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.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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The 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade is a fresh edition for the company's lineup.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

One of Toyota's most efficient cars is getting the blackout treatment. Like other Nightshade editions Toyota puts out, the 2022 Prius Nightshade has all the requisite black accents while maintaining its heralded powertrain.

The 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade is available in front- and all-wheel drive. Buyers can add the treatment to Prius L Eco, LE, LE AWD-e, XLE, XLE AWD-e and Limited grades. It comes in the buyer's choice of Midnight Black Metallic, Super White, or Silver Metallic paint job. Front-wheel drive models ride on standard 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels while AWD-e cars get 15-inchers with black insert and lug nuts.

The exterior of the car also gets black headlight accents, mirror caps, door handles, color keyed rear deck spoiler and shark fin antenna.

2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

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Each of the models is powered by the Prius's 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, which is paired with two electric motors. A continuously variable transmission is standard. All-wheel drive models get an EPA-estimated 51 mpg in the city, 47 mpg on the highway, and 49 mpg combined. Front-wheel drive versions do a slightly better 54 mpg in the city, 50 mpg on the highway, and 52 mpg combined.

Inside there are standard SofTex-trimmed trimmed, heated, power adjustable front seats and a SofTex-trimmed heated steering wheel and semi-gloss black center console. A 7-inch infotainment touch screen is standard, as is a six-speaker JBL sound system. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa come on every model, as are an auxiliary jack, three USB ports, a wireless phone charger, and one 12-volt outlet.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard and includes a pre-collision system with low-light pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, bicyclist detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, and road sign assist.

All Prius models come with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and 60-month/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Toyota's hybrid battery warranty is for 10 years or 150,000 miles from the vehicle's in-service date, whichever occurs first. The hybrid system warranty is for eight years or 100,000 miles from the vehicle's in-service date.

This latest member of the Nightshade family means that there are 11 Nightshade editions in Toyota's stable. The Prius is the first hybrid to get the treatment.

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