2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review | The big payoff | Autoblog (2022)

NEWPORT, Calif. — The 2020 Subaru Outback marks the sixth generation of a vehicle, first introduced for 1994, that is in no small part the lynchpin to its company’s current success. The Outback's sales have increased in every generation, with more than 700,000 sold in the most recent generation that started with the 2015 model year. Subaru doesn’t expect things to slow down as it introduces the all-new 2020 Outback, which has undergone a major overhaul despite its familiar sheetmetal.

The Outback has moved to the Subaru Global Platform (SGP), joining the Impreza and Forester on lighter, stiffer, and stronger underpinnings. If the 2019 Forester is any indication of how the SGP can improve a vehicle, this would mean the new Outback will also be calmer, quieter and more refined. Staging from the Inn at Newport Ranch on Northern California’s “Lost Coast,” with a day full of driving both on- and off-road, we were about to find out for ourselves if this would live up to our expectations.

Our first driving stint was in an Outback Touring equipped with the lesser of two available engines. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter boxer-four, with 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque, feels perfectly adequate for the driving we did at or near sea level, and climbs competently on steep grades. While it didn’t perform passing maneuvers with a sense of urgency, we still felt comfortable overtaking slower vehicles when we had to.

2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review | The big payoff | Autoblog (1)

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For daily driving somewhere like the California coast, or the suburbs of the Detroit, the more economical 2.5 (26 mpg city, 33 highway, 29 combined) would be our choice to live with. This is mated to a CVT, one programmed to “shift” like a traditional automatic, staying out of its own way, and providing a nice linear pull — without a rubber band type of feel — when you need to climb a hill. Paddle shifters on the back of the wheel give you a sense of more control, if that’s something you need. We rarely used them.

If you live at higher elevations, need to tow up to 3,500 pounds, or just really miss the days of a turbocharged Outback, there’s now a 2.4-liter turbo-four available in the resurrected XT models. You sacrifice some fuel economy — 3 mpg across the board, 23/30/26 mpg — but get a significant power boost, with hardly any turbo lag and satisfying response. We’re certain customers who’ve graduated from the likes of a WRX to something that can better accommodate kids and dogs will appreciate the boost.

As we had hoped, the SGP platform quiets down the ride considerably – we didn’t notice any squeaks or rattles, and tire roar was only apparent on rougher pavement. Wind noise is low, too, even without the acoustic glass on the front doors — a feature standard on the Limited XT and Touring XT models.

On narrower, curvier mountain roads, the Outback handles surprisingly well. The steering is particularly good, with just-right weighting, and offers the perfect amount of resistance as you dial in more angle. The ratio is quick enough that juking from corner to corner ad infinitum is done with very little hand-over-hand shuffling or unnecessary grabwork. There’s just enough feedback to give you a sense of what’s going on between the tires and the road surface while filtering out most of the vibration. This Outback is seriously easy to drive, and more important, it’s enjoyable.

(Video) 2021 Subaru Outback Touring XT Review - Start Up, Walk Around, and Test Drive

2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review | The big payoff | Autoblog (2)2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review | The big payoff | Autoblog (3)2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review | The big payoff | Autoblog (4)2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review | The big payoff | Autoblog (5)

Additionally, it behaves much more like a passenger car than its size and height would suggest — and it’s easy to forget that the Outback is essentially a lifted wagon when it competes against the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and even the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Despite its ample 8.7 inches of ground clearance (more than most compact SUVs), there’s minimal body roll, which means less stress for passengers who don’t have to brace against it. When we did just that on some dirt roads, the all-wheel drive, brake-based torque vectoring and other stability systems help keep the Outback pointed where we wanted to go.

Despite its sedan-like behavior, it’s not confined to the pavement, and feels at home on terrain where other soft-roaders would lose their footing. A good part of our day was spent off-road, climbing mountain trails overlooking the coastal plains below. Between the Outback’s standard hill descent control and all-wheel-drive grip, climbing steep, muddy trails was essentially drama free. When we couldn’t see over the crest, we displayed the feed from the front camera (a feature standard to the Touring trim) to see which direction the trail led. It’s no trail-rated Jeep, though, and is limited by specs like its 18.6-degree approach angle. Deeper ruts led to some scraping at the front fascia. Subaru reps told us that their team is discussing a quick-release lower front fascia that could help avoid such scrapes, but no final decision has been made.

