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2020 Subaru Outback

$26,645 - $39,695
Price Range (MSRP)
Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback Review: Complete Redesign With New Turbo Motor

by Jared Rosenholtz

Subaru's uber-popular crossover has been redesigned for the 2020 model year, but its complete overhaul has kept in line with the subtlety of styling that made the previous generation a suburban favorite, while under the skin, the all-wheel-drive family car also retains its off-road prowess. Unlike dirt-trail posers in the segment, the Outback is a crossover actually capable of mounting more than just pavements and is a unique offering that can both ford a stream, and ferry the kids to school in comfort. The 2.5-liter Boxer motor returns with a bump in horsepower to 182 with 176 lb-ft of torque. Turbocharging also makes a comeback to the lineup for the first time in a decade, with a 2.4-liter four-banger producing 260 hp and 277 lb-ft.

Read in this review:

2020 Subaru Outback Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 Outback?

2020's Outback is more than just a refresh, with the new model being completely redesigned inside and out. A gorgeous 11.6-inch iPad-esque touchscreen infotainment system is now available, uplifting the already classy interior feel. But, the big news for fans of forced induction is that the Outback is now available with a 2.4-liter turbocharged motor. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) of yesteryear has also been updated, and now does a good impression of an eight-speed, as opposed to the bygone Outback's six-speed. On the outside, color options are virtually unchanged from 2019, with just Wilderness Green being swapped out for Autumn Green.

Pros and Cons

  • Low cargo-opening makes loading easier than in rivals
  • Outstanding off-road ability for the class
  • Powerful turbocharged engine option
  • Numerous standard driver aids
  • Silky ride
  • Great rear headroom and legroom
  • Lackluster acceleration, particularly on base engine
  • Fewer cabin storage options than many rivals
  • Smooth - but sleepy - CVT transmission

Outback Exterior

Subaru buyers like the Outback as is, so new models have retained the DNA present throughout the last decade - C-shaped LED daytime running lights being a case in point. The influence is clear, with black plastic rocker panels, signature roof rails, and a wagon-like profile. Practical 17- or 18-inch wheels are available, while LED headlights now feature throughout the range.

2020 Subaru Outback Front Angle View
2020 Subaru Outback Rear Angle View
2020 Subaru Outback Front Angle View
See All 2020 Subaru Outback Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Riding on new architecture, dubbed the Subaru Global Platform, the Outback is a slightly larger vehicle than before, now measuring 191.3 inches long and 73 inches wide. Its height is 66.1 inches, while the wheelbase measures 108.1 inches. Importantly for a vehicle that aims to retain its trademark off-road prowess, ground clearance measures a healthy 8.7 inches with an approach angle of 18.6 degrees. It's not a dedicated rock climber and doesn't have the suspension travel or wheel articulation of a Jeep Wrangler, but it's still one of the best crossovers for gnarly back roads. Base curb weight starts at 3,634 lbs and rises 303 lbs on the heaviest Touring XT model to 3,937 lbs.

Exterior Colors

The focus with Subaru's new Outback is clearly on evolution, which helps maintain the current customer base, although it may not make converts of those driving rival products. Colors haven't been messed with much either, only Wilderness Green has been scrubbed, and Autumn Green has filled its spot. The Limited trim has access to all available colors, while Premium models do without Cinnamon Brown. Crimson Red Pearl and the new hue of green are colors that you won't find on base model, but the top-of-the-range Touring model also doesn't get access to the full color palette, as this model is not entitled to Ice Silver, Tungsten Metallic, or Crimson Red Pearl. Other colors include Abyss Blue Pearl, Magnetite Gray, Crystal White Pearl, and Crystal Black Silica.

