Subaru’s latest offering – the Outback Boxer diesel – should see country buyers queuing in dealerships.

Story By Ian Glover

For more than a decade, the name Subaru was familiar to people all over rural Australia because of a little four-wheel-drive ute that’s still popular today in second-hand form – the Brumby. Made (but never sold) in Japan from 1978 to 1993, the Brumby was available in Australia from the early ’80s until 1994, and was unique in that it was lightweight and afforded a high degree of passenger comfort, in contrast to other four-wheel-drive utes available at the time. Even more significantly, changing into four-wheel-drive could be done on the fly, instead of necessitating a stop, as was the case with almost everything else.
Despite losing an extremely profitable and popular vehicle when the Brumby was phased out of production, Subaru Australia remained a very viable company, offering a plethora of products including the iconic WRX STi beloved by both amateur and professional rally drivers. The latest offering – the Outback Boxer diesel – should see country buyers queuing in dealerships.
A ‘boxer’ or ‘flat’ engine has horizontally opposed cylinders, in contrast to the conventional ‘in-line’ or vertical-piston arrangement, and is more common in planes than cars. Because of its background in aircraft manufacture (the original company, broken up after World War II, made Nakajima fighters and bombers, and present parent company Fuji Heavy Industries still supplies aircraft to the Japan Defence Agency), Subarus have always been powered by boxer petrol engines, but a flat diesel engine in a passenger car is probably a world first, even though Peugeot has used diesel boxers – both 1.9 and 2.5 litres – in vans. And it’s a beauty. With a 2.0-litre capacity and turbocharger, it’s quiet and brilliantly responsive, making overtaking unfussed and instantaneous.
The new power plant is mated to a six-speed manual transmission and, in combination with a tare weight of just over 1.5t, contributes to creditable claimed fuel consumption figures of under 8L/100km in an urban cycle and 5.6L/100km on the open road. Drivers can monitor their fuel efficiency by regularly consulting their ‘ECO gauge’ (basically a vacuum gauge, just like cars used to have when Grandpa bought his first one) in the instrument panel. If you can keep the needle pointing towards the front passenger seat most of the time, you’ll save money on fuel bills.

This story excerpt is from Issue #68

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2010