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The Subaru Evoltis belongs on your family-sized SUV short list

A posh and comfortable 7-seater for P3,780,000

The Subaru Evoltis is the automaker's large seven-seater family SUV. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

I haven’t been up close and personal with any Subaru in a long time, but I confess to having a bit of a soft spot for the brand. My late grandpa used to only drive Subarus in the later part of his life, and he purchased his last one when he was well into his nineties.

Not that he needed a new one. He only ever drove to church and back every day, and to the supermarket once a week. His cars always looked, drove, and smelled like new, even when they were years old, and I still remember that lovely smell and how comfortable the fabric seats were.

The Subaru Evoltis is lightyears ahead of anything my grandfather ever drove, but I couldn’t help thinking about him when we took the latest version on a long drive north. What we found was a comfortable family cruiser with tons of space and some well-thought-out features. If you’re in the market for a proper family car, then you need to put this seven-seater on your short list.

The combination of EyeSight and a plush, luxurious cabin means every long journey becomes relaxing. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Like all Subarus these days, our test unit was fitted with the firm’s much-promoted EyeSight, and while I’m generally skeptical of all these driver-assistance thingies (I am the driver, and I don’t need assistance), I started to warm up to the tech during our journey.

Especially in the monotonous flowing traffic of TPLEX, the dynamic cruise control was useful, but it also worked on smaller province roads where it took some of the stress out of stop-and-go driving. It was also easy to understand and use.

In fact, the whole car is really good at making you feel relaxed and comfortable. Maybe it’s the fantastic 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, the settled and quiet ride, or the ventilated Nappa leather seats, but whatever it was, even after an eight-hour drive, I still felt refreshed and could have gone on.

Physical controls are a necessity for family haulers. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

The fact that some of the key functions such as the stereo volume and the air-conditioning retain physical buttons also helps, even if the touchscreen menus in this car are quite simple to use anyway.

On the subject of aircon: If, like me, you prefer a reasonable temperature on your side while your wife (who clearly must have some Eskimo DNA in her) likes conditions to be positively arctic on hers, then the car does a pretty good job with that if you flick it to Auto mode. Rear passengers also get their own temperature controls.

The Evoltis is not a performance car, but something that can effortlessly soak up the miles. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Despite a name that includes the letter “E” and the word “Volt,” it’s not a hybrid or a BEV, but a good old gas burner. Under the hood is a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder boxer with 256hp and 375Nm, and the Subaru typical all-wheel drive.

Power is transmitted through a CVT that does a decent job most of the time, and can also be controlled manually with flappy paddle shifters behind the grippy steering wheel. This doesn’t turn it into a sports car by any means, and it was more useful to keep it in low gear going downhill rather than playing race car driver through corners.

The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the 220mm ground clearance, and the clever 360° camera mean you can take this to a lot of places. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Having said that, the P3,780,000 Evoltis 2.4 Touring EyeSight that we drove feels well-planted and gives you confidence in everything you do with it, including the usual province-road overtaking ballet that always ensues. It does want to be rewarded for its hard work, though.

Subaru claims an average consumption of 9.8km/L, but according to the onboard computer, we hardly ever got more than 8km/L out of it. It’s a big car after all, albeit one that’s easy to maneuver even in tight spaces thanks to the various clever camera views.

Your family will enjoy long trips in this vehicle. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

The Evoltis—more than anything else—is a well-designed family car. And by that, I mean it’s packed with features clearly aimed at people with kids.

It has tons of cup and bottle holders; doors that open super wide to get child seats in and out easily; loads of USB charge ports and even a 120V power outlet; retractable sun shades; a Cabin Connect feature that amplifies passenger voices across the interior so you can hear better when a little voice in the third row asks, “Are we there yet?”; a drop-down mirror that lets you keep an eye on rear passengers; plenty of cargo space especially with the third row folded down (up to 2,061L); and a huge panoramic roof.

The Evoltis flies under the radar but is never out of place where you bring it. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

The Evoltis manages several interesting balances. It feels premium and posh on the inside, but isn’t ostentatious or flashy on the outside.

It’s a seven-seater SUV with an impressive amount of room for passengers, but doesn’t feel huge while driving it. It was carefully designed to be a family car, but avoids being totally boring.

It looks equally good pulling up outside a fancy resort or being parked on a beach in Pagudpud. If you never had Subaru on your list of full-sized family cars to look at, then it might be time to change that.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.