Subaru was once an also-ran in the U.S. market, but these days its out-maneuvering big brands like Honda, Chevy, and Ford with reliable, capable vehicles in burgeoning segments. Models like the Outback have gone from niche to broad appeal by retaining distinct characteristics that keep loyal fans interested and fresh customers flowing into showrooms.
The new generation Subaru Outback coincides with the Japanese automaker’s eighth straight year of year-over-year sales growth. To keep the good times going, Subaru introduces improved technology, comfort, and efficiency to its most popular model. Here are 10 things to know about the 2020 Subaru Outback.
10) An XT badge means there’s a turbo on board
With the 2020 model year, Subaru bids farewell to its 6-cylinder engine, replacing it with an optional turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder. Shared with the Ascent SUV, this new forced induction engine makes more power and torque than the outgoing unit. At 260hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, the 2020 Outback XT nets 4hp and 30 lb-ft more than last year’s 3.6-badged models. Improved fuel economy accompanies additional power; 26-combined mpg (23 city, 30 highway) is a bump of 4 mpg over the thirstier 6-cylinder.
A revised 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder is also available, producing 182hp and 176 lb-ft of torque – improvements over the equivalent 2019 powertrain. Tweaks to the base engine and standard start-stop technology also earn 1 extra mpg for a 29-combined figure. Both engines are paired with an updated continuously variable transmission that mimics an 8-speed automatic’s shift points.
9) A blacked-out Onyx Edition joins the Outback range
The 2020 Outback’s styling mirrors the 2019 model closely (Subaru’s customers asked the company not to change much about the vehicle’s design), but a new Onyx Edition XT adds some dark-themed personality to the off-road ready wagon. On the outside, the Onyx Edition wears black finish on its grille, 18-inch alloy wheels, headlight and taillight housings, and badges.
Inside, a gray two-tone interior with water-repellant StarTex™ seat material and green accent stitching separates the Onyx from other Outbacks. Based on the Premium trim, the Onyx Edition adds a hands-free power tailgate, front view camera, dual-mode X-mode torque vectoring, and full-size spare tire. Subaru’s new 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder is the only available powertrain for Onyx Edition models.
8) Eyesight improves with standard active cruise control
Subaru’s Eyesight suite of active safety features – standard on all 2020 Outback models – now includes adaptive cruise control with lane centering. In addition to lane departure warning, pre-collision braking, a backup camera, and a head-up display with EyeSight status information, the 2020 Outback will adjust its cruising speed based on traffic and provide steering assistance when the vehicle veers outside its lane.
Those desiring additional safety technologies can add LED steering responsive headlights, reverse automatic braking, blind spot monitoring with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert, and a segment-exclusive driver distraction monitor. And for off-pavement adventures, there’s a new 180-degree front view camera that comes standard on every 2020 Outback.
7) The 2020 Outback’s new architecture is safer than ever
The use of additional high strength steel and advanced adhesives on the 2020 Outback’s body and frame lightens and stiffens the model to improve safety and fuel economy while reducing cabin noise and vibration. Sports car manufacturers often reference stiffer structures as beneficial to driving dynamics, but in the case of the Outback, improvements of 70 percent to its torsional rigidity and 100 percent to its lateral flex are most notable for their contributions to crash test durability. Subaru says the Outback’s new body absorbs 40 percent more energy in front and side crashes; the automaker expects to earn a Top Safety Pick + honor from the IIHS and five-star rating from the NHTSA.
6) Grocery getting is easier thanks to a hands free power tailgate
Juggling groceries or packages while attempting to free a hand to operate a tailgate is a pain, which is why Subaru has added a hands free function to the 2020 Outback. Other automakers offer hands free features, but most use a foot sensor, requiring the operator to balance on one leg (potentially with precariously perched items in hand) while attempting to trigger the sensor. Subaru’s sensor resides in the emblem on the tailgate, meaning you can wave an elbow, shoulder, or whatever you have available in front of the badge to activate the power gate. For added convenience, the Outback’s cargo cover has a single touch operation.
Based on new SAE measures of cargo capacity, the 2020 Outback’s 75.7 cubic feet of space with rear seats folded is reduced compared to the 2019 model’s 78 cu. ft. However, using the old standards, the 2020 model beats 2019’s capacity while improving the trunk’s packaging.
5) Most models now use a big tablet-style infotainment
The big news inside the 2020 Outback’s cabin is the introduction of an 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment with Subaru’s Starlink operating system. Standard on all but the base model, the tablet-style display is powered by two processors and a high-resolution graphics chip to bring the Outback to the cutting edge of convenience tech.
A large, easy-to-read menu includes icons for audio, HVAC, X-Mode, vehicle controls, available navigation, and new Starlink apps. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Blutooth are standard for universal smartphone connectivity. Sirius XM and HD Radio come free with a three-year subscription. For the first time on its Outback, Subaru offers an LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and the Chimani app, which provides a comprehensive guide to more than 400 national parks in the U.S.
4) A new Dual Function X-Mode enhances the Outback’s off-road capability
Subaru’s standard X-Mode optimizes the Outback’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system, engine, transmission, center clutch torque distribution, and brakes to get the vehicle out of tricky situations off-road. A standard hill descent function also manages these systems to control progress down steep inclines. On most Outback models, X-Mode can be adjusted for dirt, snow, or mud terrain, but for 2020, the new Dual Function X-mode adds settings for deep snow or deep mud. In these latter scenarios, the traction control system is recalibrated to allow for more wheel slip and momentum to free the vehicle of snags.
3) Sound-insulated glass and a new suspension mean a quieter, comfier ride
Out-of-the-box capability is great, but without comfort, no one would want to spend hours driving to or on challenging terrain. Fortunately, Subaru has improved the riding experience with an all-new suspension and sound-insulated front glass. Up front are MacPherson struts with new internal rebound springs and at the rear is a double-wishbone setup with coil springs.
Subaru engineers reduced the Outback’s cabin noise at highway speeds by 3 decibels with the use of thicker glass, a sound-insulated film on the windshield and front passenger windows, advanced adhesives within the Outback’s structure, and improved weather strips for each door panel.
2) Rear passengers get 1.4 inches of additional legroom
If you find yourself in the rear compartment of the 2020 Outback, you’ll be grateful for the extra leg, shoulder, and headroom – especially on long journeys. Add to that available rear seat heating, dual 2.1-amp USB ports beneath the rear air vents, dark tint privacy glass, and plenty of storage cubbies. Front passengers enjoy even better accommodations, with an optional power moonroof, three-mode seat heating, seat ventilation, multi-way power adjustable chairs, and wireless smartphone charging.
1) You can order the 2020 Outback right now
The 2020 Subaru Outback is available to order as of summer 2019. Prices start at $26,645 for the base model and top out at $39,695 for the Touring XT (both excluding a $1,050 destination charge). Premium, Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, and Limited XT trims are also available with increasing levels of standard equipment. Deliveries from Subaru’s Lafayette, Indiana plant are in progress, but the 2020 Outback’s popularity means you might be waiting a little while if you place an order today.