The Subaru Outback is a tried and true favorite here in the Pacific Northwest; in fact, Oregon is one of Subaru’s prime markets. I couldn’t help but notice all of the other Outbacks on the road during my week-long test drive.
The Outback gets fully redesigned for 2020 and is now in its sixth generation. It has more safety features, new XT models with a new turbocharged engine, an upgraded cabin and lots of tech including a tablet-style touchscreen. But it’s still the dependable, practical and comfortable trail-friendly vehicle that buyers have loved for three decades.
The five-passenger Outback is available in six trims: Outback, Premium, Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT and Touring XT. Starting prices range from $26,645 to $39,695. Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive is standard on all models, as are roof rails with tie down points and integrated crossbars.
My tester, the Onyx Edition XT, gets some exterior styling tweaks including black-finish exterior elements, 18-inch alloy wheels and badging, front view camera, and a gray two-tone interior.
The standard engine is found in other Subarus. It’s a 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine that makes 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. My tester has the new engine that’s introduced for 2020: a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that produces 260 horses and 277 pound-feet. Both engines are paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
The new engine provides lively handling and always feels ready to go. It’s sure an improvement over the base engine. It’s quick off the line and provides plenty of power for merging and passing at freeway speeds. The CVT shifts smoothly and quietly, for the most part. As you’d expect in a Subaru, the Outback feels planted and grips the pavement well when cornering. Visibility is good all the way around.
The Outback isn’t meant for serious off-roading, but it’s no slouch off the beaten path. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, you can tackle dirt and gravel roads, trails, water, mud and snow. Hill descent control is included in Subaru’s standard X-mode off-road driving setting. The Onyx Edition has more features for off-roading including settings for mud and deep snow as well as a front-view monitor that captures images within the driver’s blind spots in front of the vehicle to give you a good look at what’s ahead.
Fuel efficiency is average to a little below average for the class. EPA ratings for my tester are 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with a combined rating of 26. I got 25 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The cabin is attractive with upscale materials. Higher trims are downright luxurious with nice leather seating and many amenities. Seats in both rows are comfortable and supportive and boast good leg- and headroom. The backseat row is raised slightly which enhances visibility for passengers there. The cabin is also quiet; in fact Subaru claims it’s almost 3 decibels quieter at highway speeds than the outgoing model.
Standard features include a rearview camera, automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, four-way manually adjustable passenger seat, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, four-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, two USB ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
All 2020 Subaru Outback models are equipped with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology that now features advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering function, forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. Automatic high-beam headlights are also standard.
Available features include proximity keyless entry, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, water-repellant synthetic leather upholstery, genuine leather upholstery, Nappa leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 11.6-inch Starlink touchscreen, HD Radio, navigation, six-speaker audio system, Rockford Fosgate audio system, 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system, moonroof, two rear USB ports, wireless device charging, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a universal garage door opener.
Optional driver assistance technologies include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, reverse automatic emergency braking, adaptive steering responsive headlights, and a front-view camera. The EyeSight Assist Monitor that offers a head-up display with EyeSight warnings and system status on the windshield. The DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System uses a dedicated infrared camera and facial recognition technology to identify signs of driver fatigue or distraction and provides audio and visual warnings to alert the driver and passengers.
The big, new Starlink 11.6-inch touchscreen looks good with its sharp graphics but takes getting used to. You have to go through several menus and submenus for some functions, including some vehicle controls for off-roading. Thankfully there are buttons and knobs for commonly used functions such as volume, tuning and climate controls.
The Outback has lots of room for cargo and gear with 32.5 cubic feet with both rows of seating in place and 75.7 cubes with the rear seats folded. The wide opening and flat floor make it a breeze to load large and/or bulky items. There’s also a useful under-floor storage area. A hands-free power liftgate is available that lets you open the hatch by waving in front of the Subaru emblem.
New available turbocharged engine
Respectable off-roading capability
Upscale, comfortable cabin
Long list of standard and available tech
Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Lots of cargo space
Standard engine could use more power
Infotainment system takes getting used to with some functions buried in sub-menus.
My tester starts at $34,895. Option Package 22 is $1,845 and adds the Starlink 11.6-inch multimedia infotainment touchscreen system with navigation, power moonroof with slide and tilt and reverse automatic braking. Delivery fee is $1,010 bringing the grand total to $37,750.
Oregonians know that the Subaru Outback is one of the most capable and practical vehicles around. Now with its new engine choice, updated cabin, and additional tech, the 2020 Outback offers even more for families and those who want to get away for a ski weekend or visit a remote camping site.