Test Drive: New 2020 Subaru Outback
Entry price: $26,645
Price as tested: $32,900
This week, we’re driving the new, sixth-generation 2020 Subaru Outback, delivered in Premium trim and powered by a peppy 2.5-liter “Boxer” 4-cylinder engine. Built on Subaru’s Global Platform assembly line in Lafayette, Indiana, this year’s new model features many upgrades along with enhancements to the two available four-cylinder Boxer engines that power Outbacks in seven distinct trims.
Four of the 2020 Outback trims come with a naturally aspirated fuel-injected 2.5 liter Boxer four-cylinder while three additional Onyx XT trims feature a turbocharged 2.4 liter Boxer four. Our Premium tester arrived with an entry price of $28,895 with the 2.5-liter under the hood. The lowest cost Outback starts at $26,645 while the most expensive Onyx XT starts at $39,696. Your Subaru dealer will explain each and every nuance of the seven new 2020 models when you visit.
New this year is a tablet style Subaru Starlink multimedia system that features an 11.6-inch high resolution touch screen with Tom Tom navigation and controls for audio, climate control and other features. I’ve never been a fan of touchscreen over “old Style” buttons and knobs, but this one is better than some of the more cumbersome screens I’ve had to deal with. There is a learning curve but it’s worth it once you figure it out.
Another new and more notable item is a segment exclusive Driver Focus Distraction Mitigation System that identifies signs of driver fatigue and/or distraction. This is a life saving feature that needs only to work one time to prove its worth.
Also new for 2020 and standard across the line are an EyeSight assist monitor with head-up windshield display, LED headlights with high beam assist, auto start-stop for improved fuel efficiency; 1.0 cubic foot more passenger room, and 2.4 more cubic feet of cargo room with all seats down. Available is an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot via high speed LTE communications.
The Outback is Subaru’s most popular station wagon style mid-size SUV that first appeared back in 1994. Today, all Outbacks utilize a Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission (eight-speed manual mode) and the legendary Symmetrical all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, the latter which made Subaru a household name.
A bit of Subaru history finds none other than Sir Malcolm Bricklin, he of 1974-1975 Bricklin SV-1 gull-wing sports car auto fame, as the person first responsible for importing Subaru to America back in 1968. By 1972, hundreds of new car dealers signed on for franchises that found Subaru offering both 2WD and 4WD models. Then in 1987, a fully automatic 4x4 was introduced and rightfully called “Fulltime AWD.” Consumers responded, and sales moved upward significantly.
Ten years later, Subaru announced it would drop two-wheel drive configurations from all Subaru platforms to concentrate 100% on its AWD expertise. Since then, the manufacturer has never looked back and boasts perhaps one of the most loyal owner demographics in car ownership history.
Options on our tester totaled $2,995 and include blind spot detection, lane change assist, hands free power rear liftgate, power moonroof, Subaru Starlink and keyless access with push button start. With $1,010 delivery added, the final retail came to $32,900.
The Starlink is notable and includes Android/Apple compatibility, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio with Travel Link, HD radio and more. The Premium trim also features 17-inch Yokohoma tires on nice alloys, two USB ports, 10-way power driver seat with lumbar, heated front seats, LED fog lights, lifting cargo cover and leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
The exterior is enhanced for 2020 yet does not date owners of fifth-generation models. It’s sleeker with front and rear fascia enhancements resulting in an attractive final wrap. The cabin, too, is completely re-designed offering both more passenger room and 2.4-cu. ft. more of maximum cargo space. When you climb the ladder of available trims (our Premium is second on the price ladder) just about every amenity Subaru offers will appear, including top flight safety systems.
Mechanically, Subaru Outback continues its Boxer engine evolution with upgrades on a yearly basis. The “Boxer Turbo Four” generates 260 horses and 277 torque with 23 city and 30 highway the EPA numbers. Our tester’s “Boxer Four” 2.5 delivers solid 26 city and 33 highway EPA from its 182 horses and 176 torque design. I recommend testing both trims as the more economical four-cylinder might be fine for your operating needs while the turbo XT models will more than satisfy your high-performance cravings.
The Boxer engine receives its nickname thanks to the unique crankshaft and piston assembly featuring a side-to-side combustion cycle instead of a “V” or “inline-4” rotating setup. (Porsche is the only other manufacturer to offer this technology). The resulting piston movement sideways results in a smooth running engine and allows Subaru technicians to position the engine much lower in the engine bay than competitors. This engine location results in better center of gravity geometry, less body roll and superior overall handling.
Underneath, Outback features fully independent MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension. Other standard safety features include traction control, rear safety camera, anti-lock four wheel discs, hill descent assist, advanced airbags including side curtain, vehicle dynamic control and the aforementioned world famous Subaru AWD system.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 108.1 inches, 3,810 lb. curb weight, 32.5 to 75.7 cu. ft. of cargo space, 2,700 lb. tow capacity, 8.7 inch ground clearance and an 18.5 gallon fuel tank.
In summary, Subaru Outbacks are some of the best known AWD vehicles in the world. Notable, too, is that the Impreza four-door hatch entry price is just $18,695, so you don’t need $30,000 or more to get into a brand new Subaru. If it’s strictly performance, the WRX Rally based models (starting at $27,495) are popular with the younger set while the rest of the Subaru family with entry price includes Legacy ($22,745), Crosstrek ($22,145), Forester ($24,495), Ascent ($31,995), and BRZ two-wheel drive sports car ($28,845).
The size and prices of the Subaru family of motoring offerings, combined with its excellent reliability ratings, are the main reasons Subaru consumers continue to purchase and, more importantly, purchase again as the years roll by.
There’s clearly one in the Subaru family for you.
Likes: New generation, unique Boxer engines, AWD heritage, price.
Dislikes: CVT, some engine noise, not much else.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.