  • Abyss Blue Pearl
  • Crystal Black Silica
  • Ice Silver Metallic
  • Magnetite Gray Metallic
  • Crystal White Pearl
  • Autumn Green Metallic
  • Crimson Red Pearl
  • Tungsten Metallic
  • Cinnamon Brown Pearl

Outback Performance

All Outback models are equipped with symmetrical all-wheel-drive, regardless of whether the naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter Boxer is fitted or the 2.4-liter turbocharged version. Power output on the non-turbo model has increased nominally, as a side-effect of an almost complete redesign aimed more at improved refinement than supreme performance, and the engine now produces 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. This gives it a maximum claimed towing capacity of 2,700 lbs, irrespective of trim. Turbocharged models are defined by the XT model suffix and will tow up to 3,500 lbs, thanks in part to the beefier power figures of 260 hp and 277 lb-ft. This is remarkable, as the Honda CR-V and sibling Subaru Forester can only manage 1,500 lbs apiece. 0-60 mph times are estimated to be in the mid-eight-second range with the optional turbo engine, which is average for the segment, although some rivals not optioned with a heavy four-wheel-drive system will dip below that. The less spritely 2.5-liter motor is considerably slower.

2020 Subaru Outback Front View Driving
2020 Subaru Outback Rear View Driving
2020 Subaru Outback Wheel

Engine and Transmission

Non-turbocharged models and XT variants are both fitted with versions of Subaru's signature horizontally-opposed Boxer engine, but the base model is slightly larger at 2.5-liters. One transmission option is available across the spectrum, a new CVT that can impersonate an eight-speed auto when you use the steering-mounted paddles in manual mode. When trundling along, the ratio changes are smooth and almost imperceptible, but when it comes to overtaking, manual mode is a little better suited to getting a move on. The base motor musters up 182 hp and 176 lb-ft, which is not altogether terrible, but the weight of the car does hold it back, and acceleration is acceptable at best. The turbocharged 2.4-liter produces 260 hp and 277 lb-ft, which is far less frustrating. That said, it will never thrill from a standstill, and it is only once the initial inertia of the heavy Outback has been overcome that the benefits to the more powerful engine truly stand out. For cruising and passing of slower freeway traffic, the XT models are far more refined and responsive, but at low speeds, you'll be hard-pressed to decide which is less lively. Still, the turbo is good enough for most duties and will likely be a better seller.

  • Engines
    2.4-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas, 2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
  • Transmission
    Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    AWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Outback is proud of its off-road prowess, with media launches typically consisting of driving on rough, rocky terrain with sections including muddy, rutted trails and paths that take one through small bodies of water or streams. The Outback typically excels here, and although not an off-roader through-and-through, there's probably someone you know who has heard a tale from a Subaru owner who regaled all who would listen on the Outback's ability to embarrass or at least compete with more purpose-built machinery. However, most of this crossover's time with the wheels turning will be spent on regular tarmac. Although not a differently-shaped rally hero, the Outback is extremely capable, always finding grip even in snow and on other slippery surfaces. It is sold to people who desire practicality, reliability, and a smooth ride - all of which it delivers, but at the cost of fun. The steering is good, but like almost all electrically-assisted setups, has no feel in the straight-ahead position. The ride is supremely comfortable and will remain composed over bumps small and large alike, while the chassis will manage turn-in fairly well. Braking, too, is reassuringly good and easy to modulate. Sadly, the aforementioned rally-heritage is not evident here, so look elsewhere for a fun drive. This car does commuting and off-roading exceptionally well, but lacks fizz.

