2020 Subaru Outback First Look
- All-new version of the Outback revealed
- 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-4, or a 260-hp turbo 2.4-liter
- CVT automatic, all-wheel drive with X-Mode
- New 11.6-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen
- Arrives in dealerships this fall
- Current Outback starts at $27,320
The 2020 Subaru Outback is a comprehensive update of the brand’s defining model, which is also its most popular. Although Outback sales were down 5 percent in the first quarter of 2019, the model had its best March ever. For 2020, the Outback moves to an all-new platform—shared with the recently unveiled 2020 Legacy sedan—with an upgraded base engine, a new up-level engine, additional tech, and greater refinement.
Return of the turbo
The biggest changes take place in the engine room, where the previous step-up engine, a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder, has been jettisoned in favor of a turbocharged flat-4. The new turbo four out-muscles the old six, with 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, gains of 4 ponies and 30 lb-ft.
What kind of fuel economy is expected in the 2020 Outback?
Preliminary fuel-economy estimates of 23/30 mpg city/highway are improvements of 3 mpg both in the city and on the highway. The base offering remains a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated flat-4 but this engine has been heavily revised (Subaru claims 90 percent of its parts are new). It sees modest improvement in power, torque, and fuel economy.
The 2.5-liter’s 182 horsepower is a gain of 7 ponies, and the 176 lb-ft of torque is an increase of 2 lb-ft. Fuel-economy estimates of 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway represent improvements of 1 mpg in both measures.
Standard all-wheel drive
As before, all Outback models feature a CVT automatic and standard all-wheel drive. The CVT includes a manual mode that simulates the shift action of an 8-speed automatic for less engine droning. The AWD system again features Subaru’s X-Mode, which optimizes the system for off-pavement driving. Hill decent control is also standard. The new model retains the same 8.7 inches of ground clearance as the outgoing version—an impressive number for a crossover.
Those features are part of the outdoorsy image that has long defined the Outback. The new model’s design also reflects this, with chunkier bumpers and lower bodyside cladding—the latter is “meant to resemble a hiking boot,” according to Subaru—even as the upper body and side-window profile have become more curvaceous.
New platform is stiffer, stronger
Like the new Legacy, the Outback moves to a new platform that’s said to be far stiffer than before, with improved crashworthiness. The chassis includes a revised suspension of damper struts up front and a multi-link setup at the rear. The suspension uses lighter components, including hollow anti-roll bars and aluminum front control arms.
Marginally larger dimension
Size-wise, the Outback has barely budged. It rides on the same 108.1-inch wheelbase as before. Overall length has crept up by 1.4 inches and the width by 0.6 inch while the height is unchanged. The Outback remains strictly a 5-passenger vehicle—buyers needing a third row are directed to the larger Subaru Ascent—but the rear seat offers increased legroom, headroom, and shoulder room. Cargo space increases slightly, to 75.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, versus 73.3 before. The power liftgate now can be motion activated (by waving in front of the Subaru emblem on the hatch), while the standard roof rack retains its clever self-storing crossbars.
Improved cabin and features
Upgrades to the passenger environment come in several forms. The most notable is a new 11.6-inch vertically oriented touchscreen at the center of the dash. It’s standard on all but the base model and replaces the previous 8-inch horizontal unit. Included in the system is an app called Chimani, with guides to more than 400 national parks, historic sites, and other attractions. The dash itself features a stitched covering, top-trim models add a heated steering wheel, and Wi-Fi is now available. The interior is also claimed to be quieter, thanks to redesigned door seals and the use of thicker glass that is acoustic laminated on the windshield and front-door windows.
Adaptive cruise control with lane-centering, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and a driver-attention monitor are standard on all Outback models. Additional available active-safety features include blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking intervention. A new front-view monitor uses a camera mounted low in the grille to provide a 180-degree forward view, useful for when pulling out from between buildings or other cars or for a close-up look at potential obstacles when off pavement.
Three trim levels
The 2020 Subaru Outback will be offered in base, Premium, Limited, and Touring trims, all featuring the standard 2.5-liter engine. Models powered by the 2.4-liter turbo resurrect the XT designation (previously used on pre-2010 Outback turbos). They include the Onyx Edition XT (with black exterior trim, special water-repellent cloth upholstery, and “Snow/Dirt” plus “Deep Snow/Mud” settings for the AWD system’s X-Mode), as well as Limited XT and Touring XT models.
What is the towing capacity of the 2020 Subaru Outback?
Trailer-towing capacity increases from the previous 2,700 pounds to 3,500 pounds thanks to the new structure and upgraded powertrain.
What’s the price of the new Outback?
Pricing of the 2020 Subaru Outback won’t be released until closer to the new model’s on-sale date in this fall, but the current 2019 Subaru Outback model starts at $27,320. We don’t see anything here that’s likely to throw the Outback off its game as a key player for the Subaru brand.
2020 Subaru Outback Photos