Subaru’s new diesel Outback on test

Subaru’s Legacy Outback had everything a country-dweller could want, except for one thing a diesel engine. Now that’s all changed, says Nick Fone

Like Porsche, Subaru has built its name on its boxer engines. Every one of them – whether it’s in a battered old farm 4×4 or the flashiest World Rally car – has four horizontally-opposed cylinders.

Subaru says having two pairs of pistons working in opposite directions means the power-plant runs in perfect balance because every thwack from the left is counteracted by another from the right.

Now it has taken that principle and turned it into an oil-burner. Yes, it’s another example of Subaru ingenuity – the world’s first boxer diesel.

Subaru car outback

The world’s first boxer diesel engine. Subaru’s Outback oil-burner has the potential to make the Japanese brand a farm favourite once again.

What’s it like? Well, slipping into the Legacy’s velour-trimmed seats is like sliding into your favourite slippers. It’s comfortable and somehow manages to exude a warm, fuzzy, homely feeling without the deep shag-pile.

Turn the key and nothing happens until you’ve given the key-fob a second squeeze to immobilise the immobiliser. Even then you barely notice that the engine’s running. Subaru’s salesmen aren’t spinning a yarn when they tell you it’s quieter than a Rolls Royce Phantom.

But underneath all this serenity there’s a machine capable of taking you anywhere and shrugging off all the muck and debris you can throw at it. The Outback has been jacked up by 50mm (2in), so there is plenty of clearance.

A spot of bunny-bashing across some sloshy stubbles proved its worth. Even when it starts to bottom out, the limited slip diff quickly gets to work to propel the car out of the deepest ruts.

Subaru outback car rear

An extra 2in of ground clearance give the Outback the edge over the standard Legacy.

Most modern diesels are pretty nippy and will come close to matching their petrol counterparts, and that’s true of the Legacy, but it gets there via an altogether different route.

Pulling away, the car feels sluggish until you hit 2500rpm when it rockets off, with all its power clustered around 3600rpm.

In fact it drives more like a petrol. The spec sheets might tell you that peak torque occurs just below 2000rpm, but don’t be fooled.

Take one false step and it’ll trip you up by stalling. Misjudged rolling-starts in second gear nearly always result in an embarrassing kerumph and then silence this Outback doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

On a practical level this means towing isn’t going to be the Outback’s forte and you might expect fuel consumption to be an issue with all its muscle lumped at the top of the rev range. But surprisingly it isn’t. It averaged about 46mpg while we had it, beating the Ford Mondeo and VW Passat.

At £22,495, it looks like a bargain next to other 4wd estates like Volvo’s £31,495 XC70 and Audi’s £34,400 Allroad.


Subaru Legacy Outback Diesel


Two-litre, four-cyl “boxer” common-rail turbo




Five-speed manual


4wd with centre differential and rear limited slip diff

Ground clearance

195mm (7.7in)

Towing capacity





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