Year, Make, Model: 2020 Subaru Outback
Top Line: The Outback is Subaru's best-selling car with its rugged but inoffensive styling and ample features in an inexpensive package. Why mess too much with what works? The all-new, sixth-generation Outback looks a lot like the current Outback, but features subtle upgrades inside and out that are bound to please new and return customers.
What's New: The biggest change for this new generation is the new Outback XT, which comes with a 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine producing 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It's the first turbocharged engine offered since 2009 in the Outback, and as Autoblog notes, a replacement for the thirstier 3.6-liter V6 option in the Outback line. The new turbo is rated for 26/33 mpg (city/highway). The XT also tows more than any other Outback in history: 3,500 pounds.
The base engine also got a slight upgrade in performance. Subaru says that almost 90% of the parts in the Outback's standard naturally aspirated 2.5-liter boxer engine are new. It now produces 182 hp and 176 pound-feet of torque, and 23/30 mpg (city/highway)—which Subaru says is enough to let the Outback do over 600 miles on one tank of gas. (That must be a huge tank.)
You also get a pretty impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance, should you opt to drive over larger rocks than our press photo friend here. The new Outback rides on a new suspension design that Subaru claims is its lightest but most responsive yet, with MacPherson struts, a 23-millimeter hollow stabilizer bar and aluminum lower L-arms up front, plus a double-wishbone rear suspension design that uses a 19-mm hollow stabilizer bar.
Inside, the Outback promises to be quieter and safer than ever—nearly 3 dB quieter at highway speeds than the old model according to Subaru's own measurements. It's built on the Subaru Global Platform that was introduced in 2017. Subaru claims that the new platform isn't just significantly stiffer than the outgoing Outback, but is also able to absorb 40% more energy in front and side crashes than the previous, fifth-generation Outback. Eight standard airbags including one for the driver's knee are there in case a crash is unavoidable.
Reducing interior noise was a major focus in the sixth-generation Outback. New door weather strips with a middle baffle and dual lips on the roof side and glass with a sound-insulating inner film on the windshield and front doors were installed for additional quietness. All of the glass was made slightly thicker on this generation, too—all in the name of keeping road noise out.
Other safety upgrades are designed to help the driver. Subaru's EyeSight Driver Assist Technology suite, which has Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control and new-for-2020 lane centering capabilities, comes standard. The new DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System can sense when a driver is sleepy or distracted using infrared cameras and facial recognition technology. It promises to provide audio and visual warnings in the car to dissuade you from drowsy-driving.
The 2020 Outback's new 11.6-inch tablet-style touchscreen fits neatly into the dash, offering the usual suite of large-screen functions: HVAC, stereo, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, a rear-view camera and other detailed settings for the Outback. It's the largest infotainment screen ever offered in a Subaru, and comes standard in every Outback trim except the base model.
Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Starlink SmartDeviceLink apps can pair to the device of your choosing, and the infotainment screen can support SiriusXM satellite radio and SiriusXM TravelLink subscription services. You can add up to four USB ports and two 12-volt DC plugs inside to power the aforementioned devices. There's also an in-vehicle WiFi hotspot that connects using LTE, and an optional 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. The Outback is also the first Subaru to offer the Chimani app, which serves as a guide to over 400 national parks in the U.S.
It can be hard to see what's directly in front of a taller crossover, so to compensate for this, Subaru offers a Front View Monitor that gives those inside the car a full 180-degree view of what's in front of the car right on that big 11.6-inch screen.
Other interior upgrades focused on comfort and storage. Rear head, shoulder and leg room have been increased for passenger comfort. Subaru offers a hands-free power gate to make loading the now-wider rear opening of the car easier than ever. Folding down the rear seats gives you up to 75.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and 78 inches of cargo floor. The standard cargo cover also lifts out of the way with a single touch. If you need even more room for stuff, the Outback comes standard with roof rails that feature integrated and retractable tie-downs and cross-bars.
Ten-way power adjustable front seats with adjustable lumbar support and adjustable cushion length on the driver's seat as well as heated front and rear seats are available on the Limited and Touring trims. The top Touring trim adds ventilation to its front seats as well as a heated steering wheel, Nappa leather, high-gloss black molding on the pillars, satin-tone painted side mirrors, and chrome plating on the door handles.
New for 2020 is the Onyx Edition XT trim, which offers not only the upgraded turbo engine and all the features offered in the Premium trim, but also black-finish exterior elements, a grey two-tone interior with water-repellent StarTex seats, a hands-free power rear gate, Front View Monitor, a full-size spare tire and 18-inch alloy wheels. It also comes with Dual-Mode X-Mode, which sets up the Outback for different kinds of driving conditions.
The 2020 Outback will be available in Base, Premium, Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT, and Touring XT models, but no pricing information has been released yet.
Yes, the slightly beefier cladding on this one was really inspired by a hiking boot. Subaru really nailed the Outback's target market here: parents who consider themselves "outdoorsy."
What You Need To Know: If you thought this new turbocharged engine option might signify a return to the Outback's fun-having roots, sorry. The Outback's transition away from the plucky Impreza- or Legacy-based rallycross toys of yore to being yet another crossover has stuck for good.
It still comes with Subaru's signature symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, but you won't be able to get any of the sixth-generation Outbacks with a manual transmission. The lone transmission mentioned in the launch materials was a Lineartronic CVT, which has an eight-speed paddle-shiftable "manual mode" that lets you select different programmed-in gear ratios.
Subaru doesn't want to upset the money train too much with their latest Outback crossover, and it shows. The sixth-generation took what sells and did more of it, offering upgraded tech, a quieter interior, and more powerful engines. You probably won't win your local rallycross season with it, but you will be the envy of the elementary school drop-off lane.