2018 Subaru Outback

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MSRP: $25,895 - 38,690

2018 Subaru Outback Review

The 2018 Subaru Outback finishes in the top half of our wagon rankings. It has a spacious interior and is relatively capable on- and off-road. It’s less upscale than some other wagons, but it has almost everything you’d want in a family car.

8.4

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.8
Performance: 7.8
Interior: 8.3
Safety: 9.8
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Pros & Cons

  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Spacious seats
  • Lots of cargo space
  • Unimpressive base engine

New for 2018

  • Interior and exterior styling updates
  • Infotainment system now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Is the Subaru Outback a Good Wagon?

Yes, the Subaru Outback is a good vehicle. Its base engine feels a little weak, but the available six-cylinder delivers a better driving experience. This wagon has good handling, and standard all-wheel drive means the Outback has good road grip and can even handle some light off-roading. The interior is spacious, and both rows of seats are comfortable and supportive. The Outback’s infotainment system is user-friendly, and it has above-average cargo space.

Should I Buy the Subaru Outback?

The Outback is a great choice among wagons, but it’s hardly the only car in the class worth buying. However, some of its main competitors aren’t wagons but SUVs. The Honda CR-V is one of our highest-ranking compact SUVs, and it has plenty of space and a family-friendly interior. The Subaru Forester is also a compact SUV. Like the Outback, the Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive, good ground clearance, and plenty of cargo space, but it’s a little more athletic on winding roads.

Compare the Outback, CR-V, and Forester »

Should I Buy a New or Used Subaru Outback?

For 2018, Subaru refreshed the interior and exterior design and increased the size of the standard infotainment screen to 6.5 inches. The optional infotainment system now has an 8-inch screen (compared to the 7-inch screen in 2017 models). Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and adaptive headlights, which rotate as you turn the car, are newly available for 2018. If those features aren't important to you, and you're open to a used car, consider an older model to save some money.

This wagon's current generation began with the 2015 model year. For 2016, Subaru updated the steering system and introduced lane keep assist as an option. The 2017 Outback saw the debut of the Touring trim, as well newly available active safety features. To research some other models in this generation, read our reviews of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Subaru Outback. If you decide an older model is right for you, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn more about savings and incentives on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Subaru Outback »

We Did the Research for You: 41 Reviews Analyzed

We do car research so you don’t have to. Our team analyzes professional test driver opinions and combines them with quantifiable data like crash test results and reliability ratings to create a complete picture of every vehicle we rank. This 2018 Subaru Outback review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which spans the 2015 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

Our team has more than 75 years’ worth of combined experience in the automotive industry, and we’ve been ranking cars since 2007. To ensure that our car reviews are unbiased, our editorial staff doesn’t accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Subaru Outback Cost?

The Outback’s base price is just under $26,000. That’s more than some wagons cost, but it’s much less than the starting prices of luxury wagons like the Volvo V90 and Audi Allroad. The Outback’s middle trims, the Premium and Limited, have starting prices of around $28,000 and $32,700, respectively. The top trim is the Touring, which starts at around $36,500.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

Subaru Outback Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Subaru Outback or Honda CR-V?

Though the Honda CR-V isn't a wagon like the Outback, it's a great alternative for most buyers. The CR-V is easily one of the most spacious compact SUVs available, and it has more cargo room than the Outback, whether the second-row seats are up or down. Additionally, the rear seat is roomy and the back doors open wide, so the CR-V is a great vehicle for drivers who often travel with adult passengers in the back.

The CR-V's base trim is a bit cheaper than the Outback's (though you'll have to pay extra for all-wheel drive with the Honda), but you'll want to buy the CR-V EX trim. It's only around $1,000 more than the base Outback, and it has many more features, including heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a moonroof. You even get a full complement of active driver assistance features. To get the same safety systems in the Outback, you'd have to spend several thousand dollars more. 

Which Is Better: Subaru Outback or Subaru Forester?

Sometimes a vehicle’s toughest competition comes from a vehicle made by the same automaker. Deciding between the Outback, which is a wagon, and the Subaru Forester, a compact SUV, can be tough because they’re alike in several ways. They share many of the same features, as well as the same base engine and ground clearance. The main differences are price and size. The Outback's starting price is around $3,000 more than the Forester's, but you'll get a longer, wider vehicle for the extra money. That gives the Outback more room for adults in the rear – though because the Forester is taller, both vehicles have about the same amount of cargo room.

Both cars offer a more powerful optional engine. The Forester has a turbocharged four-cylinder, while the Outback has a six-cylinder. The turbo-four powering the Forester gets 23 mpg in the city, and the Outback's six-cylinder earns 20 mpg in the city. Both vehicles get 27 mpg on the highway with their upgraded engines.

Compare the Outback, CR-V, and Forester »

Outback Interior

How Many People Does the Outback Seat?

The Outback seats five people. The interior is spacious, and both rows of seats are comfortable and supportive. The rear seats have ample head- and legroom, even for adult passengers.

Outback and Car Seats

There are two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors, but the system isn’t that user-friendly. There’s other hardware that you can confuse with the tether anchors. The lower anchors are set too deep in the seats, and they’re hard to maneuver around.

Outback Interior Quality

The Outback’s cabin has a smart design and is relatively quiet, even at highway speeds. It also has soft-touch materials throughout the interior.

Outback Cargo Space

This Subaru is a class leader in cargo space, providing more than 35 cubic feet of room behind the rear seats and more than 73 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. You’ll have room for the whole family’s luggage even with the rear seats up. With the rear seats down, you can even transport furniture. There’s a low liftover height, and the car’s boxy shape makes it easy to load large items.