In this Outback, the EyeSight driver aid system has been improved to include lane centering assistance, bringing it to parity with the Touring Assist we tested out on a WRX in Tokyo last year. Subaru refers to the system here as EyeSight Driver Assist Technology with Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Centering. We found it to work well, with some limitations. While it will certainly make congestion or stop-and-go traffic less stressful, on sharper curves, the lane following system would reach some limit, chime at us, and turn off momentarily. It’s certainly not the best or most robust driver aid suite we’ve used, but we’re glad that not only has the technology improved, but that it comes standard in all Outbacks.

(Video) Test Drive a 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition

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In contrast to the outside, the interior has been massively overhauled. Front and center, literally, is a huge, vertical 11.6-inch touchscreen, which is standard in all but the base trim. It fits surprisingly well into the cockpit's overall design, and moreover we appreciate that it bucks the “floating tablet” trend. It’s straightforward to use, and if you don’t like Subaru's native UI, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. The screen’s size and orientation make it easy to glance over and see the information you need. Subaru maintained hard buttons for a number of functions, including redundant temperature controls, for which we are thankful.

This is the second Subaru vehicle to use the company’s DriverFocus monitoring tech using facial recognition and biometrics. This driver-facing camera keeps a digital eye on you making sure you’re not getting groggy or distracted, and will chime a gentle reminder to keep your eyes on the road. What’s even niftier, DriverFocus will also recognize the faces of as many as five registered drivers, and welcome the individuals with their own settings as they slide in behind the wheel.

The new Outback provides a number of other conveniences, like a hands-free proximity tailgate that opens up when you approach the rear logo with the key fob on your person. With hands full, you can even nudge the flap on the cargo cover with your elbow to get it to retract. Cubbies abound, and the front cupholders are massive. The Outback also retains the nifty “Swing-n-Place” roof rails, and adds tie-down spots at the ends.

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And this is a bigger Outback than before, at least inside. It’s only 1.4 inches longer and 0.6 inches wider overall than the outgoing model. Inside, there’s a little over 3 more cubic feet of cargo space than before, rear legroom increases by 1.4 inches, and headroom increases by 1.8 inches in front and by a fraction of an inch in the rear.

2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review | The big payoff | Autoblog (10)

This go-around, Subaru offers a version of the Outback called the Onyx Edition, with the 2.4-liter turbo engine, and is targeted toward younger buyers (in a car whose average customer is 45 years old). It features blacked-out (well, dark-gray-ed out) wheels, grille, mirrors and badging. Inside, it features water-repellent interior trim called Startex, which actually feels quite nice for a synthetic material, though certainly not as plush as our Touring model’s Nappa leather. While other Outbacks have a donut in reserve, the Onyx has a full-size spare tire. It also features an upgraded version of the X-Mode system, with a setting for sand and mud, and has the 180-degree front monitor featured on the Touring trim.

The Subaru Outback starts at $27,655, including destination, for the base trim with the 2.5-liter engine, and goes up from there. Premium starts at $29,905, and adds the 11.6-inch head unit, all-weather package, power driver seat and dual climate control. The Limited adds 18-inch wheels, leather seats, blind-spot monitoring and reverse auto braking for $34,455. Touring costs $38,355, and adds Nappa leather, ventilated seats, DriverFocus, power folding mirrors and 180-degree front monitor. The XT turbo models start with the Onyx Edition at $35,905. Limited XT costs $38,755, and the line-topping Touring XT has a price of $40,705.

(Video) the 2020 Subaru Outback is a Perfect Lease! (or Purchase)

We came to California expecting a better, more refined Outback with updated tech features. We would have been happy with that. But the 2020 Outback isn’t just competent, it’s actually a pleasure to drive – a tall wagon with stellar handling, which makes it a standout against the crossovers it competes against. It does that while maintaining the utility and charm we’ve come to expect from the brand. Just as it did with the Forester, Subaru applied a practiced, winning formula for the new Outback, then refined it. When Subaru sales keep climbing, bolstered in no small part by the Outback, we won’t be surprised.

FAQs

What is the difference between 2020 and 2022 Subaru Outback? ›

Other versions of the 2022 Outback, which Subaru completely redesigned for the 2020 model year, get only minor tweaks. They include standard LED foglights for all trims and rear-seat climate vents for the Premium trim, along with small price increases across the board.

What is the recall on 2020 Subaru Outback? ›

The 2020 Subaru Outback, 2019-2020 Ascent, and 2020 Legacy have been recalled by Subaru of America and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a defective drive chain. The NHTSA says the drive chain may break, causing a loss of drive power and could result in an accident.

Did the Subaru Outback pass the crash test? ›

The 2022 Subaru Outback Aced This New Crash Test

To begin, the IIHS tested an initial run of seven popular midsize vehicles that all earned Good ratings on the previous test. This time around, only one received a Good rating on the new version: the Subaru Outback.

Which year Subaru Outback is the most reliable? ›

2019 is one of the best used Subaru Outback SUV years

The reliability and owner satisfaction scores were both above-average. Areas that are reliability trouble spots for some vehicles, such as the engine, transmission, and drive system, all received high marks as well.

Which Subaru is the most reliable? ›

The Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester rank highly for long-term reliability, and the brand scores above average for value retention."

What is the most popular Subaru? ›

The Forester is Subaru of America's top-selling model and outsold the Outback by just 100 models. The 2022 Subaru Outback is technically a wagon, but with 8.7-inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel-drive, it is considered a midsize SUV.

Who buys Subaru Outback? ›

2020 Subaru Outback at the New York Auto Show

The number one occupation buying the new Outback is educators followed by health-care workers (a lot of buyers are nurses), and the third group are people in technology fields.

Will Subaru Outback be redesigned in 2022? ›

Subaru introduces an all-new version of the Outback for 2022, the Wilderness Edition.

Is the 2020 Subaru Outback reliable? ›

How Reliable Is the 2020 Subaru Outback? The 2020 Subaru Outback has a predicted reliability score of 70 out of 100. A J.D. Power predicted reliability score of 91-100 is considered the Best, 81-90 is Great, 70-80 is Average, and 0-69 is Fair and considered below average.

Do Subaru Outbacks have transmission problems? ›

Some of the most common transmission problems you'll face in a Subaru include slipping, stalling, overheating, and trouble regulating engine speed. Though most Subarus are super reliable, some of the newer models have had issues with their transmissions.

Is there a class action suit against Subaru? ›

The Subaru Engine Failure Defect Class Action Lawsuit is Aquino v. Subaru of America Inc., Case No. 1:22-cv-00990, in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Which Subaru is safest? ›

  • Forester has earned an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK award for 16 consecutive years.
  • Achieved a 'Superior' rating in front crash prevention.
  • Eight Subaru models have received a 2022 IIHS TSP award.
  • Subaru has earned more IIHS TSP awards than any other brand since 2013 (as of May 2022)
13 May 2022

Is Subaru Outback fuel efficient? ›

The 2021 Outback XT turbocharged model gets an EPA estimated 23/30 city/highway mpg and 26 combined mpg.
...
7 SUVs With The Best Interior And Fuel Economy - Subaru Outback Scores High.
2020 Outback XTOutback cabin
Outback adventureAll-wheel-drive
17 Apr 2021

How reliable are Subaru Outbacks? ›

Subaru Outback Reliability Rating Breakdown. The Subaru Outback Reliability Rating is 3.5 out of 5.0, which ranks it 10th out of 26 for midsize SUVs. The average annual repair cost is $607 which means it has average ownership costs.

Which Subaru Outbacks have head gasket problems? ›

Subaru Head Gasket Problem Years – First Round

The first group is specific to the 1st gen EJ25D 2.5 liter engine found mainly in the Legacy, Legacy Outback, Forester and the Impreza from 1996 to 1999. These engines suffered from internal head gasket leaks.

What does limited mean on Subaru Outback? ›

Limited Trim – Subaru Outback in Southfield MI

The Limited trim level makes the Outback more luxury-focused. The seats are dressed in leather instead of cloth, the rear seats can be heated in addition to the front ones, the front passenger seat gets 8-way power, and the driver's seat gets a 2-position memory system.

How many miles can a 2022 Subaru Outback go on a tank of gas? ›

The Outback has a maximum range of over 610 miles on one full tank of fuel for a majority of the models. Those specific trim levels get 33mpg on the highway and 26 city miles per gallon. For the XT trim levels, they get 30 miles per gallon on the highway and 23 city MPG.

Is Subaru as reliable as Toyota? ›

Both Subarus and Toyotas are reliable vehicles in the entire field of automakers. Even though Toyota has the edge, a Subaru will still be a dependable car for most peoples' needs. On top of that, as of 2021, Toyota owns 20 percent of Subaru and provides the bulk of the raw materials for their cars.

