7

10

Model

2.0 diesel CVT

Price

$42,490

The Numbers

1998cc, 4cyl turbo-diesel, AWD, 110kW, 350Nm, 6.5L/100km, 172g/km CO₂, 0-100km/h N/A, max speed N/A, 1628kg

The Topgear Verdict

Why the wait, Subaru? This will handle just about any situation you throw at it. Large SUV class: you are officially on notice.

2013 Subaru Outback XT2.0 diesel CVT

You wouldn't think Subaru has a lot in common with American philosopher William James and Australian rock musician Diesel. But it does. Because they are all associated with presque vu, or the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. James first described it, Diesel got a hit single out of it and Subaru has been stuck in it as it's tried to remember the obvious answer to cracking the large-SUV market.

Until now, Subaru hasn't offered an automatic transmission in the diesel variants of the current Outback, which has been both frustrating and confusing for buyers. But now the 2.0-litre diesel engine in the Outback range can be paired with Suby's Lineartronic CVT transmission for those who don't wish to change gears themselves. Which most don't. In fact, half of large-SUV buyers opt for a diesel engine mated to an automatic transmission.

Think about it. Who's going to buy an Outback? The average young suburban family with the average 1.9 kids to ferry to school during the week, who also enjoy sticking a bike and some camping gear in the back for weekends? Or Elders agents who need the perfect car to transport them between sheep stations? And what do they want? The fuel economy and grunt of a diesel, plenty of cargo space and the convenience of an automatic gearbox.

So is this Outback any good for them? In short, yes. Without reading the packet, you wouldn't know the gearbox is actually a CVT, which are generally more unpleasant than that footage of Tony Abbott in speedos. Under acceleration, the 'box does the usual infinite ratio sorcery with the smoothness of an Italian pool cleaner, but once your foot goes flat it switches to a stepped gear change mode which lets you feel the cogs swapping as you would in a traditional torque converter auto.

Standing acceleration, which Subaru didn't give us official figures for, feels swift enough for a car of this size. Rolling acceleration, however, doesn't. Put your foot down, say to overtake a truck, and the engine seems to go off and make a cup of tea before deciding to get on with the job.

Yet no matter what speed you are travelling, cabin noise is minimal and the ride and handling remain composed, even on the loose gravel back roads of rural NSW where we tested the car. You could say it almost feels German. Our only complaint would be the uninspiring engine note, which sounds like someone blowing vigorously through a straw.

Like the manual, two variants of the CVT model are available, which each add $2500; the $42,490 base spec and the $45,490 Premium, which most buyers will go for as it adds a host of near-essential kit, including an electric sunroof, leather trim and a colour info display. Aside from this, not much has changed, including the impressive 1700kg braked towing capacity. Which means you can still uproot red gum trees. Or tow Joe Hockey's head.

So breathe out, Subaru. You can stop stressing now.

Reviewed by: Tim Booth

Driven: June 30, 2013