Outback Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Outback’s standard features include a four-speaker sound system, a USB port, satellite radio, HD Radio, Bluetooth, and an infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Available features include a moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system, a Harman Kardon audio system, and navigation.

The Outback’s infotainment system comes with a touch screen, but there are also physical buttons for controlling some functions. Overall, the system is user-friendly.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Outback Performance

Outback Engine: The 6 Is Solid

There are two engine options with the Outback: a 175-horsepower four-cylinder base engine and a 256-horsepower six-cylinder. The base engine is alright for driving around town, but it struggles if the car is weighed down with passengers or cargo. The six-cylinder feels stronger and is a better choice for towing (the Outback can tow up to 2,700 pounds, enough for a small trailer). Both engines are mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Outback Gas Mileage: Average Efficiency

The Outback’s base engine is the most fuel-efficient option, and it gets typical gas mileage for a wagon. It earns 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. Those ratings are comparable to those of all-wheel-drive SUVs like the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V (though the CR-V comes standard with front-wheel drive). You’ll spend about the same amount of money on gas each year whether you drive the Honda or either Subaru.

Outback Ride and Handling: Stable On- or Off-Road

This Subaru wagon comes standard with all-wheel drive and has excellent road grip. With generous ground clearance (8.7 inches), it also can handle some light off-roading, though you shouldn’t mistake it for a Jeep. The Outback feels a little stiff when encountering bigger off-road bumps, but it rides smoothly on the pavement. It also has accurate steering and poised handling.

Read more about performance »

Outback Reliability

Is the Subaru Outback Reliable?

J.D. Power gives the 2018 Subaru Outback a three out of five predicted reliability rating, which is about average.

Subaru Outback Warranty

Subaru backs the Outback with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Many other wagons have similar warranty terms.

Read more about reliability »

Outback Safety

Outback Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2018 Subaru Outback a Top Safety Pick+ designation, giving it the highest rating of Good in all crash test categories. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave it a perfect five-star overall rating.

Outback Safety Features

A rearview camera comes standard. Available active safety features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, automatic pre-collision braking, reverse automatic braking, steering responsive headlights, and automatic high beams. Some of these features are part of Subaru’s EyeSight system.

Read more about safety »

Which Subaru Outback Model Is Right for Me?

There are four Outback trims available. All four come standard with all-wheel drive, a four-cylinder engine, and a continuously variable automatic transmission. The two higher trims are available with the six-cylinder engine.

Of the four trims, the Premium and the Limited are the best values. The Premium has a decent amount of standard and optional features, and it doesn’t cost much more than the base trim. If you want an Outback that’s a little better equipped, the Limited offers most of the features available in the top Touring trim, but for less money.

Subaru Outback 2.5i

The Outback 2.5i has a base price of $25,895. Beyond the standard features, this trim doesn’t offer much; there are no notable available features or option packages.

Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium

The Outback 2.5i Premium starts at $27,995. The Premium comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and the upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen. There are three option packages as well.

The Power Moonroof package costs $1,695 and adds a power moonroof and a power liftgate. The EyeSight package ($1,995) adds blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and a power liftgate. The third available package costs $3,590. It includes the features of the other two packages and adds navigation to the infotainment system.

Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

The Outback 2.5i Limited has a starting price of $32,695. The Limited trim comes with leather upholstery, a power-adjustable passenger seat, heated rear seats, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and a Harman Kardon audio system. There is one option package available. It costs $2,085 and adds EyeSight, the upgraded infotainment system with navigation, and reverse automatic braking.

The Limited is one of two trims offered with the six-cylinder engine. The Outback 3.6R Limited starts at $35,395 and has all the same standard and optional features as the 2.5i Limited version. The option package only costs $1,595 in the 3.6R version, however.

Subaru Outback 2.5i Touring

The Outback 2.5i Touring has a starting price of $36,490. The Touring comes standard with EyeSight, a heated steering wheel, reverse automatic braking, and the upgraded infotainment system with navigation. Because it includes pretty much every feature you can get in an Outback, the Touring trim has no option packages.

As with the Limited, the Touring is available with the larger engine. The Outback 3.6R Touring starts at $38,690 and has all the same features as the 2.5i Touring version.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

See 2018 Subaru Outback specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Subaru Outback is a good car that has most of the things buyers look for in a wagon. It has plenty of cargo space and two rows of spacious seats. There are some good tech and driver assistance features as well. The Outback rides smoothly and offers pretty good performance.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Whether you're actually looking for a wagon or open to an SUV alternative, we think the 2017 Subaru Outback should meet your needs nicely. It offers an abundance of rugged versatility as well as a level of comfort and refinement perfect for long drives to far-flung outdoor adventures." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "The Subaru Outback may be the best wagon/SUV combo you can buy. The Outback's cultlike status has expanded to the mainstream, thanks in part to a thorough makeover last year that resulted in less esoteric styling and a vast improvement in technology, comfort and fuel economy. The Outback's interior approaches luxury-car quality, while overall handling is the best it's ever been." -- Autotrader (2016)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: November 9, 2018

Strong Sales: The Subaru Outback was the best-selling wagon on the market in 2017, and that’s continued so far in 2018. Subaru dealers have sold about the same number of Outback models as they did over the same span last year. Competing crossover SUVs, however, such as the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, have outsold the Outback over 2 to 1 this year.

Research more buying advice »
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