The 5 things you need to know about the 2021 Subaru Outback

5 things you need to know about the new Subaru Outback

The new Outback has been thoroughly revised from the inside out, here are the 5 things you need to know about the new Subaru Outback.

Where to begin. The Subaru Outback has been around for more than 25 years and is now the latest vehicle in the lineup to be built off the brands modular platform. It’s also the start of a new model onslaught from the all-paw brand with a new BRZ and WRX on their way this year.

Pricing starts from $39,990 plus on-road costs, there’s been a return to the two-tone look with the blistered lower panels of old that were, on the last generation, only available on top-spec models. It’s been thoroughly updated. 

MotoFomo will be driving the new Outback in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for our written and video reviews. Let’s get into this.

You can tow more with the new Outback

The new Subaru Outback now has a maximum braked towing capacity of 2000kg with a towball download of 200kg. Subaru reckons some stiffening of key components and a newly developed rear differential changed the hypoid gear ratio from 4.111 to 3.900 allowing the increase from 1800kg (on the old model) to 2000kg. The Tare weight runs from 1629kg to 1691kg, depending on the variant (add around 63L of fuel to those numbers to get kerb weight). We’re chasing up things like GCM and GVM, so can’t give you an accurate rundown of things like payload when towing at the maximum capacity. But, on the surface, it looks like you’ll be best off towing around the 1000-1500kg mark to give yourself plenty of payload for passengers and luggage.

5 things you need to know about the new Subaru Outback

There’s more room to move on the inside

The new platform has meant the front windscreen can be moved forwards and the front door windows out to make the front cabin area feel much roomier. There’s more shoulder room (increased by 7mm), front hip room is up 30mm, and there’s more room in the back seat too, with legroom increased by 6.1mm to 973.2mm. And the boot space is a little longer (increased by 23.9mm) to give a length of 1085.5mm with the rear seats in place (and the cargo cover is now higher to give more space underneath it. With the boot space offering 522 litres of storage space. Drop the seats, and the ‘cargo floor’ measures nearly 2m long. And to keep the boot floor from becoming covered in muck, a dirt-resistant texture has been adopted – can’t wait to tip a bag of soil into the boot to test this out.

5 things you need to know about the new Subaru Outback

Rough-road performance has been improved

The Outback, Forester and XV have always been the first choice for those SUV buyers wanting an SUV that doesn’t mind getting dirty. The new Outback continues that theme and borrows the dual ‘range’ X-Mode system, and offers 213mm of ground clearance. So what is this new X-Mode system. Well, we’ve seen it on the Forester and it works very well. You can choose from Snow/Dirt Mode or Deep Snow/Mud Mode. The former relies on traction control to keep wheel spin to a minimum while the latter deactivates traction control and uses torque biasing to shuffle torque/drive to the wheel with grip. The idea is that it reduces the amount of wheel spin, to give the tyres better grab. You now get a larger resin fuel tank too (up from 60L to 63L). We’ll be double-checking but Subaru has said the roof load is now 100kg dynamic (with no reduction for off-road driving when using its official racks) and 300kg static. Throw on an Ironman 4×4 suspension lift and a set of all-terrains and you’ll have a pretty handy rough roader.

5 things you need to know about the new Subaru Outback

Only one engine but it’s 90% new

So you can’t get a diesel or a hybrid, but the one engine you can get has been thoroughly revised and is now lighter (1.9kg lighter) and more powerful. Yep, the new Outback runs a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine making 138kW at 5800rpm and 245Nm of torque from 3400-4600rpm which is up from 129kW and 235Nm in the old model. But if you want to get properly nerdy, here’s a list of the detail changes to the engine (it’s a long list):

