- The 2020 Subaru Outback is all-new, while the RAV4 was all-new for 2019
- Both vehicles offer all-wheel drive
- The RAV4 is offered in an efficient Hybrid trim
Two of the leading medium-sized SUVs on the market are the 2020 Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Outback. While it’s technically a compact, the RAV4 has grown in size over the years and now offers a sizable cargo area, making it an exceptional all-around SUV. It’s no wonder it’s been the best-selling compact SUV in the market for a number of years now. The Outback is a raised wagon version of the Legacy sedan, although these days most buyers cross-shop it with sport utilities, especially given that most SUVs are more or less cars underneath. While the Outback is all-new for 2020, the RAV4 was redesigned just last year. As a result of their appeal, more than a few buyers will be cross-shopping these two in the coming year, so below we’ve compared them in a number of categories to help you decide which one may be better for you.
While both wear modern designs, the RAV4 predictably has more SUV-like proportions while the Outback has a wagon profile. While the Outback keeps things pretty much identical across trim levels, save for different wheels, the RAV4 offers a pair of adventure-oriented models that offer significantly different front-end styling than their more mainstream counterparts. The RAV4 Adventure and TRD Off-Road models, the latter being a new trim level for 2020, both offer grille and bumper designs inspired by Toyota’s line of body-on-frame trucks and SUVs. This gives the RAV4 a more aggressive look in these two trim levels, and the added body cladding and design elements they add bring these two iterations of the RAV4 more in line with the Outback in terms of aesthetics. One of the Outback’s trademark exterior features is standard roof rails that hide crossbars that can be deployed when needed and stowed in the roof rails when not. See the 2020 Subaru Outback models for sale near you
In terms of size, the Outback is the longer of these two vehicles, but the RAV4 is slightly taller. The Outback measures 191 inches long, 73 inches wide and 66 inches tall, and the RAV4 comes in at 181 inches long, 73 inches wide and 67 to 69 inches tall, depending on the trim level. See the 2020 Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you
Both of these vehicles come with modern interiors. Fittingly, the Outback’s is more car-like, while the RAV4’s is a little more rugged and innovative, at least in terms of design. The Outback’s hallmark is a large 11.6-in touchscreen infotainment system, which is included on all but the base model. The RAV4 tops out with an 8-in infotainment screen, offered on XLE trims and up. The RAV4’s infotainment screen sits atop the dashboard like a tablet, putting it more in line with the driver’s line of sight without cutting down on outward visibility. Both vehicles incorporate a cleverly integrated storage shelf into their dashboards just above the glovebox, though the RAV4’s is bigger and extends to the left of the steering wheel. Both vehicles can be had with a variety of different trims, but the Outback’s lean more toward a luxury aesthetic, while the RAV4’s are a little more fun and adventurous.
In terms of space, the Outback offered 39.5 inches of second-row legroom to the RAV4’s 37.8 inches. Move on to the cargo areas, and while the Outback is 10 inches longer than the RAV4 in terms of overall length, it doesn’t offer the advantage you might expect when it comes to cargo room. With their second-row seats in place, the Outback offers 32.5 cu ft of room, while the RAV4 offers 37.5 cu ft, an advantage of five cu ft. Fold the second rows and the Outback regains some ground, offering 75.7 cu ft to the RAV4’s 69.8 cu ft.
The 2020 Subaru Outback is offered with two different 4-cylinder engines, both of which come standard with AWD. The base engine is a 2.5-liter unit that puts out 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque and returns 26 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in combined driving, while the optional engine is a turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque and is rated at 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined. Every Outback comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Under the hood of the non-hybrid RAV4 is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes paired with an 8-speed automatic sending power to either the front wheels or to all four via an available AWD system. Fuel economy with front-wheel drive is rated at 26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined, while AWD models lose one to three mpgs in all categories, depending on trim level. The RAV4 Hybrid uses a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder paired with an electric motor that puts out a combined 219 total hp. Fuel economy for the RAV4 Hybrid is an impressive 41 mpg city/38 mpg hwy/40 mpg combined. The RAV4 Hybrid comes standard with AWD.
No RAV4 can match the power offered by the Outback’s turbocharged engine, but then no Outback can match the exceptional fuel economy offered by the RAV4 Hybrid. Also worth noting is that when equipped with the torque-vectoring AWD system offered as standard on the Adventure, Limited and new-for-2020 TRD Off-Road trim level, the RAV4 should offer just as much off-road capability as the Outback, if not more. CVTs like the unit found in the Outback are known to cut power under even the slightest stress off-road. Traditional geared automatics like the one found in the RAV4 are better suited for more strenuous applications.
Both the 2020 RAV4 and Outback come with loads of active safety tech, including automatic emergency braking, lane centering, radar cruise control, automatic high beams and more. Both vehicles also score top marks in crash testing conducted by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Outback comes standard with a torque-vectoring AWD system, while the RAV4 offers a similar setup on its upper Adventure, Limited and TRD Off-Road trims. Both vehicles also come with a variety of different traction modes for low-traction on and off-road driving, but again, only the Outback makes them standard, while on the RAV4 they’re reserved to those three aforementioned trim levels. The new-for-2020 TRD Off-Road model ups the ante with off-road tuned shocks, matte-black 18-in wheels and Falken all-terrain tires, none of which is available on the Outback directly from Subaru.
In terms of available features, both vehicles can be optioned with heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof and more. Both vehicles offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard for 2020 as well.
Factoring in destination fees, the 2020 Subaru Outback starts at $27,655 for a base model and reaches close to $41,000 in fully loaded Touring XT trim. An FWD RAV4 starts at just under $27,000, though adding AWD adds $1,400 to the price. A loaded 2020 Toyota RAV4 tops out at a few hundred dollars north of $41,000.
Given that they’ve both been redesigned so recently, the Outback and RAV4 are pretty closely aligned. Both offer modern powertrains with the mix of power and efficiency buyers should expect in 2020, both come with virtually all of the modern active safety features available on the market and either one mixes ruggedness with comfort in a way that few other vehicles can match. While the Outback is a little bigger on the outside and is more often marketed as a midsize SUV or wagon, the two vehicles are, in reality, pretty similar in terms of interior volume as well. There’s really not a lot that separates these two outside of form factor. Sure, the RAV4 offers a super-efficient hybrid model and a TRD Off-Road trim that comes with better tires and suspension. The Outback doesn’t quite compete with either of those models. Additionally, while modern Subarus can still handle any dirt road, so can virtually every other AWD vehicle on sale today, including the RAV4, so no longer is it safe to assume that any Subaru offers superior off-road capability when compared to a competing AWD vehicle. Either way though, choosing between these two really comes down to personal preference, given that in their most popular trim levels, they’re quite similar. We’d recommend taking both for a test drive and finding out what kind of financial incentives your local dealer is offering at the time of your purchase. You really can’t go wrong with either one. Find a Toyota RAV4 for sale or Find a Subaru Outback for sale