UNWITTINGLY this has become a Crossover week. My colleague Geraldine beat me to the punch with her review of the Suzuki Vitara. I actually loved that car, my test one was in bright red and it made me smile every time I drove it – and, at the time, I needed a lot of cheering up. It immediately went on the shopping list.
Suzuki have been at this game for a long time, but its Japanese counterpart, Subaru, likes to claim that it almost invented the Crossover, that mix of saloon/estate and SUV with some off-road ability so beloved of yummy mummies and the like. In fact, 20 years ago with the first Outback, they started producing something very serious that could go off-road with the very best, while still looking presentable on the urban drive.
The smaller Forester has probably always been my favourite Subaru but the Outback could be a runner if you needed something a lot bigger. It has plenty of space all round: excellent leg room – front and back – loading areas and storage. Yet it drives confidently with the precision of a smaller vehicle.
It is also so solid and quiet that you can understand how well it does in rugged areas of the US, where it outsells Volkswagen. Its low-slung Boxer engines give a great feeling of stability. Yet over here, unless with aficionados, it hardly makes a dent in the market, partly due to price.
Starting at €41k and heading north to €48,995 for the 2.0D SE Premium model I was driving, it is competing with the luxury German brands and some silly snobbery. The engines, both petrol and diesel, are very tried-and-tested and while competitive on some emission and consumption figures, they do need refreshing. The test model’s yearly road tax was nearly €600.
The Outback is an amazingly safe car, not just for its responsive All-Wheel Drive system but thanks to its Eyesight technology, an advanced crash-preventing system which monitors, through cameras front and rear, to intervene if it sees obstacles and pedestrians. It can also be used for adaptive cruise control.
I hoped to take the Outback up some mountain passes but only managed the car park of the wonderful Knocksink Woods at Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. However, after reading reviews by people I trust, I am sure the Outback would have coped with the woodland paths and streams. I liked the car, but I don’t need one.
The Vitara is probably more my size but this Subaru is a great confident beast with a certain beauty, far nicer than many ugly, big and in-your-face SUVs. A true Crossover; a contender not a pretender.