Outback Gas Mileage

The 2020 Subaru Outback achieves 26/33/29mpg on the city/highway/combined EPA driving cycles with its base 2.5-liter engine. Its 18.5-gallon gas tank thus returns an average of 536.5 miles per fill-up, although Subaru claims that 600 miles off a tank is easily achievable. The smaller, more powerful, turbocharged engine is predictably a little worse, returning figures of 23/30/26mpg on the same cycles, which equates to approximately 481 miles per tank of gas. All-wheel-drive variants of the 2019 Honda CR-V fare considerably better, but we'll have to wait for 2020 model year figures to give a proper comparison since the EPA has not yet tested the new model as of the time of writing.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 26/33 mpg
* 2020 Subaru Outback 2.5i AWD

Outback Interior

A number of materials are available in the Outback to make the upholstery more comfortable - depending on what you use the vehicle for most. There is a choice of cloth upholstery, leather trimming - including a Nappa option - and StarTex, a water-repelling faux leather. Contrast stitching, soft-touch dash plastics, and brushed aluminum accents further uplift the interior. Well-built and solidly assembled, the interior is airy and feels premium, with plenty of room for ingress and egress as well as comfortable seating for front and rear occupants. A choice of either a dual seven-inch or 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system is available with connectivity solutions front and rear. The driving position is commanding and easy to customize, with 10-way adjustment and lumbar support on all but the base; but even this model is easy to live with, as pillars are thin and all-round visibility is excellent.

2020 Subaru Outback Dashboard
2020 Subaru Outback Interior Overview
2020 Subaru Outback Infotainment System
See All 2020 Subaru Outback Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Outback seats five, but before you make any assumptions about space or a lack thereof, it's worth noting that even six-foot-something rear passengers have great legroom and headroom. In front, it's more of the same, with a lot of room for occupants to get comfortable. The sills are also not too high, so kids shouldn't struggle too much to clamber into the back. Base models will require a little compromise on the driving position, as six-way manual adjustment is standard, but all other trim levels resolve this with 10-way power adjustability, as well as lumbar support. Mid to upper-range models also feature passenger power controls that allow eight variations on seat movement. Overall, the interior is a relaxing place to be, whether you're in the back or up front.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

Cloth upholstery is standard on lower models, while upper trims are treated to genuine leather. Colors range from black to gray, to ivory, on both cloth and leather options. A luxurious-looking java brown Nappa option is featured on Touring models, while the synthetic leather StarTex option is only available in gray and only in conjunction with the Onyx trim. A leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear-lever combination is also available for a more premium feel, complementing the brushed aluminum door trims, air vents, and infotainment shroud.

Outback Trunk and Cargo Space

It's all good and well that the Outback is roomy in the cabin and can comfortably seat all passengers, but if that has a big impact on the cargo volume, the crossover will be a failure. Behind the rear seats, the Subaru has 32.5 cubic feet of storage, which trails behind the Honda CR-V's 39.2. However, when the seats are folded flat in their 60/40 split, this expands to 75.7 cubic feet, just 0.1 less than in the Honda, which is a considerably larger vehicle. The expanded area is long enough for fishing rods, and voluminous enough to carry four to five golf bags. Onyx Edition models also get crossbars on their roof rails to extend the carrying abilities of the Outback.

In terms of cabin storage, the Outback boasts eight cup holders and bottle slots, although some of these will eat into the short door card pockets. A reasonable glovebox supplements a center armrest bin that can house wallets, while a narrow tray under the infotainment screen is big enough for one average-sized smartphone.

2020 Subaru Outback Maximum Cargo Space
2020 Subaru Outback Trunk Space with Seat Folded
2020 Subaru Outback Side View

Outback Infotainment and Features

Features

The 2020 Outback is generally fitted with most amenities throughout the range, with only the base model missing out on some options. This is the case with automatic air-conditioning, while all higher trims are fitted with a dual-zone system. A rearview camera and EyeSight driver aids are standard on all models, featuring automatic emergency braking and throttle management, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert is only available from the Premium model and up, while Limited models and higher get access to reverse automatic braking. Remote start, a hands-free power liftgate, keyless entry, sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats are also available, along with a heated steering wheel. Wireless charging can also be optioned.

