poem song or writing. No Roman records of him or his crucifixion and they kept good records.

David Szkilnyk says:

Thx John opened my eyes to the soobies,
Took a new Outback, Levorg and CX-5 out for test drive all top of the range, The Outback was the most comfortable over Melbourne’s crap roadworked roads that I travel. Outback’s CVT was excellent even when you gave it heaps fit and finish was spoton, the Levorg went but was reving like crazy man and could feel every bump on the road but what do expect for low profile and 1.6T. The CX-5 I am sorry but this car was extremely disappoint it rev’d like crazy took ages to get going, the sitting position was just plain awful and the road comfort bounced you around. And how does anyone drive this car without taking your eyes off the road to look at the dash if you don’t have a HUD? Daily drive is a SS commodore.

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