The good, the bad and the ugly of Subaru Outback

Hi Baraza,

Many thanks for your ever incisive feature on motoring — one main reason I look forward to getting Wednesday’s paper.

I am contemplating buying a Subaru Outback and have a million questions for you. Please bear with me:

1. What is the difference between Subaru Outback 2.5i 4wd and 3.0R? I also came across a “bigger” Outback (pardon my crude description) version (is it AWD) compared to what I think are the “imported” version?

2. How does it compare with Subaru Legacy?

3. Do we have manual Outbacks in Kenya? I am into manuals but a quick search reveals that they are not so common.

4. What are their price ranges?

5. Would you recommend this Outback model? I drive about 20km to 40km daily to and from work with an occasional drive to my village in Kisii (the road is not bad save for a few kilometres of an all-weather road, which is accessible using any vehicle, anyway).

6. How would you rate their consumption?

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Kind regards,

KM

Feel free to ask as many questions as you want. After all, it is my job to try and find the answers.

1. The most obvious difference is in engine size and configuration. The 2.5i has a 4-cylinder SOHC (Single Overhead Cam) engine developing 175hp. The 3.0R has a 243hp, DOHC (Dual Overhead Cam) 6-cylinder engine. Other differences come with spec levels: things like availability of leather, choice of colours, in-car entertainment, number of sunroofs, and such. The 3.0R is superior in this respect.

The specs I have given are for the BP-type (2003-2009) model, and with good reason. When you say you have encountered a “bigger” Outback, I strongly suspect what you saw was the current post-2009 car.

And you are right; that thing is HUGE. I have placed one next to a Subaru Tribeca and it is actually larger than the Tribeca, which in hierarchy terms sits at the apex of the Subaru model range pyramid. And yes, it has AWD, just like all the other Outbacks, the “imported” ones included.

2. It is actually based on the Legacy. Early in its life it was actually called the Subaru Legacy Outback, and that is because essentially it is a Legacy on stilts with the added bonus of a bigger engine. So it will go further off-road (ability is still a bit limited, though) and pull a bigger load than a regular Legacy.

3. I have also not seen an Outback with a manual gearbox, but they are there. The current “huge” model can be had with a six-speed manual (Subaru Kenya should help you out on this) while the outgoing “smaller” BP-type vehicle had an option of a five-speed manual.

4. The big one should cost about Sh6 million or thereabouts, while a 2005/2006 BP-body Outback hovers around the Sh1.6 and Sh1.7 million mark, with an observed low of Sh1.5 million and a rather stratospheric Sh1.95 million for a 2005 vehicle from Garden Motors.

5. Why not? If you can handle the higher fuel consumption compared to a standard Legacy, I do not see why not, but I usually tell my readers to buy vehicles that they actually need rather than want. The Outback is a lifestyle vehicle used by trendy young groups or families with a full weekend timetable, mostly where the roads are not all-tarmac. And it serves the purpose. Do not buy one if you do not plan to leave the city in it.

6. Speaking of consumption, it is a bit high if you are used to cars with engines smaller than 2000cc, but given what it is, it is forgivable. The big 3.6 is the thirstiest, averaging 7km/l with mixed use, so expect 8km/l-9km/l for the 3.0 and maybe as high as 11km/l for the 2.5.

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