The new crossover is safe, but not as safe as the Legacy.
This year, the all-new 2020 Subaru Outback crossover and 2020 Subaru Legacy went on sale. Subaru claims both models have significantly improved safety thanks to the automaker's new stiffer Global Platform that improves crash protection, with the new body absorbing over 40-percent more energy in front and side crashes than the current model. They also boast new standard safety features.
To find out if Subaru's claims are true, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the redesigned sedan and crossover to destruction in a series of crash tests. Both models earned respectable safety awards, but the Legacy came out on top with the coveted Top Safety Pick+ Award, whereas the Outback earned a Top Safety Pick Award.
To qualify for a 2019 Top Safety Pick award, IIHS states that a vehicle must earn good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the passenger-side small overlap front test. It also needs an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and a good or acceptable headlight rating. Top Safety Pick+ awards, on the other hand, require a good passenger-side small overlap rating and a good headlight rating.
Both the Legacy and the Outback earned good ratings in all six of the Institute's crash tests and are fitted with Subaru's EyeSight crash avoidance system as standard.
Each model also earned a superior rating for vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention after avoiding collisions in 12 and 25 mph track tests. For pedestrian crash prevention, both models earned a superior rating.
But why did the 2020 Subaru Legacy earn a higher rating than the 2020 Subaru Outback? As is often the case in crash tests, the headlights let it down. When equipped with curve-adaptive headlights, the Legacy is awarded the top-tier "plus" award, but its base headlights were given an acceptable rating. While the 2019 Outback earned the higher-tier "plus" award, the 2020 model is limited to a Top Safety Pick because both the base lights and available curve-adaptive LEDs on models built after October 2019 were given an acceptable rating. The curve-adaptive lights on earlier models were rated marginal.