The new 2020 Subaru Outback has bucked the crossover trend by becoming far more off-road-capable with each redesign. The Outback arrived back in 1994 as a version of the Legacy station wagon with slightly taller tires, 2-tone paint, and standard mud flaps. Ooh, mud flaps!
A year later, Subaru added a lifted suspension, while later models swapped in more sophisticated all-wheel-drive systems and off-road traction control modes. The Outback has actually become more SUV like even though its looks still say wagon with a roof rack and lift kit. (Fun fact: Subaru hasn’t sold a Legacy wagon anywhere in the world in two model generations.) With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Outback sits a smidge higher off the ground than a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
And now Subaru dealers will bolt on a pair of steel skid plates — about $230 gets you both — to protect the bottom of the engine and the rear differential from any rocks taller than 8.7 inches. The under-engine skid plate replaces a plastic splash shield while the differential guard stands on its own to protect a particularly vulnerable component. Both skid plates have drain holes to reduce muck and water from pooling up and degrading them.
Truthfully, skid plates aren’t a new idea. A number of aftermarket firms that specialize in Subarus have offered them for years, but this is the first time that Subaru itself has decided to cash in. Given its comfortable, spacious interior and reasonable fuel economy, the Outback is gaining popularity as a handy off-roader, and these new skid plates should only help its cause.
Now if only they’d offer all-terrain tires from the factory. Find a Subaru Outback for sale