Infotainment

Again, the base model misses out here with a dual-screen setup to control the infotainment's four speakers and the climate, while all other trims get a new 11.6-inch tablet-like touchscreen that resembles an expanded smartphone in its layout. Both systems feature Bluetooth, SiriusXM, HD Radio, and dual USB ports, while the bigger screen also adds dual rear USB ports, optional WiFi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation is standard on Touring, Limited XT, and Touring XT models and is optional on all other trims except - you guessed it - the base model. All Limited and Touring models get a Harman Kardon 12-speaker surround-sound system, while Premium models get six speakers.

Outback Problems and Reliability

The Outback is proudly one of the most reliable vehicles on the market, with IHS Markit reporting that 98% of all Outbacks sold are still on the road. J.D. Power rates it 81/100 for reliability, and there has been one recall thus far in September of 2019, for a missing bolt on the brake pedal. The Outback is covered by Subaru's three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty, and its powertrain has coverage for five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Outback Safety

The 2020 Outback has not yet been rated by the NHTSA, but has scored the best possible rating of Good in every single crash test that the IIHS could subject it to. This is thanks to Subaru's new chassis architecture designed specifically to cope with the strenuous tests the IIHS performs, particularly their ruthless front overlap test.

Key Safety Features

Subaru places a high value on safety in their cars and particularly the Outback, which features eight airbags, including front, side, curtain and seat-cushion airbags. STARLINK connected services can also alert emergency services in the event of a crash. EyeSight driver assists are standard and feature adaptive cruise control with lane centering, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist. Optional features include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking. A rearview camera is also included across the range.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Subaru Outback a good car?

The Subaru Outback may at first seem like a car that caters to a specific set of buyers - people who enjoy the outdoors and need the all-wheel capability ground clearance that this vehicle offers. But, this is more than just a one-trick pony that you buy because you need to. The Outback is bought over and over by a certain niche - yes - but it is not just the wilderness-braving adventurers and campers who buy it. It makes a lot of sense for American families, too. Competitive pricing and great resale values have contributed to making this the best-selling AWD crossover in its segment for the past ten years, because it does everything, and does it well. It is supremely comfortable, silkily smooth, and subtly styled. It offers magnificent space, decent fuel economy, and almost unrivaled reliability. Thanks to its new turbocharged powerplant, it also accelerates with purpose. Laden with tech and safety features too, the real conundrum is not whether you should buy this car. The question is, why wouldn't you?

What's the Price of the 2020 Subaru Outback?

Pricing for the Outback starts from $26,645 for the base model, before destination fees, taxes, and other charges. Moving up to the Premium will cost $28,895, $33,445 for the Limited, and $37,345 for the Touring. The new Onyx Edition XT will set you back $34,895. The other XT models in the lineup, the Limited XT and Touring XT, start at $37,745 and $39,695, respectively. Fully loaded, the Touring XT will cost $42,745, including the $1,010 destination charge - but you can add to this with lifestyle add-ons like ski racks, roof box, or even surfboard straps.

2020 Subaru Outback Models

Seven models define the Outback lineup for 2020: the base Outback, Premium, Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT and Touring XT.

All models feature all-wheel-drive and a CVT transmission, with the first four fitted with Subaru's 2.5-liter Boxer engine. The base model features EyeSight driver assistance technology, automatic LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, hill-descent control, cloth upholstery, and a rearview camera. A pair of seven-inch screens manage Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment and the climate control. Premium models upgrade to an 11.6-inch touchscreen, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, WiFi, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and dual-zone automatic climate control along with heated front seats. Limited models build on this with keyless entry, adaptive headlights, push-to-start, 18-inch wheels, and a hands-free liftgate as well as an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat and heated rear seats. A Harman Kardon audio upgrade brings the speaker-tally to 12, up from six in the Premium and four in the base model. Moving on to the Touring will get you exclusive Java Brown Nappa upholstery and ventilated front seats, as well as a 180-degree front camera and a sunroof. Navigation is also standard on this model. The Onyx Edition XT gets the new 2.4-liter turbo motor with more power, and like all other XT models, it also features dual-exit exhaust tips. Blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, and X-Mode, which allows for more intense off-road expeditions (particularly in snow or mud), are also added to this model. The Limited XT has the same motor as the Onyx but is similar to the regular Limited. However, it also gets a heated steering wheel and a sunroof as well as sound-insulating front glass. The Touring XT is fully equipped with all available safety and convenience tech, adding the above-mentioned turbo engine and XT styling cues.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.5i
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$26,645
2.5i Premium
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$28,895
2.5i Limited
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$33,445
2.4T Onyx Edition XT
2.4-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$34,895
2.5i Touring
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$37,345
See All 2020 Subaru Outback Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

