One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2020 Subaru Outback checks all the boxes it needs to

Subaru has completely redesigned the Outback for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Subaru

Subaru owners love their vehicle nearly as much as they love the pets they take in them. That's part of the reason Subaru didn't stay too far from the design path with the next-gen Outback. For the company, this new model is an evolution of the vehicle that simply packs more of what its customers are looking for into a great package.

The Outback is a wagon that is bigger than the Subaru Crosstrek but differently proportioned and stanced than the Subaru Forester and Ascent. The Outback is for nearly every buying demographic but does especially well among well-educated crowds who can afford to spend more for a different vehicle but choose not to.

2020 Subaru Outback Front Off-Roading Off Road Grille Lights The Outback has been completely redesigned for the 2020 model year, complete with additional lower body cladding inspired by hiking boots.Photo courtesy of Subaru

The redesign of the Outback was inspired by a hiking boot. You'll see the parallels if you look at the plastic cladding on the lower third of the vehicle and the painted, more stylish top parts. Its front is a bit beefier in this generation and the Outback looks more capable on the road. Underpinning the sixth-generation Outback, which took five years to develop, is the Subaru Global Platform, which delivers a smoother and quieter ride as well as added strength and capability.

Buyers have two engines to choose from. The base engine (in Premium, Limited, Touring models) is a capable but uninspiring 2.5-liter four-cylinder BOXER engine that generates 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Limited and Touring models are also able to be equipped with the turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It is by far the zippiest power plant and makes the Outback easily able to conquer steep climbs and get off the line quickly. Both engines are paired with a continuously variable transmission and the Outback can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

2020 Subaru Outback Engine The new Outback comes with two engine options, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a turbo 2.4-liter four-cylinder.Photo courtesy of Subaru

The in-cabin experience has gotten a big upgrade in the new Outback. Its materials and design are worlds better than the previous generation's, including the buttery soft Nappa leather in high trim levels.

Front and center is the car's infotainment system, which in the base model is a set of two 7-inch touch screens, one to display audio controls and one for climate controls. The setup isn't the most attractive but still includes standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a rearview camera. In Premium and above grades, there's an 11.6-inch head unit, which houses radio, climate, X-Mode (off-roading, torque vectoring) technology, and additional controls. The larger screen is very responsive and easy to navigate.

2020 Subaru Outback Interior Screen Shifter Wheel Most Outback trim levels come with a new 11.6-inch infotainment touch screen that is easy to navigate and quick to respond.Photo courtesy of Subaru

Every Outback comes standard with EyeSight, Subaru's suite of safety technology that includes the new Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering, a technology that modifies a vehicle's set cruise control speed to the same as the vehicle in front of them to help create proper distance between the vehicles and works to keep the Outback in its lane. The technology works best on straight roads and, because it's driver assistive, still requires a driver's hands on the wheel at all times.

Subaru has repositioned the seatbelt latch point in the Outback to reduce pressure on the hips and chest in the event of a collision. There are bigger, faster deploying airbags. Subaru has taken the extra step to crash test the vehicle's performance in the oblique overlap test, something the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration won't require until 2023.

The 2020 Subaru Outback is on sale now. It will starts at $26,645 and top out at $39,645.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC was originally slated to make its way to the U.S. early this year.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Manager Magazin is reporting that Mercedes-Benz is cutting production plans for its EQC electric SUV by half. The German magazine cites a shortage of battery cells from LG Chem. The South Korean battery maker is in the midst of acquiring a Quebec lithium mine from Nemaska Lithium Inc. That timeline is taking longer than expected.

Mercedes had originally planned on producing 60,000 EQC models in 2020 but is now planning on producing 30,000. The shift comes as Audi is adjusting from stumbling out of the blocks with an EQC competitor, the Audi e-Tron.

The new Mercedes-Benz EQC has a 80 kWh lithium ion battery. Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

In 2019, Mercedes had planned on selling 25,000 EQC but was only able to get 7,000 sales on the books allegedly because of the same problem.

Daimler is pushing back on the report saying that it will be producing 50,00 EQC models this year, which is still down from the 60,000 originally projected but not as few as the initial report indicated.

The EQC is a two-row luxury SUV. It features all-wheel drive and delivers 402 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque. The model is powered by a 80kWh lithium ion battery with standard DC Fast Charging for a 40-minute charge from 10 to 80 percent at a 110 kW DC charging station.

Mercedes has debuted the launch date of the model in the U.S. until 2021 after originally planning on having it arrive stateside in early 2020.

The EQ family of vehicles will include additional electric models in the coming years.

Infiniti has admitted that it made mistakes when it launched the redesigned QX50 luxury midsize SUV in January 2018. The right packages and options were not in place to give the model the success it deserved. However, in the year since its launch, the landscape has changed.

The Acura RDX has been redesigned as an agile and athletic daily driver, Audi introduced the SQ5 model giving sportiness to the family-friendly Q5 SUV, and the Volvo XC60 has made a strong argument for attention with a redesign. Lincoln has also introduced the Corsair, which is perhaps the QX50's biggest competition.

2020 Infiniti QX50 The models looks haven't changed much since it debuted in 2018.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

The QX50 is a comfortable cruiser. It's not particularly engaging nor is it altogether peppy but it is capable. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, the SUV does everything it's supposed to without protest.

The SUV rides smoothly and doesn't pass on much road noise to the cabin.

The car steers accurately if a bit numbly but it is easy to drive, especially when equipped with ProPilot Assist, Nissan's suite of drive assistance and safety technology that includes a lane centering functionality when using cruise control. The technology makes long drives less of a chore while also keeping the car centered when the driver exhibits distracting behavior like drinking a sip of coffee or changing the radio station.

Switching from a SUV with ProPilot Assit to one with standard cruise control is a quick reminder of how good the system is. Buyers should opt for models with the technology if they can afford it.

Steering wheel The seats of the Infiniti QX50 are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

Journalists who review the QX50 are likely to call its infotainment system dated. They're used to having the latest, greatest, and most innovative products at their fingertips. However, buyers coming from cars over three years old will likely see the QX50's two-screen infotainment system as a step up from what they currently have in their driveway. The controls of the system are easy to use despite the fact that the navigation screen isn't able to be easily read while driving.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the model, as are blind spot warning, forward collision warning, and forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Moving up from the $38,000-ish QX50 base model to the mid-grade QX50 Essential $44,000 gets buyers heated seats, a panoramic moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, Around View Monitor, power sunshade, LED fog lamps, and roof rails. It is in this configuration that the QX50 hits the right balance between features, power, capability, luxury features, and price. The QX50 tops out near $60,000.

Dual screen infotainment system Infiniti is one of the few companies that offers a dual-screen infotainment system.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

If a stranger were to approach on the street and ask if the QX50 is a "good car," it would be easy to answer with, "yes." It's not a vehicle meant for sporty drivers looking for zippy ride around town. It's comfortable, capable, and priced right for the average premium compact SUV buyer coming out of an aging model.