2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback
The 2020 Subaru’s Outback’s gift is its superb capability and composure. It’s also blessed with outstanding off-road capability. It adds a comfortable ride, excellent fuel economy, and spacious cabin with high technology.
For 2020 the Outback gets revamped and gets even better, with two new engines, tweaked styling, and a larger touchscreen with improved infotainment.
The Outback’s previous 2.5-liter flat-4 engine has been replaced by an improved version taken from the Subaru Forester, making 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. The previous 3.6-liter flat-6 engine has been replaced by a new 2.4-liter turbo-4 taken from the Subaru Ascent; it’s much less thirsty than the old flat-6, while making a strong 260 horsepower.
The base flat-4 engine is EPA-rated at 26 mpg city, 33 highway, 29 combined, excellent mileage for an all-wheel-drive car of this size. The new turbo-4 also does well, with 23/30/26 mpg, mileage that stomps Subaru’s previous flat-6 engine.
The 2020 Outback has been tested by the IIHS, earning that agency’s top Good ratings in all six crash tests, as well as a Superior rating for its crash avoidance systems, resulting in a Top Safety Pick award.
Every Outback is equipped with active safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control, which is improved for 2020 with sharper sensors that eliminate the annoying bouncing from one edge of the lane to the other. Blind-spot monitors and forward-facing cameras are optional.
Subaru offers the Outback in base, Premium, Limited, and Touring models, with an XT designation for higher-output models. Every Outback is all-wheel drive.
Base Outbacks cost about $27,500 and include cloth upholstery, twin 7.0-inch touchscreens for vehicle functions and infotainment including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB charge ports, 17-inch wheels, a split-folding rear seat, and LED headlights.
At less than $30,000, the Outback Premium adds an 11.6-inch touchscreen, two more USB charge ports for rear-seat riders, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and sound-insulating front windows. Optional equipment includes keyless ignition, navigation, blind-spot monitors, a power liftgate, and moonroof.
For about $38,400, the Outback Touring adds a driver attention monitor, a front-view camera, nappa leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, and cooled front seats.
An Onyx edition, equipped like the Premium with the turbo-4 engine, has blacked-out trim and costs just under $36,000.
The Outback’s tall-wagon look skips swoopy rooflines or boxy shapes. For 2020 it has been altered with subtle flourishes; its gray body cladding rises a little higher on the nose, which wears stacked LED fog lights on most models. According to Subaru designers, that tough cladding is meant to look like the tread of a hiking boot.
In the cabin, the cowl has been lowered for better outward vision, and a big 11.6-inch touchscreen has been added to all models but the base, which uses two 7.0-inch screens.
The new tablet-style touchscreen is sharp, and doesn’t disappear in sunlight. The display for some smartphone systems takes up only the top half of the touchscreen. The information on the bottom half is mostly redundant. We think the best way to use a phone with the screen is via Bluetooth.
There are simple buttons for climate control along the bottom, although it wasn’t so simple for us to figure out how to cool the seats in our Outback Touring test car.
The cloth upholstery is handsome. The front seats are well bolstered and provide good thigh support. The rear is bright and airy and comfortable for two, but not three, as the rear seats are a tad shy on shoulder room; but there’s good head and leg room, and the seats recline a bit. Wide rear doors sure help with putting kids in car seats back there.
Behind the rear seat there is 32.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is less than before despite a bigger Outback this year.
With the second row folded, there’s more than 75 cubic feet, enough cargo space for a couple dogs and duffel bags, or a couple mountain bikes. If there’s more stuff, the Outback has a standard roof rack with tie-down anchors. The load floor is low, wide, and flat, and the hatch cutout is very wide, making it easy for those bikes.
The base 2.5-liter flat-4 engine makes 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque, which is adequate. It accelerates from zero to 60 mph in about nine seconds. It feels perky around town.
The CVT’s simulated shifts are smooth and confident under hard acceleration, and relaxed at other times.
The available 260-hp 2.4-liter turbo-4 engine comes out of the big Subaru Ascent SUV, so it’s plenty powerful for the lighter Outback. It’s a great value for $2,350, but it’s only optional with the Limited and Touring models.
The new 2.4-liter turbo-4 replaces the 3.6-liter flat-6 from last year, which was very thirsty. With 78 more horsepower than the base engine, it passes a lot more quickly and safely on two-lane highways.
The suspension tuning is superb. The Outback uses struts in front, but a more sophisticated double-wishbone in the rear. In corners, the Outback stays flat, despite its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and fairly tall stance.The firmness of the suspension shows under hard braking, as there is very little nose-dive.
However the steering is too light and too quick. And, like the gas pedal, the brake pedal isn’t very progressive.
We got some good off-road seat time, where we used every bit of that 8.7 inches of ground clearance. We scrambled up rocks that even a Jeep owner might think twice about, barrelled down two-track trails without worry, and waded through water more than a foot deep. The Outback can run with the rugged SUVs on the trails, well ahead of its crossover rivals.
The 2020 Subaru Outback is a legend in its own time for good reason, and that reason gets better in 2020 with the new turbo-4 engine. If the base engine is enough for you, stick with the Premium model, which is the best value; if you need more, go with the turbo-4 engine in the Limited or Touring. Either engine is complemented by a great CVT. Inside, it’s rugged, roomy and comfortable.
—By Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection