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2018 Subaru Outback

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2018 Subaru Outback Expert Review

By Matt Degen

KBB Expert Rating: 8.6

The 2018 Subaru Outback is an illustration of automotive metamorphosis, transforming over the years from rugged station wagon to something more like an SUV. Whatever you label this 5-passenger hauler, it's been a hit for good reason. The Outback is quite possibly the most recommendable vehicle for the broadest range of buyers and tasks. It's spacious, efficient, comfortable, a great value in the near and long term, and -- thanks to standard all-wheel drive and excellent ground clearance -- can tackle almost any road or weather condition. Add in advanced safety features, driving aids and technology like CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, and this Subie's recipe only improves. The Outback faces many rivals, from the Volkswagen Alltrack to the Ford Edge, but none have its jack-of-all-trades character.

You'll Like This Car If...

The 2018 Outback is one vehicle that fulfills many needs. Whether you want a crossover SUV that's fuel-efficient, boasts sterling reliability and high resale value, or has impressive levels of inherent safety, the Outback does it all. In places like the Northwest, driving a Subaru is almost a requirement.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you want a rugged wagon with more athletic manners, check out the slightly smaller Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. If you crave one with premium appeal and a luxury badge, look to the Audi Allroad or perhaps a Volvo V60 Cross Country, both bringing turbocharged engines to the party.

KBB Expert Ratings

  • 8.6
  • 7.6
  • 7.5
  • 8.0
  • 8.7
  • N/A
How It Ranks

#8

out of 22

Fuel Economy

#11

out of 22

Horsepower
View all rankings
2018 Subaru Outback Low/wide front photo What's New for 2018

Subaru's Outback gets a nice update for 2018 that includes more sophisticated infotainment systems with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, revised front exterior styling and updates to the interior. Refinements like sound-insulating glass and retuned suspension make the Outback quieter inside and smoother on the road.

Driving the Outback
2018 Subaru Outback Front angle view photo
Driving Impressions

The Outback shares its platform with the Subaru Legacy, so it's of little surprise that it feels like a sedan on the open road, albeit...

... one that rides higher off the ground. If anything, that attribute grants it improved ability to absorb bumps and road undulations, if not its ability to corner sharply. The 4-cylinder engine used in the majority of Outback models is merely adequate for acceleration and passing, and its standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) is efficient but won't snap off shifts like a traditional automatic. The 6-cylinder engine on upscale models packs good power but also commands a significantly higher price. The Outback's made-for-adventure appeal isn't just the stuff of commercials. With its 8.7 inches of ground clearance, fantastic all-wheel-drive system and dedicated X-Mode off-road function, the Outback has the chops to take you far beyond the dirt parking lot of the trail head.

X-MODE
X-Mode is a standard feature of all Outback models. It's designed to help this crossover SUV maintain its composure even under difficult off-road circumstances. On top of that, it includes Hill Descent Control, which takes over braking duties during steep descents.

STARLINK INFOTAINMENT SYSTEM
The Outback's infotainment systems have been upgraded for 2018, with improvements both expected and surprising. In the former camp, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are now standard. Among the latter, new apps will guide you to everything from birding to parking.

2018 Subaru Outback Details
2018 Subaru Outback Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

All Outbacks have a 2-row/5-passenger setup, and one of this Subie's best traits is its interior roominess. There's good legroom in the second row and excellent cargo capacity overall. With rear seats in place, there's 35.5 cubic feet for your gear. Fold the seats and it opens to a huge 73.3 cubic feet of mostly flat, usable space. Up front, the seats are comfortable and well-supported, and the view out is commanding. Controls are easy to see and access. Lower-trim models use cloth, while higher models are outfitted in leather. In Touring trim, the Outback can pass for a premium car.

Exterior
2018 Subaru Outback photo

The latest-gen Outback continues to cross over from a lifted wagon to a crossover SUV. Updates for 2018 embolden the Outback's attitude. Most notable is up front, where the Subaru's hexagonal grille now has the brand's logo and adjoining line spanning the center. The headlights also get a tweak, and available steering-responsive units are now offered. Complementing the Outback's outdoorsy appeal are roof racks and lower body cladding. Even the doorsills seem to demand you get out and get active: They're designed to act as a step so you can access the roof to strap on your bike, canoe or skis.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The Outback comes in four main trims: base, Premium, Limited and Touring. Even the least expensive Outback includes all-wheel drive with X-Mode for off-roading, an automatic transmission, 6-way manual-adjust driver's seat, automatic headlights, cruise control, 17-inch wheels and 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Bluetooth and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity. We recommend stepping up at least one level to the Premium, which adds an 8-inch screen, CD player, two more speakers (six total), dual-zone climate control, 10-way-power driver's seat, fog lights, heated front seats and four USB ports, including two in back. It also opens the door for more options.

Optional Equipment

By climbing trims or checking the options box, you can outfit your Outback with the highly useful safety and driver-assist system known as the EyeSight. The system bundles adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, pre-collision braking and even reverse automatic braking. The available power liftgate has a programmable maximum height, and there's a voice-activated navigation system. Also available is a leather interior trimmed with classy-looking faux wood on Limited models, along with an upgraded harman/kardon audio system.

Under the Hood
2018 Subaru Outback Engine photo

Subarus use an engine configuration known as a "boxer," where the pistons are parallel to the ground; imagine a "V-type” engine, then widen the V until it’s a flat line. This layout lowers the center of gravity, which aids handling. There are two engines available in the 2018 Outback. The 2.5-liter standard 4-cylinder offers up 175 horsepower, while the 6-cylinder version has a much more robust 256 horsepower. Both send power through a continuously variable automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual control, and all-wheel drive is standard. The AWD system includes X-Mode for low-speed traction, and Active Torque Vectoring for high-speed stability in corners. All 2018 Subaru Outbacks are rated to tow 2,700 pounds.

2.5-liter boxer-4
175 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
174 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/32 mpg

3.6-liter flat-6
256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
247 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg

The 2018 Outback has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $26,810 for a base 2.5i model. One trim higher, at $28, 910, you'll get more creature comforts in the Premium trim. A top-line 4-cylinder Outback Touring model starts at $37,405, while a 6-cylinder Outback begins at $36,310 and can reach nearly $40,000 fully loaded. At these prices, the Outback undercuts the starting price of an automatic-transmission VW Golf Alltrack, a similar rugged wagon, and is lower than a more traditional 2-row crossover SUV like the Ford Edge. The Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport are closer in line with the Outback's starting price, but they don't come with all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Subaru. On the resale front, the Subaru Outback is expected to hold its value very well.

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