The badge on Subaru’s Outback relates to a group of stars – appropriate for a car with some serious sparkle.

The fifth generation of the high performance, all-wheel-drive estate that first appeared back in 1994, packs all the supremely practical qualities of its predecessors with a step up in technology.

Combining the versatility of a large tourer with the off-the-beaten track qualities of a 4x4, the Outback remains remarkably capable in the toughest conditions.

My time with the car coincided with the arrival of Sunday’s heavy snowfall which made the Oxford Hill climb out of Witney on to the A40 extremely tricky for drivers, many of whom were reliant on a small team of spade-wielding roadside volunteers to dig them out of the snow and push them on their way.

I didn’t need their cheery help. With 20cm ground clearance and a touch of a button to activate the new X-Mode all-terrain system, the Outback effortlessly sailed up the incline and on to celebrate my mother’s birthday.

Externally the Outback remains true to its rugged roots, with the more significant changes inside. The dashboard is dominated by a new seven-inch touchscreen and sat nav system and the cabin has more room for everyone onboard, with greater storage. The boot is also larger and has a new power-operated tailgate.

One of the neatest advances is the fitting of the EyeSight system that uses two cameras, sited either side of the rear view mirror to detect the presence of vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other potential hazards.

It operates six features: pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning, pre-collision steering assist and lead vehicle start alert.

In a nutshell it acts as another pair of eyes for the driver and will intervene to control the car if it spots a problem ahead. There is also a camera at the rear to help with parking.

Power on the test car came from a 175 horsepower, 2.5-litre petrol engine that is sold exclusively with Subaru’s automatic transmission. A 150 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is also available.

Handling and ride quality have improved thanks to stiffer front struts that cut roll, and revised spring and damper rates for a more flexible reaction to bumps.

The steering ratio is also quicker and every Outback gets ‘active torque vectoring’ – effectively braking the inside wheels under cornering, reducing both understeer and oversteer.

It all makes for more comfortable journeys without affecting the car's underlying feeling of rock-solid security, whatever the road conditions.

The equipment level is high, with everything from automatic LED headlamps and headlamp washers, to cruise control, heated front seats, electrically-adjustable driver’s seat and privacy glass.

The touchscreen display allows front seat occupants to control the satellite navigation and audio systems using the same touchscreen functionality as a smartphone, such as swiping and pinching-in and out to control the zoom on map displays.

The six-speaker audio system houses a CD player, USB and auxiliary input jacks and Bluetooth phone link. The various functions can be controlled remotely via voice control by pressing a button on the steering wheel to choose music, set a new destination, or change the settings of the climate control.

Smartphone functionality extends to a range of apps that pair up through Subaru’s ‘Starlink’ – including weather and traffic reports, news updates and a calendar.

Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades, a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation. In Subaru’s logo, the large star symbolises Fuji Heavy Industries and the five smaller stars the five companies that merged to form FHI, now known as Subaru Corporation, a fitting tribute to a range of cars with real star quality.

Auto facts

Model: Subaru Outback 2.5i SE Premium Lineartronic

Price: £32,995

Insurance group: 20E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 40.4mpg

Top speed: 130mph

Length: 481.5cm/189.5in

Width: 184cm/72.4in

Luggage capacity: 19.7 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 12 gallons/60 litres

CO2 emissions: 163 g/km

Warranty: Five years/ 100,000 miles