Here are the top 10 good and bad things about the 2023 Subaru Outback XT Sport, in our opinion. There are plenty of other good things, and potentially bad things, but these are our highlights.
The Outback is one of the most popular vehicles in its class in Australia. According to VFACTS new vehicle registration figures, it sits in the same ‘Large above $70,000 SUV’ class as the Toyota Prado, Ford Everest and Isuzu MU-X (listed in order of popularity).
The Good things about the 2023 Subaru Outback XT Sport:
10. 30 years experience
Subaru has been producing the Outback now since 1994. That means it’s coming up to its 30th anniversary next year. And with that comes extensive experience and knowledge; you can take comfort in the fact that Subaru knows how to do this style of vehicle, and what works and what doesn’t work.
You also know exactly what you’re going to get. Almost everyone knows what a Subaru Outback is, without even seeing one. That helps to really build up custom trust and reputation in our view.
9. The original ‘crossover’ wagon?
The Outback is one of the pioneers of this jumped-up wagon format, if not the pioneer. But it’s simplicity and ruggedness is what has drawn thousands of fans all around Australia. This is literally a station wagon that’s raised up, and stuffed with hardy all-wheel drive running gear and filled with practical-minded measures inside.
Compared with the last Liberty that was sold in Australia, this XT Sport variant offers 213mm of ground clearance against 150mm in the regular Liberty sedan. But, with the Outback you don’t have to worry about some of the compromises presented in ladder-frame SUVs; this has regular tyres so it’s quiet and smooth on the road, and it features comfortable independent suspension with nice steering so it doesn’t feel like a truck.
8. Flagship engine returns
Although it’s sad to see the old flat-six retire, Australian customers recently endured a period where there wasn’t a flagship engine for the Outback; all variants come with the 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated flat-four. Which is fine, but a flagship motor is always nice.
For the 2023 model Subaru Australia has finally introduced the ‘FA24’ 2.4-litre turbo, which is essentially a detuned WRX engine. At 183kW and 350Nm, it is the most powerful Outback in the showroom. It’s also the quickest, with a Vbox-verified 0-100km/h time of 7.32 seconds.
7. Quality interior
Subaru vehicles always go that extra mile when it comes to build quality and interior materials. And the latest Outback is no different. It all feels well made and with plenty of premium materials, with very little in terms of nasty plastics. The sporty seats in the front are also really comfortable and soft, so it’s perfect for long road trips around the country.
6. Wilress Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
It’s obviously not a major positive but a good thing nonetheless. These connectivity systems allow you to present some of your phone’s apps right onto the screen, helping to reduce distraction and the temptation to fiddle with your phone while driving.
5. Big touch-screen
It’s not the best touch-screen in its class in our opinion in terms of the operating system and menu sequences, but at 11.6 inches, and in portrait style, it is impressive and presents crisp graphics. There are some physical controls and buttons around it too, so you can easily and quickly adjust volume and climate temperature.
4. Boot convenience
The Outback is known for its practicality and the boot is perfect for both active lifestyles and busy families. Firstly, it presents a nice flat loading space, offering 522 litres. It’s also not too high off the ground, so it’s easy to load in the shopping or heavy items.
There’s also easy pull-tabs on the wall to flip down the rear seats to expand the volume to 1267L, with a 12-volt socket on the wall to support a drinks cooler or other accessories. Handy hooks and a little netted section further enhance convenience.
3. Full-size spare
SUVs or crossovers that boast any level of off-road capability really need a full size spare wheel before it can be taken seriously. Because the last thing you want to do is bolt on a space-saver spare when you’re in the bush, or in the outback, as a skinny little wheel is not going to get you far at all.
2. Genuine off-road capability
With 213mm of ground clearance, it’s obviously not the most hardcore off-roader out there. But the Outback is capable of taking on pretty rough dirt roads, and it can certainly tackle snowy or extreme wet weather conditions very well.
Unlike many SUVs and crossovers on the market, which feature a on-demand type of all-wheel drive system, the Outback incorporates a full-time all-wheel drive system. However, it can still send more torque to wheels that have more traction if needed.
The Outback is filled to the brim with active, proactive, and reactive safety systems. It even watches you as you drive to make sure you don’t fall asleep. You can configure a lot of these systems as well to suit your needs. Of course, ANCAP has awarded its full five-star rating.
