2018 Subaru Outback


#2 out of 7 in 2018 Wagons

$23,444 - $31,635

2018 Subaru Outback Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 Subaru Outback was new.


Performance: 7.8

The 2018 Subaru Outback offers two engine choices. The base four-cylinder is more efficient, but the six-cylinder performs better if you’re hauling people or cargo. The Outback rides and handles well on- and off-road for the most part.

  • "The Outback is essentially a tall-riding car and that's exactly what it feels like to drive. There's a level of refinement and comfort present that is better than what you'll get from a lot of small crossover SUVs." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Even when the roads turned nasty, we were impressed by our 2016 Subaru Outback crossover SUV's quiet cabin, its car-like driving characteristics (it is based on the Legacy sedan, after all) and its stable composure even in the most inhospitable driving conditions." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)
  • "How's it drive? Like an Outback, only quieter -- well sorted and appropriately tuned for its job; in other words, it does just about anything anyone might demand of an automobile except maybe logging track time. The 2015 Outback isn't fun, exactly, but it's never onerous or tedious, either, even with the CVT. It's always pleasant and can be satisfying in a purpose-driven way. It's generally more refined than before." -- Autoweek (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The Outback’s base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that puts out 175 horsepower. It has ample power for day-to-day driving but feels weak if you have a lot of people or cargo with you. The available 3.6-liter six-cylinder puts out 256 horsepower and feels stronger than the base engine. It delivers faster acceleration and is better when carrying a full complement of passengers or if you’re towing something (the Outback can tow up to 2,700 pounds). Both engines are paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

The base engine is the more efficient option. It gets an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, which are typical ratings for a wagon. The six-cylinder’s ratings aren’t as good: 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

  • The standard, four-cylinder Outback 2.5i has enough power for safe highway merging, but load it up with people and gear and it feels overwhelmed, especially if you're driving at high elevation. Around town, the jumpy responsiveness of the gas pedal and the spongy brake pedal also make the 2.5i harder to drive smoothly than it should be. The six-cylinder provides more punch, and if you frequently load up the car or live in a mountainous area, you're going to want this larger engine.” -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "The Outback's entry-level engine is a 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder that produces 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. While that's middling power for the segment, the mill does return 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway – those are impressive figures that best what some smaller, front-wheel-drive crossovers can eke out." -- Left Lane News (2017)
  • "The base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is no powerhouse, but it isn't a slouch either and the fuel economy is outstanding. The 6-cylinder provides a more robust driving experience and is recommended for anyone who needs to tow, but it is available only on the top-line Limited trim, which doesn't come cheap." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)

Handling and Braking

Like all Subaru vehicles, the Outback comes standard with all-wheel drive. It handles well on winding roads and the steering is sharp. The ride is smooth on the pavement, though it gets a little rough off-road. Speaking of heading off-road, the Outback has a high ground clearance and comes with hill descent control, making it more than capable across unpaved terrain.

  • "The Outback shares its platform with the Subaru Legacy, so it's of little surprise that it feels like a sedan on the open road, albeit one that rides higher off the ground. If anything, that attribute grants it improved ability to absorb bumps and road undulations, if not its ability to corner sharply." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "And with so much ground clearance (8.7 inches) as well as standard all-wheel drive and hill-descent control, the Outback can go places most small SUVs will struggle to venture." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "The retuned dampers on the Limited's suspension are an improvement over last year's model, but the current Outback still fails to soak up hard impacts when off-roading, an attribute we greatly admired in the previous-generation car. Paved road performance feels better in the base and Premium models than with the Limited, but overall, the ride comfort has improved enough to upgrade our opinion of the Limited's suspension." -- Autotrader (2016)

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