First it rained. Then it rained again. Then it rained some more. In fact, I donít think it has stopped raining since the last update, so apologies if these words are a little soggy. Ideal Subaru Outback weather, then? Well, yes and no.
First, the good news. Subaruís symmetrical all-wheel drive system comes into its own as soon as the conditions become a little challenging. Knowing that the system is permanently engaged is reassuring when the rain is transforming Dartmoor into some kind of Venice-on-the-Moors. Thereís a sure-footed, almost mechanical feel to how the Outback behaves on the road, a feeling accentuated when you engage X-mode. Standard equipment on Lineartronic models, the system controls the brakes, transmission and all-wheel drive system to provide added grip and traction when the going gets tough. Itís as though the car dons its rock climbing gear; you can feel the wheels digging into the surface. Stand outside the car as it is being driven over a rough or slippery surface, and you can see each wheel working at different speeds. Add some classical music and it could pass as automotive theatre.
X-mode also features hill-descent control, which in common with other systems applies the required brake pressure to each wheel independently. It works at speeds of up to 20km/h and certainly helps when negotiating a decline, especially in the wet. Itís worth noting that X-mode also proved itself going uphill. Where our Isuzu D-Max struggled to climb a wet hill into the paddock, the Outback ventured on without a hiccup.
But itís not all good news. Show the Outback a damp morning and you might be greeted with a steamed-up windscreen, which ñ even with the air conditioning set to demist ñ takes an age to clear. Curiously, you canít remove rainwater from the side glass simply by lowering the windows. Itís a simple thing, but you have to remember to clear the windows before setting off. If you read my A4 reports, youíll remember that I praised the climate control system, which was very quick at heating and cooling the cabin. While we havenít tested the cooling properties of the Outback ñ it has been raining, remember ñ it does take a while to heat the cabin, while the heated seats are slow to warm up. Conquering the elements is one thing, but it would be nice to feel like youíve escaped them, too.
A final point: remember I mentioned the need for a washer jet for the rear camera? Iíve discovered the Audi A4 Allroad features such a device, perhaps taking a lead from the Nissan Note. Itís little touches like this that might encourage more people to consider the Subaru Outback. Now, where did I put my umbrella?
Date arrived: 20th October 2016
Fuel economy: 46.3mpg (combined) 36.8mpg (on test)
X-mode makes a subtle difference when the going gets tough.
The cabin and heated seats take a while to warm up.