With the recent launch of the sixth generation Subaru Outback we took the opportunity to revisit a trip to Byron Bay in the new model and see what the differences are.
On our last trip in Spring 2019 we drove the 2.5i Premium Outback and this time we take the top spec model the 2.5I Outback Touring.
Right up front let me say that I must be the rain jinx as it belted down in Spring on the trip north and this time it did again, especially around Coffs Harbour.
Previous Trip reviews
- 2019 Subaru Outback Spring Drive Sydney to Byron Bay Video Review
- Drive into Spring Byron Bay via Hat Head to Sydney Part Four
- Drive into Spring Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay Part Three
- Drive into Spring With a Subaru Outback Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour Part Two
- Drive into Spring: Sydney to Port Stephens in Subaru Outback, Part One.
Last trip we took a few days to get to Byron, stopping along the way to explore coastal villages, this time we drove straight through to spend the maximum time there and explore around the Hinterlands and north.
So the first day, Wednesday, we spent some seven hours plus in the car. The trip is now mostly divided motorway which makes for an easy drive, but boring in many respects. However when you arrive at Coffs Harbour, not only does it seem to rain always, but you appreciate the motorway as there is a heap of traffic and lights to contend with.
In torrential rain you quickly appreciate the brilliant Subaru Active Torque Split AWD system that keeps you firmly planted to the road. Additionally the Subaru EyeSight® driver assist helps keep the vehicle where it should be and alerts the driver to any potential problems.
Just after Coffs Harbour the rain stopped, luckily, as it was time for lunch stopping at Woolgoolga at a favourite place, Bluebottles café for lunch.
This has been a favourite for many years and a surprise in a small coastal town. Pancakes and corn fritters hit the spot along with coffees and a refresh juice and we were ready to resume the trip.
The first thing we noticed was how relaxed we were and comfortable in the Nappa Leather heated front seats. It was raining and a touch cold so we took advantage of the little luxury. The additional electronic lumbar support for the driver’s seat was much appreciated for my ageing back.
The second thing that was obvious, is the excellent user interface of the new 11.6 inch vertical touch screen. It resembles a smart phone screen, is perfect for navigation and most controls are one layer deep only. The high definition screen clarity is improved, but occasionally in direct sunlight loses some clarity.
After lunch we headed off up the motorway again. The new Subaru Global Platform is class leading, ensuring a quiet ride and improved dynamics. The 8 step mode CVT works seamlessly with the boxer engine while cruising. You do notice it under heavy acceleration. However the Outback simply hums along without fuss on the motorway and if you have been driving too long the driver monitor tells you it’s time for a rest.
The revised 2.5I Boxer engine has slight improvements in power and torque and I would say it provides adequate performance. The platform cries out for a turbo version and I can’t help but think how good that would be as a sports touring wagon.
We arrived at our resort Elements of Byron in the late afternoon and were greeted by friendly staff, immediately welcomed back and settled in. We had a similar room as last trip, a two level single bedroom suite with luxurious bath and lounge.
For dinner we tracked down a Vietnamese restaurant in a neighboring village, Mullumbimby called the Pink Lotus.
It was about a 20 minute drive, which under normal circumstances would be the last thing anyone would want to do after driving for more than 7 hours, but we were feeling relaxed so off we went.
It turned out to be a hidden gem with absolutely delicious food, HUGE servings and a super helpful waitress, Maya, to guide us through the menu. A large beef PHO and Vietnamese green curry were more than enough for us both.
Next day we found some local growers markets, bought the obligatory organic fruit and veges, then headed to the Gold Coast, yes more driving, as my partner had never been there and she wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
The Gold Coast is internationally famous and on the surface it’s all glitz and glamour, but not my cup of tea nor my partners thankfully. She thought it was dirty and tacky. It is however good for a drive along the beachfront and remains an important tourist destination.
The best part was a huge seafood platter at the award winning seafood Omero Bros restaurant at the northern end of the Gold Coast.
On the way back we stopped off at Pottsville a little seaside village that I visited many years ago. Not any more, the development along the north coast from Byron Bay all the way through to Noosa is mind boggling and to be honest a little disappointing that it has been allowed to become so populated.
There is a popular bar in Byron called the Balcony, you can sit enjoying cocktails and local craft brews at happy hour and survey all the activity below on the main intersection of Byron Bay township. Its a little bit of New Orleans right here in Byron. On return to the resort we went for a dip in the adults pool with swim up bar. Always a treat.
Friday was spent exploring the local Byron Bay area, indulging in coffee shops and local cafes. Wategoes Beach, the Lighthouse and surrounds. It’s a vibrant buzzing atmosphere on the surface. However the money has well and truly moved in and locals are being priced out.
It was also obvious that the travel restrictions from Covid have hit hard, backpackers are scarce and everywhere is advertising for workers. Speaking to the workers at Elements they told me that usually they have an abundance of backpacker workers, but not this year. Even managers were cleaning rooms they were telling me.
Now Saturday is Market day for the region, so early that morning we wanted to get a croissant and coffee and head off. The problem being that we went to three coffee shops before we were able to get that. All the rest served vegan nut slices or super heathy food. Not what we wanted.
First up was a pleasant drive through the hinterland to Bangalow, and the Farmers market again. The windy road through the hills showed how planted the Outback platform is, it has compliant ride and excellent platform dynamics.
The markets had a wide assortment of exotic fruits, which my partner enjoys, and all organic and very well priced. I enjoy buying from markets and roadside stalls as it supports local economies. I can attest to the effectiveness of the rear emergency braking as twice the Outback hit the brakes for me. The first time was when a cyclist came from nowhere riding behind my reversing car and the second was when I was parking and there was a shrub behind me. I was going to back up against it but the car wouldn’t let me.
After they finished we took a longer drive to Lismore, the largest regional centre, surrounded by cattle country and not far from the alternate town of Nimbin. It was night time before we headed back and along the twisty roads the dynamic LED headlights were a distinct benefit. LED fog lights and Auto High beam also makes concentrating easier.
Saturday night was spent around the main pool of the resort enjoying cocktails and just chilling. The staff is so friendly and welcoming, nothing seems too much trouble for them. When we were sitting there my partner mentioned she was a little cold and within two minutes she had a warm blanket.
Sunday morning started with a quick breakfast poolside at the resort then a trip down the coast through Lennox Head, Ballina then onto the motorway. We connected the Bluetooth, found my favourite music for the nine-speaker Harman kardon® system and settled in for the drive. Unusually the Outback has a slot for a CD in the centre console bin as well.
It’s a sign of just how well the platform dynamics and interior comfort work in unison, that when we arrived home we were tired from the long day, but not from the effort of driving.
And yet again a much anticipated holiday was over and the real world to be faced tomorrow.
Final thoughts for the week road trip
- We covered just over 2,000km in the week
- At no time did we feel fatigued from the long days spent in the car.
- Economy for the 2000km was around 8.0l/100k and we got down to as low as 6.6L/100K on the motorway.
- The new global platform has transformed the Outback with ride and dynamics worthy of vehicles priced at thousands of dollars more.
- The new central 11.6 inch touch screen has an easy user interface and a clean appearance.
- The combination of true AWD and the safety packages for the Outback are outstanding
- I would love a sports version with a turbo engine
- The new wider boot opening makes it easier to load luggage and the auto tailgate opens high enough for my 190cm frame to stand under.
- The Outback is an ideal long distance tourer with the ability to be adventurous and explore the side tracks
- At a MLP of $47,790 plus the usual costs its outstanding value for money.