The Bad things about the 2023 Subaru Outback XT Sport:
10. Boxer engine is known for consuming oil
Flat or boxer engine types are known to drink oil. To the point where there have been class-action lawsuits against Subaru for excessive consumption – in the USA of course. Without getting too technical, the root of the potential issue seems to be down to the way the pistons lie on their sides when the engine is off.
The piston rings can wear unevenly during start-up, potentially leading to some oil bypassing through to the combustion chamber. This is then burnt off during the combustion process. Although major issues are rare, this potential issue is worth keeping in mind and you may need to monitor your engine more regularly than others.
9. Service intervals
This is just a personal opinion of mine, being a former mechanic, but Subaru suggests a service every 12,500km or 12 months, whichever comes first. It doesn’t seem like enough in our opinion. I’d suggest do it every 10,000km, at least. Especially if you need to keep an eye on the oil level.
8. Official fuel economy
The official average fuel consumption is 9L/ 100km. And in the real world, you could expect upwards of 10. In saying that, we averaged as low as 8.4L/100km during our test, with mainly highway driving. Even so, these figures are a bit high for an engine of this size and of this output level. Plenty of rivals out there produce either similar power and use less fuel, or produce a lot more power and use similar fuel.
7. Small boot volume (for its class)
If you look at figures alone, 522 litres is not that impressive for this specific class. But that’s mainly because the Outback should probably sit in the mid-size SUV category in Australia. But, according to VFACTS, it’s a large SUV. And so we have to award some demerit points for its boot size against those rivals, because 522L is not much.
6. No 7-seat option
Many SUVs in this class offer seven seats. With the Outback being a bit smaller, and with a wagon body instead of a more upright, typical SUV body, there is no seven seat option. That might immediately push some buyers away. In fact, Subaru doesn’t currently offer a seven-seat option at all in Australia, despite availability overseas.
5. CVT auto transmission
These types of gearboxes, in our opinion, were created purely to slash fuel consumption figures in lab tests. Because they were clearly not engineered to provide any sort of fun or engagement for driving enthusiast.
There is very little in the form of sensations of acceleration or interaction. It’s like sitting on a track. And you can’t knock back a few gears to use engine braking down a hill. Not like a conventional transmission anyway. They are great for eco cars in the city and so on, where driving pleasure is lower down on the priority, but in a potentially fun and active vehicle like the Outback, we think it deserves better.
4. 2.4 turbo should offer high outputs
Yes, the new Outback XT brings in a turbo engine for Australia, finally. But it’s not a sporty engine in our opinion. At 183kW of peak power, it is very average for a 2.0-litre turbo these days let alone a 2.4. And peak torque, 350Nm, is very normal for a 2.0-litre size engine – some produce 400Nm.
So with an extra 400cc, it should produce more. In saying that, we have timed 0-100 in around 7.3 seconds, which is decent for this specific class. It’s not quick, but stack it up against any of its rivals, most of which are diesel, and this is quicker.
3. Soft handling
The Outback XT Sport, despite its name, is not what we would call a sporty-handling vehicle. There is some body roll and softness around bends, and the steering feels passive rather than precise. The tallish 225/60 tyres probably don’t help with precision, but they are great for absorbing off-road conditions.
2. Overwhelming display
The main touch-screen definitely displays a lot of information, and you really should just sit in here for 10 minutes or so before you go for your first drive it, just to become familiar with where everything is. Some of the menus don’t flow as intuitively as you might expect, and some settings are hidden quite deep within menu avenues.
1. Very active safety systems
Yes, we mentioned safety as the number one good thing. But at the same time, some of these systems can be quite frustrating as well. For example, the dashboard can and often will buzz at you if you yawn. This is a bit over the top in our opinion.
The lane-keep assist system also works constantly to try and keep you perfectly in the lane. But in reality, sometimes it’s very difficult to remain precisely in the centre of the lane out on a country road.
Obviously these systems are a great initiative and they are there for a good cause. But further tuning and calibration in the real-world would be ideal.
As mentioned, these are just our opinions and of course some areas are not going to be an issue for some, or completely irrelevant in some circumstances. If that’s the case, feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below or on the YouTube channel.