IIt’s always fun to test out a Subaru product in the dead of winter. Known for its all-wheel drive system, the Japanese automaker has a loyal following who swear by their products.
Sadly, Mother Nature didn’t really cooperate during my recent test of the 2021 Subaru Outback Outdoor XT with only a light dusting of snow.
So while I was not able to put the all-wheel drive system through its paces, the Outback still showed why it’s a success for the company.
For starters, the tester looked especially dashing in black, with matching gunmetal alloy wheels and black-on-black tailgate badging. It is so nice that I was even stopped and complimented on the choice, and it is hard to disagree, so good choice Subaru.
The Outdoor XT is one of seven trims on the Outback, but the lowest of the XT variants, and features a price tag of $41,483 (including the $1,875 destination charge).
New for all 2021 Outbacks are LED steering responsive headlights, and a rear seatbelt reminder, while the Outdoor XT sees the addition of a heated steering wheel and wireless phone charging.
Powertrain: The Outback is offered with two engine choices, both of which are Subaru Boxer engines.
The three XT trims get a bit more potency thanks to a 2.4-litre turbocharged and intercooled engine, rated at 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque.
That is a considerable increase over the 2.5L engine in the other four trims, which produces 182 HP and 176 lb-ft of torque.
The XT trims also receives an upgraded transmission in the form of a high-torque Lineartronic CVT vs. a standard Lineartronic CVT in the other models.
Enhancing the symmetrical full-time AWD on the Outback XT is the dual-function X-MODE, which incorporates Hill Descent Control, but also features a driver selectable setting so you can have the Outback ready to handle the driving conditions you are facing thanks to snow/dirt and deep snow/mud selections.
Exterior: Aesthetically speaking, the XT trim is much more appealing that the regular Outback. Yes, the styling is the same, but it’s the details that make all the difference here.
And while I am sure the gunmetal 18-inch alloy wheels, XT badging, and front grille and door mirrors finished in black would look good on any of the colours Subaru offers, the tester was just a perfect combination.
In silhouettes, the chrome surrounding the shapely window design is also a nice touch, while the large roof racks speak to the versatility of this wagon-style vehicle (some debate remains over whether the Outback is a wagon or an SUV).
Interior: Equally impressive to me is the Outback’s interior, which is nicely designed and comfortable. The Outback’s materials look and feel good, while the blackness of the materials is broken up ever so slightly by light-green accent stitching throughout the cabin.
The seats are very much on the comfortable side and with a 10-way adjustable driver seat, finding the perfect position is easy.
The dash is dominated by the large 11.6-inch tablet style infotainment screen, which also now houses the bulk of the climate control systems, including the heated seat operation. Buttons on either side of the screen do allow you to easily change the ventilation system’s temperature and activate critical defrost functions without scrolling through any menus – crucial in winter!
Also important to the Outback’s versatility is the cargo area, which is spacious enough and with the split folding seats, does allow for longer items.
Infotainment: That large screen provides a great interface for the infotainment system through Subaru’s Starlink technology, featuring large icons and clear menus that make it easy to navigate. While mostly a touch-screen operation, there are still two dials for the volume and tuning to simplify things for users.
It is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and on the XT also features wireless phone charging and a front-view camera.
Drive: The turbocharged engine gives the Outback XT a little bit more kick than the other trims, making it feel more agile and sporty.
In the past I have had issues with the CVTs on Subaru models, but the setup on the Outback XT is such that my experience was vastly different this time. The transmission has simulated gear changes to make it behave is a more “normal” way, and the noise from the transmission is no longer an irritant.
Out on the road, the Outback delivers a competent drive, and feels balanced and stable on any surface. With a good amount of ground clearance, coupled with the AWD system, the Outback is equally able off the beaten path as it is on the highway up to the ski hills.
One feature it had that I found nice was the Reverse Automatic Braking, which will prevent you from accidentally backing into anything – or more importantly, anyone.
Conclusion: The Outback does a lot of little things right and at the end of the day, they add up to deliver a versatile and capable vehicle, making it easy to understand why these models have a loyal following.
Adding the extra features – and power – of the XT trim are a nice addition to an already well-equipped package and makes this a vehicle that should definitely be on your radar if you are considering an Outback for your family ride.
2021 Subaru Outback Outdoor XT
Price: $39,295.00 CDN / $35,145.00 USD
Price as tested: $41,483.00
Configuration: Front engine/All-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.4-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder/ High-torque Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)
Power/torque: 260 horsepower/ 277 ft-lb of torque
Fuel (capacity): Regular (70 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 9.1 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 15.7 L/100 km
Warranties: 3-years/60,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mazda CX-9, Toyota 4Runner