Anyone who must regularly cope with a rough road owes it to themselves to find a way to drive a Subaru over that same stretch.
The company’s remarkably compliant suspension acts like a big eraser on such poor surfaces. This applies across the Subaru lineup, but I was reminded of it once again as I crossed the province in the heart of winter.
Frost-ridden roads are a fact of life in the Maritimes where winter toys with us by showing flashes of spring and warmth long before they are due. This continual change from warm to cold, sun to dark plays havoc with pavement, creating potholes with ease and pushing the surfaces up and down, generating cracks and abrupt surface changes.
The press vehicle, a 2023 Subaru Outback, simply ignored all this roughness.
Another Subaru trait added to the feeling of security and comfort during my drive – an exceptional all-wheel-drive system capable of coping with anything mother nature threw at us, or the Department of Highways had yet to correct.
Winter, rough roads and Subaru – a perfect blend.
This Subie came in Onyx trim. New for the 2023 model year, at $38,695, it fits halfway up the trim ladder above the Convenience ($32,695) and Touring ($36,995) models and below the Limited ($43,995) and Premier ($46,395) versions.
The Onyx is Subaru’s effort at creating a tough look.
The emphasis though is on trim, so the toughness is restricted to the street rather than the deep backwoods. Black abounds. Trim, 18-in wheels, badges, mirrors, roof-mounted spoiler, and grill are all covered in black or gunmetal finish.
The seats are wrapped in a soft, two-tone water-repellent material with green contrast stitching, meant to convey a hose-off readiness for heading off the beaten path.
There is a pad atop the rear bumper to protect the finish when loading bikes, groceries or backpacks, and extra cargo hooks back there to keep them in place.
None of this can alter the fact this is a tall and boxy wagon, a Legacy on stilts. It has the step-in height of a crossover, but the overall height of a wagon – sort of the best of both worlds.
The 2023 Subaru Outback gets exterior changes and safety updates
The Outback came in for some updates for the 2023 model year. The front fascia gets a different bumper and more prominent grill. The headlights are different as is the lower body cladding, and that around the wheel wells.
The latest generation of the wonderful EyeSight safety suite, includes a wider field of view, new mono camera and updated software increasing its range of operation. There is a wireless charging pad, and the updated multimedia system is available with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Subaru’s EyeSight safety system is still ahead of the pack
I was chairman of AJAC’s Automotive Technology of the Year panel when we voted Subaru’s EyeSight safety system the winner more than a decade ago. Continual updates since then have kept it at the head of the pack of all-inclusive safety systems.
It uses dual colour cameras positioned at the top of the windshield on either side of the rear-view mirror. They monitor traffic conditions and lane markings, adjusting their vision as necessary.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says EyeSight has resulted in an 85% reduction in rear-end collisions involving injury based and can reduce pedestrian injuries by as much as 35%.
The system is so sensitive it can seem too much like ‘big brother’. On a couple of occasions it told me to keep my eyes on the road when I had only removed them for a few seconds to check instruments or something similar. This latest generation includes a wide-angled mono camera that recognizes bicycles and pedestrians more quickly.
On the road the supple suspension removes any concern about surface conditions.
The Outback is available with a pair of horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engines.
The tester had the base 2.5-litre, normally-aspirated version that produces 182 horsepower and 176 lb. ft. of torque. It is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
When pressed hard, which happens fairly often due to the considerable size and weight of the Outback, it is merely adequate. High trim levels get a turbocharged 2.4-litre version of the engine. This is a much more pleasant combination, a really good one, as the turbo helps provide plenty of low-end torque, eliminating the need for sustained heavy throttle applications.
One minor gripe is the inclusion of roof rails. I know this works for those who wish to strap stuff on top, and offers a more rugged appearance, but when it comes time to scrape off snow, it gets in the way.
The Outback has been a huge hit for more than 25 years. The latest generation came along for the 202o model year. The tall wagon offers the driving dynamics of a car without the compromises of a crossover.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2023 Subaru Outback Onyx
As tested: $40,690 including freight
Automatic LED steering-responsive headlights with automatic high beams, Eye-Sight driver assist technology (Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane centering assist, lane keep assist and sway warning, pre-collision warning), rear/side vehicle detection, reverse automatic braking, power heated and folding mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer
30-cm tablet—style infotainment touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, satellite radio, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity
18-in aluminum alloy wheels, wireless phone charger, power sunroof, heated seats front and rear, power liftgate with memory, 10-way power driver’s seat, dual zone automatic climate control, cruise control, heated tilt & telescope steering wheel
2.5-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, 185 horsepower, 176 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel, Continuously Variable automatic Transmission, all-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.2/7.3
Length, 4,875; mm; width, 1,885 mm; wheelbase, 2,475 mm; weight, 1,689 kg.