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