How many miles will a Subaru Outback last? ›

All this road-tripping takes a toll, but the Outback, if properly maintained, can last drivers even up to 300,000 miles. This means that the average driver could expect to get 15 to 20 years out of their Subaru.

Are Subarus good in snow? ›

Subaru SUVS were named the top vehicles for traveling in the snow in a recent article in Consumer Reports. The Magazine published its list of “10 best vehicles for snow,” and not surprisingly, the Outback was first, the Crosstrek was second and the Forester finished third.

Where are Subarus sold the most? ›

In states like Vermont, for example, Subaru is over 11 percent of the state's overall automotive sales.
...
The 10 States Where Subarus Are Most Popular.
RankState% Subaru
1Vermont11.3%
2Maine6.5%
3New Hampshire5.8%
4Connecticut4.4%
6 more rows

Which Subaru is larger Forester or Outback? ›

The Outback is nearly eight inches longer and one inch wider. The Forester is about five and a half inches taller. When comparing maximum cargo volume, if you were to, say, put ping pong balls in both cars, you would have slightly more ping pong balls fitting into the Outback, with 75.7 cubic feet (vs. 70.9).

What type of person drives a Subaru? ›

There are real stats behind this one, too. According to data collected by a market research firm prior to the last election, Subaru drivers are more likely to lean Democratic.

Why are Subarus called Scooby? ›

2 Answers. it's a general name for any subaru, subarus are called subies that then becomes scooby, someone decieded to do this and it caught on with other people simple as that. 3 people found this helpful.

How long is the wait for a new Subaru Outback? ›

MORE Top 20 models: Which new cars are delayed?
...
Subaru model wait times 2022.
ModelWait time
BRZ6-7 months
ForesterFour months
ImprezaFour months
OutbackFour months
2 more rows
17 Aug 2022

Is Subaru owned by Toyota? ›

Toyota Motor Corp.

owns Lexus and Toyota. And it has a stake in Subaru and Suzuki.

What is the difference between 2022 and 2023 Subaru Outback? ›

The bigger grille, reworked headlights, and different bumper will apply to all 2023 Outback models except the off-road-oriented Wilderness trim, which has a different front-end look anyway. Subaru also says it has redesigned the wheel-arch body cladding to be more "functional" but we don't really know what that means.

Where is Subaru Outback made? ›

The Outback is built at Subaru's Lafayette, Ind., manufacturing facility.

Does the Subaru Outback have a quiet cabin? ›

Before the refreshed 2023 Outback arrives, Consumer Reports now ranks the 2022 Outback as one of the ten best midsize SUVs with the quietest cabins.

Are Subaru turbocharged engines reliable? ›

What Subaru engines are the least reliable? Subaru Report has documented the EJ25 2.5-liter turbocharged Boxer engine has had reliability problems. Subaru had three lawsuits claiming an engine defect in 2012-2017 WRX and WRX STI models equipped with the EJ25 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

What should I pay for a 2020 Subaru Outback Touring? ›

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the 2020 Outback starts at $27,655, including the destination charge of $1,010. The Premium trim goes for $29,905, Limited trim costs $34,455, and Touring trim runs $38,355.

What is not covered under Subaru warranty? ›

Like all manufacturers' warranties, Subaru's warranty mostly provides coverage for faulty or defective parts and workmanship. This means you can't have your vehicle repaired due to normal wear and tear from everyday driving. Additional exclusions are: Regular maintenance such as oil changes.

Does Subaru warranty cover transmission? ›

The Subaru factory warranty protects your vehicle for 3 years/36,000 miles. After this, only powertrain items like the engine, drive axle and transmission are covered under warranty.

How long will a Subaru Outback CVT transmission last? ›

There is a fair chance your Subaru CVT will last well beyond 60,000 miles as long as you stick to the factory-recommended maintenance schedule and take care not to overfill your transmission fluid.

Is it normal for a Subaru to burn oil? ›

So, the short answer is yes. Subaru models, especially the older models, have documented reports of excessive oil consumption. However, if you stay on top of your Subaru's maintenance, you can effectively look past the bad habit and still appreciate everything these vehicles have to offer.

How long do Subaru batteries last? ›

How often should you replace your Subaru Outback battery? Every 3 to 5 years, but you should have your battery tested frequently for drops in voltage to make sure it's operating at a high level. Car batteries typically carry 12 to 13 volts unless you have a high-performance battery.

