Subaru’s Outback has to be the most popular midsize SUV on local roads. In this its sixth generation, the 2020 Outback’s popularity comes from its excellent traction abilities, its conservative styling, reasonable price, and now, a host of high-tech and safety features that are not found on some higher-priced competitors.
Outback’s are offered in base, Premium (tested), Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT and Touring XT. An Outback for every budget and pleasure.
We were privileged to test the Premium trim version that came with comfy cloth seats and an 11.6-inch touchscreen with a host of features, functions and apps.
The heated front seats, in particular, are exceptionally supportive and despite being cloth with leather edges, they take on the look of leather at a distance. Subaru interior designers did a great job selecting these.
Then there’s the new large touchscreen with its Starlink infotainment system serving the audio, rearview camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, driving statistics, Navigation, HVAC systems, and more. The only feature missing is a wireless phone charger on the Premium trim.
As for the HVAC system, most functions operate primarily from the touchscreen as do the heated seat controls. That takes some getting used to and momentarily takes the eyes off the road for selections.
Subaru’s have always been known as great cars in snow, especially with Outback’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance. We owned a ’98 Outback back then and I recall that after a 12-inch snowfall, I drove up an inclined street behind our house while a neighbor lady stood on her pavement with snow shovel in hand as she watched my Outback easily ascend the grade of the unplowed street to our driveway. She shook her head in disbelief as to the Suby’s deep snow ability. In spring, she bought an Outback.
Subaru’s Active Torque-Split AWD system continuously adjusts to driving conditions by sending power from the wheels that slip to the wheels that don’t. In essence providing power to all four wheels simultaneously. Outback’s X-Mode system can be activated (via the touchscreen) for tough traction conditions such as deep snow, mud and dirt. It also operates Hill Descent Control.
Outback’s’ comfy rear seat has generous leg and headroom for two adults or three youngsters, offering easy ingress/egress thanks to wide opening doors and a low 19-inch step-in. And unlike many four-door’s, there’s thoughtful assist handles above each door.
Back in the spacious cargo area, and with the back seats upright, there’s 32.5 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 42.5 inches deep, 45 wide and 29.5 wide. Flip the rear seatbacks by pulling two handles in the sidewall and it opens up 75.7 cubic feet of storage that offers 74 inches of cargo loading depth. And for small item storage, the underfloor has a foam bin into which small items can be stowed. And lift over into the cargo area, is a mere 27.5 inches.
Outback gets its grunt from one of two new engines. The one in the test car was a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder Boxer engine putting out 182-hp and 176 lb/ft of torque. It couples to a new 8-step continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters. Together, it earned mileage estimates of 26 city, 33-highway mpg with auto start/stop engine technology. The combination is tow rated for 2,700 pounds.
Performance wise, full pedal acceleration comes on in linear fashion with sufficient highway passing power at any speed.
The other choice depending on model, is a 260-hp turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder that replaces a previous 3.6L, 6-cylinder. Judging from the numbers, the turbo four makes more power and better fuel economy provided you don’t have a heavy foot that requires the turbo to kick in.
While the 2020 Outback is larger than the one we owned, it handles nicely with its suspension taming road imperfections and maintaining good stability in sharp turns and twisty roads. It parks easily with a relatively tight turning radius of 36.1 feet.
It’s also a quiet rider at highway speeds. The Boxer’s traditional hum is slightly noticed at slow speeds, but undetectable at highway speeds.
Outback comes equipped with blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert and lane change assist. But Subaru added other technology with its EyeSight system of driver aids that includes reverse automatic braking, steering responsive headlamps and a unique DriverFocus system that employs facial-recognition that can spot driver drowsiness, fatigue, distraction and will also adjust the drivers seat for the particular driver it recognizes. When the system detects one of the aforementioned conditions, a beep sounds off and a notice displays on the driver information screen on the gauge cluster.
There are also two other items worth mentioning and one is Automatic Vehicle Hold. This will hold the vehicle in place while sitting at lengthy stop lights. Simply apply the brake pedal while having the feature activated on the touchscreen, then release the pedal. It disconnects upon stepping on the accelerator.
The other feature is Pin Code Vehicle Access. If you unintentionally leave the keyfob in the car and lock the doors, to open them, merely enter a 5-digit PIN code using the tailgate release pad near the license plate. Ford has had a similar four-digit system on selected driver’s doors for some time. I had it on a ’98 Explorer SUV I once owned and it is a nice feature if forgetting the fob (keys) inside.
Starting at a base price of $28,895, the nicely equipped Outback Premium had $2,995 worth of extra cost options that included a moonroof and navigation. With delivery of $1,010, Outback bottom-lined at $32,900 which is about the average price of a new vehicle these days.
Last years Outback received IIHS’s top safety ratings and although the 2020 hasn’t as yet been tested, it surely will retain that rating.
Since it’s a proven SUV, you can’t go wrong with an Outback or Subaru’s Forester, a somewhat smaller SUV with comparable capabilities.