Have you ever heard of anyone wanting to enjoy the dirt road on a wagon?
Me neither. That's like saying you'd want to drive an 18-wheeler lory on a race track. It's just not right - unless you're a hooligan.
Well, I did take a wagon to the dirt road and enjoyed it - my whole family enjoyed it. However, this wagon isn't the kind we've come to know like the iconic Ford Cortina or the new Mazda6 wagon. It's not low to the ground and meant for driving only on paved roads. On the contrary, it is designed to go off-road, river-crossing, and to some extent, rock climbing - Subaru calls it the Outback.
At first glance, the Outback seems to be a car you'd mistake for a standard family wagon with enough space to carry the playpen and a twin stroller in the boot, and maybe even a pair of bicycles on the roof - that is until you realize that it rides much higher than most sedans. The ground clearance of the Outback is similar to most mid-sized SUVs, and that's what makes it so special. It really was designed to be driven in its namesake - the Australian Outback.
Although it has a transmission that I personally don't understand and like, this CVT is paired with a whopping 3.6 liter Flat-6 petrol engine, and it is stupendous. Crawling along the city streets, there's a feeling of elegance in the sound and vibration of a large displacement boxer engine. Drive it around the open roads of the Quezon Eco Tourism Highway in the rain and you feel the blessing of a surefooted all wheeler with all 256 horses kicking you to the backrest of your seat.
My experience with the Outback was with the wife, two kids, a nanny, a little more than half a tank of petrol and an itinerary of 248 kilometers from Makati to Laguna to Quezon and back around Mount Banahaw. I honestly thought I would have to fill up the tank a couple of times to complete the route, but to my surprise, a top-up of five hundred pesos worth of premium petrol and five hundred kilos of self-control got the whole family around and back safe and sound. With an engine this size, the Outback can be surprisingly frugal.
During the trip, all sorts of roads were present - dirt, mud, grass, stone, concrete, and asphalt. They came in all shapes and sizes, too. We went through highways, town roads, single-lane bridges, landslide twisties, eskinitas, and even a 200 year old bridge. The Outback ate them all like cookies to a blue monster from Sesame Street.
In the looks department, the Outback doesn't quite rank high as a head-turner especially in this shade of bluish gray. It is very Subaru in shape and form, but with a more mature flair and understated design. Don't get me wrong, it is not ugly - at all. This photographer thinks the Outback is beautiful from any angle, but it definitely does not scream at you to look at it - it surely isn't an attention whore. For some reason, it is when the the sun is about to set that the Outback shines. The play of light and shadows against the curves of its body is proof that artists, not only engineers, had a say in how the body should be formed.
A nine hour road trip is extremely tiring as you may know, but not on the Outback - not for this driver, and not for the passengers. It seems, Subaru was able to make a vehicle that could go to where only SUVs would go while in the comfort of a family wagon's ride.
That is a feat.
That is extraordinary.
That is the Outback.
Ex-Public Highway Racer