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2020 Subaru Outback Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader August 2019

Call it a wagon, call it an SUV, call it whatever you want. No matter what you call it, there's no doubt that the 2020 Subaru Outback is something a little different and off-beat in a world where bland crossovers reign supreme. With standard all-wheel drive, serious off-road capabilities and an inimitable character, the Outback has gained a faithful following over the years and the all-new 2020 model is better than ever.

What's New for 2020?

The Outback has been completely redesigned for the 2020 model year. Granted, you might not notice at first glance since the new sixth-generation Outback's exterior styling really isn't that different from the outgoing fifth-generation. However, this is a good thing for Subaru enthusiasts who like how the Outback looks and don't want it to change too much. Under the skin, the new Outback uses the new Subaru Global Platform, which is stiffer than its predecessor and could indicate more powertrains in the future -- possibly hybrid or electric.

Subaru calls the new 2020 Outback the safest and most capable Outback ever. That claim comes partly from EyeSight safety technology that comes standard on every trim. This includes automatic pre-collision braking and an all-new advanced adaptive cruise control system with lane centering. That means it won't just ping-pong you between the lines, but will actually help keep you centered in your lane while the adaptive cruise control keeps a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. There's more cool safety tech available which we'll dive into later.

More big news for the all-new 2020 Outback is the return of the turbocharged engine. Subaru hasn't offered a turbocharged Outback since 2009 and this new 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine gives you more power, more torque, and better fuel economy than the 6-cylinder engine in the outgoing Outback. The base engine in the Outback is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter boxer engine that delivers adequate performance and impressive fuel economy.

The Outback is fully redesigned on the inside and the changes to the interior are much more noticeable than the changes to the exterior. The 2020 Outback's interior has a nice, modern design and every trim except the base model gets an 11.6-in Starlink infotainment system that looks and operates kind of like a giant smartphone. It's a user-friendly system that's rich with features and it's a nice upgrade over the dual-screen setup in the base model. Every 2020 Outback comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. See the 2020 Subaru Outback models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Standard all-wheel drive

  • Strong off-road capability

  • Nice, roomy, techy interior

  • Efficient base engine and potent turbocharged engine

  • Standard EyeSight driver assistance tech on every trim

What We Don't

  • Exterior doesn't look much different from the previous generation

  • XT models can get expensive

How Much?

$26,645-$39,695

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Outback has two available engines and standard AWD on every model. Both engines use a CVT transmission with an 8-speed manual mode with paddle shifters.

The base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque and returns 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The optional 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder makes 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque while returning 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2020 Outback is available in seven different trims, three of which use the turbocharged engine.

The base Outback ($26,645) includes the base naturally-aspirated engine, AWD, X-Mode, hill descent control, active torque vectoring, a dual 7-in-screen Starlink infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 4-speaker audio, EyeSight driver-assist technology, which includes automatic emergency braking, high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control with lane centering, LED headlights, roof rails, cloth upholstery, steering wheel controls for audio, Bluetooth, and cruise control, two USB ports, and automatic climate control.

Upgrading to the Outback Premium ($28,895) gives you some nice features over the base model, most notably the 11.6-in Starlink infotainment system, 6-speaker audio, Starlink Safety and Security connected services, which include automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance, and much more. Other perks include dual-zone automatic climate control, LED fog lights, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual back seat USB ports, and a retractable and removable cargo cover.

Take a step into luxury with the Outback Limited ($33,445), which adds leather-trimmed upholstery, a hands-free power rear lift gate, 18-in alloy wheels, steering-responsive headlights, power front seats, 2-position driver's seat memory, heated back seats, push-button start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, Harman Kardon premium audio, and extra safety tech including blind spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert plus reverse automatic braking.

The Outback Touring ($37,345) is the nicest Outback you can get with the base engine. Its standard equipment in addition to what the Limited model offers includes a power moonroof, chrome exterior trim, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, Nappa leather seats, navigation, and the DriverFocus distraction mitigation system.

The entry into the turbocharged engine is the Outback Onyx Edition XT ($34,895). The Onyx Edition is mostly an appearance package that includes 18-in alloy wheels with a black finish and black exterior trim, giving it a distinct and rugged character. Also unique to the Onyx Edition is StarTex water-repellent upholstery with contrast stitching and Dual-Mode X-Mode, which includes a Snow and Dirt mode and a Deep Snow and Mud mode. Other features include the 11.6-in Starlink infotainment system, dual-zone automatic climate control, a hands-free power lift gate, LED foglights, power front seats, heated front and back seats, and more.