How do I stop my Subaru from burning oil? ›

Subaru Oil Consumption Issues? Information and FIX! - YouTube

What is the number one problem with Subarus? ›

Transmission issues are the most common problem in Subarus, but defective airbags, faulty fuel pumps, weak windshield, and electrical issues are also known to happen. Subaru has long had a reputation for manufacturing extremely reliable vehicles—and that reputation is certainly well earned.

What are the biggest issues with Subaru? ›

The Most Common Subaru Problems
  • Denso Fuel Pump Failure. ...
  • CAN System Parasitic Drain on the Battery. ...
  • Unintended Acceleration. ...
  • Brake Light Switch Defect. ...
  • Cracked Windshields. ...
  • Subaru STARLINK Problems. ...
  • Lineartronic CVT Reliability. ...
  • Rodents Chew Subaru's Soy Wires.

How many miles should a Subaru Outback last? ›

The Subaru Outback is a reliable, durable vehicle that can last between 250,000 to 300,000 miles when properly maintained and driven conservatively. Based on an annual mileage of 15,000 miles a year, this equates to 16 – 20 years of service before requiring expensive repairs or breaking down.

Is the Subaru Outback a reliable car? ›

Subaru Outback Reliability Rating Breakdown. The Subaru Outback Reliability Rating is 3.5 out of 5.0, which ranks it 10th out of 26 for midsize SUVs. The average annual repair cost is $607 which means it has average ownership costs.

Is the 2020 Subaru Outback reliable? ›

How Reliable Is the 2020 Subaru Outback? The 2020 Subaru Outback has a predicted reliability score of 70 out of 100. A J.D. Power predicted reliability score of 91-100 is considered the Best, 81-90 is Great, 70-80 is Average, and 0-69 is Fair and considered below average.

Is Subaru more reliable than Toyota? ›

Overall, Toyotas are more reliable than Subarus. They have consistently won more distinctions and awards across all models and have higher scores with both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power.

What is the latest Subaru recall? ›

Subaru of America has issued a do not drive notice and recall on select Model Year 2021 Impreza vehicles. This notice and recall involves 802 Model Year 2021 Impreza vehicles. A lower control arm weld on the front driver's side may fail on affected vehicles.

Do Subaru Outback have a lot of problems? ›

According to CarComplaints.com, the Outback's worst problems are excessive oil consumption, transmission failure, and a fragile windshield. CarComplaints claims that the 2013 model year is the worst model because of engine issues. After 2018 the number of Subaru Outback complaints consistently decreased.

Are Subaru Outbacks expensive to insure? ›

Key Takeaways. It costs an average of $1,121 per year to insure a Subaru Outback, compared to $1,427 for the average car model. The cost to insure a Subaru Outback can vary by $308 per year, depending on the insurer.

Do Subaru Outbacks have good resale value? ›

Predicted Resale Value after 5 Years of Ownership: 41.3%

With its solid build quality, excellent safety suite, turbocharged or naturally aspirated flat-4 engine, and appealing go-anywhere nature, the Subaru Outback retains its value better than any other midsize 2-row crossover SUV for 2021.

Do Subarus hold their value? ›

Subaru has demonstrated that its automobiles hold their value quite well and are a good choice for drivers concerned with getting a fair return on their vehicles.

What percentage of Subarus are still on the road after 20 years? ›

According to Subaru, 97% of vehicles sold in the last decade are still on the road today. The Subaru has maintained its reputation as a long-lasting vehicle.

How long will a Subaru Outback CVT transmission last? ›

There is a fair chance your Subaru CVT will last well beyond 60,000 miles as long as you stick to the factory-recommended maintenance schedule and take care not to overfill your transmission fluid.

Which Outback engine is best? ›

The standard 2.5-liter engine is adequate for daily use, but if you're looking to have a bit of fun in the Outback, the turbocharged 2.4-liter engine is the best choice. It's a closer match to the standard V6 options offered among rivals.

What is not covered under Subaru warranty? ›

Like all manufacturers' warranties, Subaru's warranty mostly provides coverage for faulty or defective parts and workmanship. This means you can't have your vehicle repaired due to normal wear and tear from everyday driving. Additional exclusions are: Regular maintenance such as oil changes.

Are Subarus expensive to repair? ›

Generally, Subarus are more expensive to maintain over time than other non-luxury vehicles. This is because replacement parts for Subarus tend to cost you more than other comparable makers, like Toyota and Ford.

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