  • Cylinder block – Strength increases to suit the higher compression ratio of 12.0. Weight is reduced by approximately 10%.
  • Journal piece – Cast iron pieces are used for #1 and #5 journals, limiting vibration and noise.
  • Cylinder liner – Thickness is reduced from 2.2 mm to 1.5 mm and the shape of the alloy contact surface adjusted, improving adhesion to the cylinder block, preventing bore deformation and reducing oil consumption.
  • Water jacket spacer – The water jacket spacer is eliminated, saving weight, due to thermal management control optimizing liner temperature.
  • Crank bearing – A molybdenum coating is added to all bearings (#1 to #5), optimizing fuel efficiency by reducing friction.
  • Cylinder head – The port shape is redesigned for improved flow, while the combustion chamber is more compact.
  • Intake port – Intake port shape is modified, improving air flow velocity and strengthening tumble flow, improving output and fuel efficiency.
  • Combustion chamber – The shape is changed, to accommodate the increased compression ratio of 12.0.
  • Head gasket – The structure is revised and the seal strengthened, improving the opening resistence to temperature difference inside and outside the engine, through thermal management control.
  • Port internal baffle – A newly-designed Tumble Generation Valve, made of weight-saving alloy; and port internal baffle, revise intake airflow, increasing flow into the cylinder, aiding fuel and environmental efficiency.
  • Oil spacer – A newly-added spacer reduces the oil volume required at oil change, also improving engine warm-up and fuel efficiency.  
  • Rocker cover – The shape is changed, reducing noise and vibration. The resin material saves weight over the previous alloy.
  • Oil pan – The shape is changed and oil volume reduced, while the strainer is made of weight-saving resin.
  • Crankshaft – Thick parts of the web shape deemed unneccesary are removed and the front boss diameter decreased, reducing weight.
  • Pistons – Crown shape is changed to suit the increased compression ratio and direct injection. 
  • Piston rings – The top ring is changed to high thermal-conducting material, increasing combustion chamber temperature due to the higher compression ratio; also preventing engine knocking. In the top, second and oil rings, decreased tension reduces friction. 
  • Connecting rods – The shape is changed, reducing weight and limiting big end deformation.
  • Crankshaft sensor plate – Thinner, with the outer diameter reduced, saving weight and improving crank angle sensor detection.
  • Active Valve Control System – A thinner structure improves collision safety and reduces weight. A return spring is added to the right intake, maintaining the rotating speed of the cam.
  • Chain cover – Oil pump diameter is decreased, with reduced friction when the pump is rotating. There is no change to output volume, due to increased width. 
  • Chain tensioner – Chain noise and vibration is reduced via a wider ratchet cam, while the alloy body saves weight.
  • Intake/exhaust valves – Sodium-filled exhaust valves contribute to power output by increasing knocking resistance, due to a higher cooling effect. Stem surface roughness and exhaust valves are optimized and friction reduced.
  • Valve springs – The shape is changed from cylindrical to conical, reducing weight.
  • Oil level switch – The switch size is reduced, saving weight. To improve detection accuracy, the method is changed from engine idling to engine stopped.
  • Water pump – Exhaust system layout is routed to the left side, suiting the Subaru Global Platform. Water pump pulley diameter is reduced from 130 mm to 100 mm to suit the change. Excess housing thickness is removed, saving weight.
  • Intake manifold – The resin intake manifold and TGV reduce weight. The flow channel when the TGV is closed is changed for increased tumbling motion.
  • EGR cooler – Use of a higher efficiency core, and EGR gas volume is increased by reducing pressure loss with the shorter piping. 
  • Brake vacuum pump – Newly designed to maintain braking performance at high altitudes and immediately after starting a cold engine. 
  • Throttle body – Shape revised, together with various component parts.  
  • Fuel system – The direct injection system improves engine output.
    • Injectors – Multi-hole type design, with a high degree of atomization. High-performance springs and contact surface improvements produce highly accurate injection control. The nozzle machining method is changed to laser beam, reducing unevenness during atomization. The result: optimized fuel efficiency and emissions.  
  • Thermal management system – A water flow control valve for the cooling system, located in the circuit assembly, enables better water management control via reduced cooling loss at low load; by restricting water flow to the radiator and via internal circuits. Temperature control reduces oil viscosity and friction. At medium and high load, low temperature control suppresses knocking and expands the range of minimum advance, for the best torque.
  • Spark plugs – To optimize fuel efficiency, the shape of the external electrode is changed.
  • Knock sensor – The shape of component parts is revised, saving weight and knock sensors are positioned on the left and right banks, increasing detection capability.
  • Alternator – 150 Amp specification maintains charge and discharge balance. The control system connection is changed from three-terminal to LIN communication, matching the new charging method.  
  • Accessory belt system – Mounting the alternator and air conditioner compressor directly to the cylinder block – and using a more compact belt system layout – helps lower the centre of gravity of the engine.
  • Intake boot – Pressure loss is reduced by 20 % throughout the entire intake system, increasing power. Now manufactured using an injection method, with a thinner wall material.
  • Air cleaner element – Changed to a dry filter paper type, reducing pressure loss by 20 %+, while retaining the same level of dust-holding capacity.
  • Engine ECU – Connector specification is changed to improve connectivity. The alloy die cast housing and steel plate design form a water-proof structure, while the bracket is split into an upper and lower section. 
  • Front exhaust pipe – A 4-2-1 collector is used, pipe thickness reduced and heat shield cover optimized for a sportier feel when accelerating.
  • Catalyst – NOX emissions, which increase at high temperatures, are reduced by fuel cooling. Reduced flow rate at which fuel is injected, optimizing fuel efficiency.
  • Engine oil – Carrying ribs added to each part have reduced oil volume to 5.1 litres – meaning volume of oil for replacement is reduced from 4.6 L to 4.2 L.
  • Auto Stop Start – Updated to make engine stopping time faster.
  • Belt and collector covers – The revised shape and thickness reduce noise and vibration.
5 things you need to know about the new Subaru Outback

Should be comfier on the inside

So, there are now new front seats that have apparently been designed to reduce fatigue and, depending on the variant the seat heaters now reach right up to your shoulders which is cool. Will make it feel less like you’ve wet your pants when the heating is on. And if you buy either the Sport or Touring you’ll get heated outboard seats in the back too. Nice. There’s a big, tablet-style 11.6-inch infotainment screen with Apple and Android connectivity. Whether the switch to on-screen controls for the majority of in-cabin functionality will prove a pain remains to be seen (I still like some physical dials for things like climate control). Depending on the variant you’ll get different seat materials, from fabric, to water-resistant material and leather. To keep the cabin warm and cool, the HVAC unit is now bigger to improve performance, and the footwell ducts are larger to ensure even temperature control throughout the cabin.

5 things you need to know about the new Subaru Outback

One more because we’re not good at math

The new Outback is built off the brands new platform which also features under the XV, Impreza and Forester. And it’s a ripper. It improves ride and handling, and affords more interior space because of a slight stretch in the wheelbase. But it’s also much safer. The new Outback is loaded with active safety features like autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, reverse braking, fatigue monitoring, and much more. And Subaru reckons, the new chassis and framework improve deformation protection in collisions at the front, side and rear. There are airbags scattered around the cabin and, for the first time on an Australian delivered Outback, a passenger seat cushion airbag.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.

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