The Premium can have the optional blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert system, keyless entry with push-to-start, and a hands-free liftgate added for $1,400. Adding navigation and a sunroof to the suite will cost $1,595 more. The Limited is also available with an unnamed package (all packages in the Outback lineup do without a cleverly designed call-sign) that features a sunroof, heated steering wheel, navigation, and the DriverFocus distraction mitigation system for $2,045. This is the best package, as it adds all the available safety features as well as a few convenience options for less than the top non-turbo Touring model's base price. Higher trims do not offer any packages, only individual add-ons for outdoor adventure enthusiasts, as they already feature most equipment as standard. The exception is the Onyx Edition XT, which will add a sunroof, navigation, reverse automatic braking, and $1,845 to your bill.

What Subaru Outback Model Should I Buy?

For outdoor excursions, the Onyx Edition XT is the most capable of the bunch, featuring a unique X-mode for deeper mud or snow. It also features the more powerful 260 hp and 277 lb-ft turbocharged Boxer engine, which allows you to tow up to 3,500 lbs. Its synthetic leather interior upholstery is also surprisingly comfortable, and gains the added benefit of being resistant to hosing down, should you get muddy. If you're not looking to do too much off-road stuff, the Limited is also capable, but costs less- and will get better gas mileage. You can also spec it with optional packages that add navigation, round off all the available safety tech, and include some additional convenience features, making it the best buy in the range.

2020 Subaru Outback Comparisons

2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback vs Subaru Forester

The Forester hails from the same manufacturing company and shares much with the Outback, making it a worthwhile option to consider, particularly when one notes its lower asking price. It shares the same 182 hp non-turbocharged engine with the base Outback and offers similar cargo space (although the Outback has more volume with the seats folded flat). The same driver-assist technology and symmetrical all-wheel-drive system are also standard on the Forester. However, the Forester is not available with a turbo engine anymore, it does not offer heated rear seats except on the top trim, and it's driving position allows minimal adjustment. Fewer cup holders and an older, much smaller, 6.5-inch (eight-inch optional) infotainment display also adds up to the conclusion that the Forester is less comfortable to live with every day. In this case, the Outback is a far better car - unless you desperately desire a more SUV-like appearance from your crossover.

See Subaru Forester Review

2020 Subaru Outback vs Honda CR-V

The newly redesigned Honda CR-V is similar to the Outback, in that its styling is mildly updated for the new model year. However, it does have a few aces up its sleeve that the Subaru can't match - standard wireless charging for one. It also offers a better-packaged interior with more storage solutions and a hybrid option. That said, the Outback's 11.6-inch infotainment system is unrivaled for sheer size, with the unit in the Honda feeling considerably behind the times nowadays. On the plus side, it's base engine is more powerful than the Scooby's, with the 1.5-liter four-cylinder producing 190 hp. The Honda makes you pay extra for four-wheel-drive, but not everyone is looking for all-weather capability, all the time. At the time of writing, pricing for the 2020 CR-V had not been released, but it will have to remain competitive to beat the likes of the Outback. If you need sheer volume, the CR-V will be a better bet, but as an all-rounder, the Subaru is still a better crossover for all purposes.

See Honda CR-V Review

Subaru Outback Popular Comparisons

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2020 Subaru Outback Video Reviews