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2020 Subaru Outback vs. 2020 Subaru Forester: What’s the Difference?

Subaru has built its brand on offering well-rounded products with standard all-wheel drive that makes buyers feel as if they could tackle just about any terrain out there, even if the actual capabilities of the company’s vehicles tend to be a little overstated. As two of Subaru’s most compelling offerings — the Forester, a compact SUV, and the Outback, a midsize station wagon with SUV-like attributes — appeal to a lot of the same buyers, we’ve compared the two in a few different categories below to help give you an idea of which one may be better for you.

2020 Subaru Outback vs. 2020 Subaru Forester exterior


The aesthetic differences between these two vehicles are pretty obvious. While both wear the latest take on Subaru’s corporate design language, the Forester has a more upright greenhouse and blockier proportions, while the Outback, which is a wagon version of the Legacy sedan, is lower and longer overall. The Forester comes in at 182.1 inches long, while the Outback measures 191.3 inches. Both vehicles offer 8.7 inches of ground clearance. See the 2020 Subaru Outback models for sale near you or See the 2020 Subaru Forester models for sale near you

2020 Subaru Outback vs. 2020 Subaru Forester interior


The Forester and Outback both offer a modern take on Subaru’s interior design. Neither is particularly earth-shattering with regard to cabin aesthetics, although it’s worth noting that only the new Outback is offered with Subaru’s new 11.6-in infotainment screen. The Forester’s screen tops out at 8 inches. With the Forester, you can get a Sport model that nets you some orange interior accents (along with some subtle orange trim on the outside as well).

In terms of interior volume, these two vehicles are pretty similar. Both offer room for five passengers. In its second row, the Outback gives passengers 38.1 inches of legroom to work with, while the Forester has 39.4 inches. Looking at cargo volume, the Forester offers 31.1 cu ft behind its second row, or 76.1 cu ft with its second row folded, while the Outback offers 32.5 cu ft and 75.7 cu ft, respectively.

2020 Subaru Outback vs. 2020 Subaru Forester mechanicals


The Forester and Outback make use of the exact same powertrain. Both vehicles come standard with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that puts out 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque and comes paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Both also come standard with AWD. Finally, given that their powertrains are identical, both the Forester and Outback are rated at 26 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg overall.

While the Forester is only offered with this basic 4-cylinder engine, the Outback can be had with an optional turbocharged 4-cylinder, which should appeal to buyers wanting better performance. A 2.4-liter unit, the new turbo four makes 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, good for 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/26 combined.

2020 Subaru Outback vs. 2020 Subaru Forester tech

Features & Technology

Both vehicles offer standard active safety features like automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assist and more, though blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection is limited to upper trim levels.

The Outback and Forester both come standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, though the Outback gets slightly nicer infotainment screens in both base and upgraded form. Both vehicles can also be had with LED lighting, heated front and rear seats and a power rear lift gate, although only the Outback’s is of the hands-free variety. Additionally, only the Outback is available with ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel. On the other hand, only the Forester offers a panoramic moonroof — the Outback gets a traditional moonroof. One clever feature of the Outback is a set of standard roof rails that hide crossbars that can be deployed when needed and stowed when not in use, which cuts down on wind noise and improves fuel economy.


The Forester starts at $25,505 and tops out at a little over $35,000. The 2020 Subaru Outback starts at $27,655 and reaches about $41,000 in loaded Touring XT guise. These prices include a mandatory destination fee.

2020 Subaru Outback vs. 2020 Subaru Forester conclusions 


When you look at the spec sheets, you may be surprised to find how similar these two vehicles really are. While only the Outback offers an optional turbocharged engine, the two vehicles share a base powertrain and offer very similar interior dimensions. The Outback is a little lower and longer, while the Forester is boxier and more upright. The Outback offers a few additional features like that available 11.6-in infotainment screen and those clever stowable cross bars, which come standard. Altogether, while it’s slightly more expensive, we prefer the Outback, as it offers more available features, a slightly more sophisticated overall package and most likely better resale value down the road. Find a Subaru Outback for sale or Find a Subaru Forester for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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