The midrange turbocharged model is the Outback Limited XT ($37,745), which has similar standard equipment as the naturally aspirated Limited model but adds navigation, a power moonroof, DriverFocus, and a heated steering wheel on top of the turbocharged engine.

Finally, there's the luxurious turbocharged Outback Touring XT ($39,695), which simply adds the turbocharged engine to the Touring model with the standard features list staying the same.

Safety

As of this writing, the 2020 Outback has not been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, the 2019 model received a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS and a 5-star overall safety rating by the NHTSA and we won't be surprised if the all-new 2020 model receives those honors as well.

As we've mentioned, every 2020 Outback comes standard with EyeSight safety tech that includes automatic emergency braking, high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control with lane centering. Available safety tech you can add in the higher trims includes the DriverFocus distraction mitigation system, reverse automatic braking, and blind spot monitoring with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert.

Behind the Wheel

Predictably, the new Outback is an enjoyable car to drive both on-road and off. The new 2020 model is reasonably smooth, comfortable, and quiet and an improvement over the outgoing model. Not only is it a comfortable highway cruiser, but its standard AWD, active torque vectoring, X-Mode, and 8.7-inches of ground clearance add up to quite the rugged off-roader. Sure, it will never be as capable as a more serious off-road SUV like the Jeep Wrangler or the Toyota 4Runner, but for a midsize wagon, it's able to tackle some pretty technical off-roading. Its off-road abilities also make it great for nasty road conditions like snow and rain, which is part of why it's so popular in the mountain region of the U.S.

The base engine is adequate for most drivers, but the driving enthusiast will really appreciate the new turbocharged engine. The XT models have some serious muscle and are more exciting behind the wheel than you might expect an Outback to be. If you want a wagon that's a blast to drive both on the street and on the trails, a turbocharged Outback could be perfect for you. Again, we like the base engine and we really like its impressive fuel economy numbers, but the turbo is a worthwhile upgrade for anyone who loves driving.

The new interior of the Outback has made it even more of a pleasure to drive. The seats are comfortable for long distances and the EyeSight driver assistance tech make it a breeze to drive on the highway. Your back seat passengers will appreciate the generous legroom and headroom and the dual USB ports that come in most trims of the Outback. If you have one or two kids, this makes a strong family car and it's a little more interesting than your average crossover.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Buick Regal TourX -- We're just as surprised as you are that one of the Outback's closest competitors is a Buick. Nevertheless, the Regal TourX is a lifted wagon with standard AWD and decent off-roading capabilities. This Buick is priced very similarly to the Outback and comes standard with a turbocharged engine.

2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country -- If you like the idea of a lifted AWD wagon and have a bit more room in your budget, you might be interested in the Volvo V60 Cross Country. It's little more than a lifted version of the V60 wagon with standard AWD, but that's not a bad thing considering the V60 is a great luxury wagon.

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack -- Unfortunately, you won't find any 2020 models of the Golf Alltrack because it's just been discontinued. However, the Golf Alltrack is basically Volkswagen's take on the Outback being a lifted AWD wagon, but it's smaller and more affordable. Since it's being discontinued, you might be able to find a good deal on one from a local dealer.

Used Subaru Outback -- If the turbocharged engine, cool new infotainment system, and new standard EyeSight safety tech aren't all that important to you and you'd rather have a more affordable Outback, then a used model is a strong choice. The previous generation of the Outback ran from 2015-2019 and these can easily be found on Autotrader for less than $20,000.

Autotrader's Advice

At the end of the day, the all-new 2020 Outback isn't a revolutionary upgrade over its predecessor, but rather, it's evolutionary. Subaru did a great job taking everything that people loved about the Outback and making it even better by giving it an updated look, a nicer, roomier interior, and a huge, user-friendly available infotainment system plus generous standard safety tech. It also improves on the composed on-road manners and rugged off-road capabilities you expect from an Outback.

Which Outback is right for you depends on your tastes and your budget, but we sure like the Onyx Edition XT model, which has a unique look, dual-mode X-Mode and durable StarTex seats, not to mention it's an affordable entry into the stellar turbocharged engine. Whatever you do, we really recommend getting the Premium trim or better to get that awesome 11.6-in infotainment system. Find a Subaru Outback for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2020 Subaru Outback Review - Autotrader