Before the small AWD crossover flood gates opened, the Subaru Outback was one of the go-tos for urban and mountain-town adventurers looking for a little off-road bite without the size and dismal fuel economy numbers of larger, boxier SUVs. As Subaru's top seller enters its sixth generation, it's poised to continue to serve that role convincingly amidst much stiffer competition. The all-new 2020 Outback carries over the legendary safety and capability the model's known for, adding upgraded infotainment, in-vehicle Wi-Fi and the first turbo engine option in a decade.
The 2020 Outback finds its foundation on the Subaru Global Platform that's already made its way to other new-generation models like the Forester and Ascent. The platform has been fine-tuned for the Outback, and Subaru boasts that it offers some serious improvements in torsional, front suspension and rear sub-frame rigidity. Subaru also expects the improvement in front and side crash absorption to help the Outback bring home top safety scores.
Despite throwing around dramatic terms like "Dynamic x Solid" and "Active x Tough" when referencing the styling, Subaru takes a light-handed, evolutionary approach to the redesign, toughening the Outback around the edges without changing things too much. Beefed-up cladding around the bumpers and lower sides juts out for a little extra toughness, the jagged side edging referencing the outsole of a hiking boot for a more outdoorsy look.
Facial changes include a taller hexagonal grille and slightly more angular headlamps. The tail lamps follow the same evolution as the headlamps, and the raised rear gate gives the wagon a stronger backside. All told, the new Outback comes across a touch more truck-like without losing the overall appearance of an all-terrain wagon.
The 2020 Outback maintains its legendary on/off-road capability with 8.7 inches (22 cm) of ground clearance and a slew of standard systems: Subaru symmetrical all-wheel drive, active torque vectoring, vehicle dynamics control, and X-Mode with hill descent control. All trims also come standard with EyeSight advanced adaptive cruise control and lane centering and DriverFocus distraction mitigation. Other technologies on offer include steering-responsive LED headlamps, lane change assist and reverse auto braking.
Subaru equips XT trims with the first Outback turbo engine since 2009, a 2.4-liter turbo Boxer putting out 260 hp at 5,600 rpm and 277 lb-ft (376 Nm) at 2,000 rpm. Lower trims are powered by a 182-hp naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Boxer, and both engines come mated to a Lineartronic CVT transmission with 8-speed manual mode and paddle shifters. Subaru estimates fuel economy at 26/33 mpg (9/7.1 L/100km) city/highway for the 2.5-liter engine and 23/30 mpg (10.2/7.8 L/100km) for the turbo. A new MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension layout is designed to be lighter and more responsive.
Inside the cabin, Subaru fine-tunes soundproofing for a quieter, more enjoyable ride while increasing rear passenger head, shoulder and leg room. The driver and front passenger, meanwhile, enjoy 10-way adjustable, heated seats with lumbar support, standard on Limited and Touring models. The Touring trim also includes front seat ventilation and heated steering.
Subaru upsizes infotainment with a new 11.6-in tablet-style HD touch display standard on all but the Base trim. The greater Starlink infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM radio, rear-vision camera, available voice-activated navigation, available 12-speaker Harman-Kardon audio, and available Front View front blind spot monitor. An available high-speed LTE connection spreads Wi-Fi around the vehicle.
Out back, the Outback's newly available hands-free power-lift system opens the tailgate with the wave of a hand, providing access to a widened load-area opening. Fold the rear seats down, and you get 78 in (198 cm) of floor length and 75.7 cu ft (2,144 L) of overall cargo space. For sports gear or larger cargo that won't fit in back, the standard roof rails with retractable cross bars provide another convenient option, straight from the factory.
After this week's debut at the NY Auto Show, the 2020 Outback will launch in the US this fall, available in Base, Premium, Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT and Touring XT trims. The new Onyx Edition XT adds in 18-in alloy wheels, black-finish exterior accents, special badging and water-repellent StarTex seat fabric. Subaru will announce pricing closer to launch.
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