One might wonder if the 2023 Subaru Outback AWD Touring XT is trying to be the WRX‘s big brother. It’s a car that will initially have you second guessing its purpose, but will also endear itself to your heart, in time.
Let’s get this straight right off the bat, yours truly actually likes this car and was a little sad to hand the keys back at the end of our test. Okay, end of review you can move along now. Well not quite. It’s not perfect, not by a longshot.
It took this writer a while to come around to its charms, it’s a bit of a slow burner in that respect. But there are a lot of things to like about the Outback Touring XT. First up, it’s a great looking car, with a real lifted wagon feel (rather than an SUV).
This isn’t a bad thing. The exterior has a chiselled muscular look to it. It’s more John Cena than Vin Diesel. No unnecessary bulges, heck even the intercooler cold air intake has been hidden behind the grille in a nice touch from Subaru.
We also know said car maker builds it’s vehicles for use off road, but it’s hard not to wish for a slightly bigger wheel and tyre combination than the factory 225/60 R18. While we’re at it, we did find the Bridgestone tyres a bit on the sketchy side for spirited driving.
That’s a task, by the way, this car is surprisingly good at. Power delivery is very linear and maximum torque is available from a low 2000rpm, which is great for zipping through gaps in traffic. The Lineartronic CVT does a good job of keeping you in the zone as well.
Where it does feel a little slow in is when pulling away from a standstill. The engine and gearbox combination seems to take what seems like an age to come alive and work out what it’s supposed to be doing. It’s a bit like when your alarm goes off three minutes early.
The suspension setup also lets down the Outback Touring XT, although when driving at a reasonable pace it works exceptionally well, with even the best that Sydney’s roads can throw at it, being soaked up with little to no fuss at all.
Unfortunately, when driving sedately this all changes and even the smallest imperfections seem to cause it to clatter and skip around. Perhaps that sporty nature isn’t buried too deep after all.
Just remember though, if you are driving in a more spirited way, that the 2.4-litre Boxer engine does like to drink. At times we saw over 14-litres/100km, and the average during the test was 12.8-litres/100km on 95 RON fuel.
An isolated highway economy test saw us manage a respectable 7.2-litres/100km. Sure, people won’t buy the XT version for its fuel economy, but it is worth mentioning. Inside, the XT Touring is spot on. It’s not too much and not too little, in that typical Subaru way.
It’s sophisticated yet a little understated, well all except the large 11.6-inch portrait touchscreen; but I’ll come back to that in a minute. Build quality is superb, and exactly what you’d expect from Subaru.
Ergonomically, everything is pretty much where you’d expect it to be, and there’s a good amount of space for driver and passenger alike. The 8-way electrically adjustable leather front seats are very comfortable, and offer a nice balance, with good support.
Rear passengers will be happy with the space too, and there’s enough room for an adult or larger teenager in the second row, even with a taller driver. As you’d expect, boot space is very spacious at 522-litres with the back seat up.
Pull the boot mounted seat releases and this expands to 1,267-litres, or 1711-litres if packed to the ceiling. For a car of this size, we think that’s pretty good. Back up front though is that aforementioned touchscreen.
Aside from the entertainment factor, it controls pretty much every function in the car. Thankfully a lot of the most used functions have actual buttons too, and that’s a good thing because you still have to access the touchscreen to change some settings.
That’s particularly so if you want to alter anything climate related other than the actual temperatures, which can be distracting. That aside, the Outback features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Touring also grabs a 9-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and while that should be good, it seems a little lacking in deep tones, even after turning the bass and mid-range up. CarPlay also takes ages to connect, with an odd layout on the portrait touchscreen.
Overall though, the interior is well thought out and a nice place to be. It’s a safe car too, with Subaru’s current generation of tech working very well. It’s also not overly intrusive, so you are less likely to switch it off, or worse, just ignore it.
On the performance front, the 2023 Subaru Outback AWD Touring XT is good for 183kW and 350Nm. Towing capacity is 2,400kg braked. While it doesn’t offer the same get up and go or handling as the WRX wagon, it’s got more room and a bigger boot.
It’s arguably more comfortable, with a ride that’s an interesting mix of sporty compliance and a little harshness, depending on the speed you’re going. The extra power from the turbocharger is certainly handy when overtaking or towing as well.
With the combined ground clearance and performance, it’s a good choice of car that can do the inner-city school or work run, as well as being able to mix it up at the weekend (maybe not to the same degree as the WRX wagon or BRZ, but you can definitely have some fun).
It’s also at home on an outback (pardon the pun) road. Maybe it’s the Swiss army knife of cars. With just enough of everything to suit most people, especially if you don’t need a large 4WD, this could well be a great option.
You just need to decide whether the $5K price hike over the naturally aspirated model, is worth it for the extra power and sportier suspension. For the record, the 2023 Subaru Outback AWD Touring XT is $61,559 drive away, in its as tested form.
It comes with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with optional three and 5-year care plans available. Two interior trim options are available, both in Nappa leather, in either plain black, or black and ivory.
There’s a raft of exterior colours to choose from including Crystal White Pearl, Ice Silver Metallic, Brilliant Bronze Metallic, Crimson Red Pearl, Storm Grey Metallic, Autumn Green Metallic, Sapphire Blue Pearl, Magnetite Grey Metallic and Crystal Black Silica.
You can find out more on the Subaru Australia website. If you’re keen on one and need finance, talk to CreditOne.
Our test vehicle was provided by Subaru Australia. To find out more about the 2023 Subaru Outback AWD Touring XT, contact your local Subaru dealer.