Subaru Outback XT

A little more Subaru sauce

The Subaru Outback has a long-standing and well-respected history spanning 25 years and let’s not forget Subaru’s heritage for all-terrain capability. During that time, we’ve seen remarkable changes not only in innovation, but safety. Subaru’s ability to stay relevant to what its loyal owners appreciate and want in a proper family wagon is why the Outback has remained a firm favourite of families for decades.

Avoiding the temptation to mess with fundamental design, bypassing the SUV popularity contest and keeping that commonsensical station wagon layout, is exactly what has made the Outback so darn good.

The Outback has a quality build, near perfect execution of a family friendly design, a ludicrously large and greatly appreciated rear cargo area with good passenger comfort. Plain and simple, it’s a nice vehicle to drive. On a variable scale of yin and yang, the Outback sits almost plumb in the middle. No matter how bad your day has been, it’s always nice.

No, it is NOT boring; it is nice.

A lower stance, improved centre of gravity, and that rewarding Boxer engine makes for a pleasurable driving experience.

The handling is responsive and predictable, not overly firm, which allows the Outback to glide along peacefully on long straights and feel settled and composed through sweeping bends. Both steering and braking are attentive to driver input, making the entire vehicle feel composed and confident.

No matter the weather conditions, Subaru’s symmetrical AWD system provides on road stability with reassuring control over slippery surfaces, rewarding the driver with a reassuring and safe driving experience.

Think parents and kids, extended families, couples with fur kids, or Nan and Pop with a moderate camper in tow.

The Outback transcends many demographics by its broad functionality and thoughtful practicality. From its humble beginnings, the Outback has continued to evolve at the same pace and required direction to suit the ever-changing needs of the modern family.

The cavernous rear hold is a cave big enough for a domesticated (lazy) wolf to ride in blissful comfort.

And the evolution continues…..

I may have mentioned somewhere my desire for the Outback to have the option for a dab of that zesty special Subaru source, to satisfy the cravings of WRX retirees and us older enthusiasts.

Now before you go saddling up that fantasy black stallion with dreams of tyre torching track times, you might want to pull back on the reins a little and consider the regal stance of a herculean Clydesdale harnessed to a chuck wagon. Powerful, graceful and considered in its approach to performing any task with effortless authority.

The two recent additions to the Outback family are all about driveability, not the drag strip.

Allow me to introduce the impressive Turbo XT Sport and Touring editions that add a little more zip to the benefits of AWD and are sure to extend the Outback’s capability and appeal.

On paper at least, and for those who enjoy the technical jargon; the more powerful 2.4L Direct-Injection Turbocharged (DIT) Boxer engine delivers greater torque, jumping from standard spec of 245Nm to a solid 350Nms. Power is also up noticeably from 138kWs to 183kWs to execute crisp acceleration both off the mark to 100kph and on open road mid-range passing manoeuvres where it’s more relevant from a safety perspective rather than impressing your passengers—but it is rather gratifying to be able to do both.

With a greater braked towing capacity than the naturally aspirated variants 2,000kg, it offers an increase of 400kg to 2,400kgs. Which means the Turbo XT Outback is an increasingly viable option for those with slightly larger vans, boats, and camper trailers.

With a power gain, there is frequently a cost impact as fuel economy declines. If you don’t need the additional power and torque for regular towing duties, the standard Outback 2.5 wins, returning a combined average fuel consumption of 7.3L/100km compared to the slightly thirstier 9.0L/100km of the potent turbocharged variants.

With only 63L in the tank, that’s approximately 860km for the standard 2.5L or 700km for the Turbo, not ideal for towing and touring as that economy will proportionally drop off based on what you’re hauling behind and how fast you want to make it to camp. Subaru might need to work on that aspect for future reiterations!

But the XT Turbo’s strength lies not just in the marketing department’s bragging rights for output numbers, but in its driving characteristics.

It remains smooth and willing, only this time there’s a little more assertive push in the back when dialling in more throttle.

No, it’s not reminiscent of a small, force-fed power plant. It is beautifully linear in its delivery, not explosive or aggressive. You can pour on as much or as little spicy sauce as you like. Sure, force open the throttle, and the XT responds in kind, but it’s still linear.

The XT will win hearts because of its breadth of capability and tractability. It drives and feels like a bigger engine, strong and willing, but almost laid back.

In typical Outback style, it does what you want, when you want, without fuss or complaint.

Then combine this with Subaru’s X-Mode system controlling engine torque and enhancing traction control and 213mm of ground clearance and it might not be a rock crawler, but it does a damn fine job of mastering everyday life on the black top or enjoying moderate trails for family adventures.

And what’s the point of going to the party without the joy of showing off a little extra bling?

The XT has provided a few extra smart details for their new owners. I liked the dual tailpipes to signify the XT’s higher performance, plus the “I’ve got an XT” badge work, snappy LED fog lights, and newly designed dress shoes to complete the package.

The Outback provides a great blend of practicality and comfort in a commodious package that is a pleasure to drive. It has confident handling offering a smooth, quiet ride and maintains its composure and stability over changing terrain and surface conditions thanks to the impressive and well proven Subaru AWD capability.

Does that mean the normally aspirated version is redundant? Not at all. It trumps it at the bowser for outright fuel economy and delivers performance that is both rewarding and enjoyable. You can get a full review on the standard 2.5L model here.

The Turbo edition enhances that performance to the next level. Its linear delivery of torque and power and increased towing capacity make it a viable option for those who require a little more.

And Subaru should be congratulated for listening to their customers and providing options to suit the range of user requirements.

Add Subaru’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty period and 12-months complimentary roadside assistance, and there are a lot of reasons to check out the new Outback XT editions.

We’re aiming to take a good spin in the Touring spec later—maybe hook up a camper for a few days’ getaway to run it through its paces. Now that will be a great road trip!

Model as tested: 2023 Subaru Outback XT Sport

  • Recommended retail: $57,569
  • Engine: 2.4-litre Turbo Boxer 4-cylinder, petrol engine
  • Output: 183kW/350Nm
  • Transmission: Lineartronic Constant Velocity
  • Fuel: 9.0L/100km
  • Tank Capacity 63L
  • Safety rating ANCAP 5 Stars
Drive Editor - Ray Cully
Drive Editor – Ray Cully

About our Motoring Editor: Ray has been passionate about all things automotive since he first started collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels models when he was five. Since leaving his executive role at General Motors (GM), he’s been sharing his driving experiences with Australian audiences for nearly 20 years, commencing his automotive journalist career with a popular WA-based magazine and was writing his own column in The West Australian for 8 years.

Ray’s strong love of automotive engineering and clever design has seen his articles and photography featured in prominent national magazines in Australia and the UK. He loves sharing his passion with other drivers, including via a long running stint as Senior Instructor for Land Rover Experience, providing training and education for new vehicle owners.

Recently Ray has been presenting on TV shows including Ready for Adventure and the very popular Caravan and Camping WA, to showcase some of the great products, vehicles and companies that make getting out and exploring Western Australia that much more enjoyable.