2020 Subaru Outback

Performance


#2 out of 6 in Wagons

MSRP
$26,645
U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Subaru Outback Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.2

The 2020 Subaru Outback has a mediocre base engine and a more powerful turbocharged variant. It handles well on road and off. Fuel economy is average to below average but isn’t all that bad considering the Outback has standard all-wheel drive.

  • "Predictably, the new Outback is an enjoyable car to drive both on-road and off. The new 2020 model is reasonably smooth, comfortable, and quiet and an improvement over the outgoing model. Not only is it a comfortable highway cruiser, but its standard AWD, active torque vectoring, X-Mode, and 8.7-inches of ground clearance add up to quite the rugged off-roader." -- Autotrader
  • "That outstanding chassis and suspension is matched by a choice of equally good powertrains. … The engine is perfectly matched to the transmission and temperament of the car. It never felt slow or ponderous, never felt like it was in the wrong 'gear' (not that it has any traditional fixed gears), never struggled from a start or felt like it wasn’t ready to perform." -- Cars.com
  • "The new turbo engine is a great replacement for the previous six, with more horsepower and significantly more torque. It provides a surge of power off the line, and much more sedate transmission response after that. It isn’t as smooth a pairing as the base engine, but this powertrain sure is a lot of fun to drive." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The 2020 Outback comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. It gets an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, which is about average for the wagon class. The optional engine is a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy with this engine is rated at 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard.

The base engine has sufficient power and delivers adequate acceleration. The available turbocharged engine is much more muscular, with reviewers saying that its prowess is most evident at high-speed acceleration. Most critics think the transmission operates smoothly, but a few note that it struggles when paired with the standard engine.

  • "The base engine is adequate for most drivers, but the driving enthusiast will really appreciate the new turbocharged engine. The XT models have some serious muscle and are more exciting behind the wheel than you might expect an Outback to be. If you want a wagon that's a blast to drive both on the street and on the trails, a turbocharged Outback could be perfect for you. Again, we like the base engine and we really like its impressive fuel economy numbers, but the turbo is a worthwhile upgrade for anyone who loves driving." -- Autotrader
  • … the 182-hp engine feels adequate at best, and the CVT isn't very adept at finding torque; you'll want to switch into the manual shift mode when accelerating uphill or passing on the freeway. The 260-hp turbo four is, predictably, a much more willing partner. But most of its benefit is felt in the extra thrust it adds when accelerating from 30 or 50 mph. Off the line and at around-town speeds, XT models don't feel much gutsier than the base version." -- Car and Driver
  • "Subaru has improved its efficient continually variable automatic transmission for quieter operation. Paddle shifters that mimic the feel of an eight-speed transmission are available. But I was perfectly happy letting the CVT’s programming run the show." -- The Detroit Free Press

Handling and Braking

The all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback has well-rounded handling and a comfortable ride. Steering feel and response is mostly good, and the car even feels a little athletic in some situations.

  • … most people drive on paved roads most of the time. And there, the Outback is less inspiring. The car's ride is smooth, if occasionally less responsive than we'd like, and the steering is good except for an on-center dead spot." -- Car and Driver
  • "The steering feels tight and nicely responsive, giving the Outback a sportier feel, and the ride is tuned to offer a bit of performance in twists and turns but doesn’t sacrifice ride comfort in the process." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "It certainly rides and handles better, thanks to the SGP platform and a new lighter suspension setup that includes upgraded front internal-rebound springs, aluminum lower control arms, and beefier front and rear stabilizer bars. Steering, braking, and general inputs are well measured for the segment." -- Automobile Magazine

Off-Roading

The Outback has decent off-road performance, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, standard X-Mode driving, and hill descent control. The Outback Onyx Edition XT has a dual X-mode variation with deep snow and mud settings, along with a front-view camera.

  • "It’s exceptionally capable, conquering offroad trails that would leave most competitors begging for a tow. … The full-time all-wheel drive system easily pulled through water crossings, thick mud and up hills of loose dirt and rock on a couple of trails I’d never attempt in most small SUVs." -- The Detroit Free Press
  • "Sure, it will never be as capable as a more serious off-road SUV like the Jeep Wrangler or the Toyota 4Runner, but for a midsize wagon, it's able to tackle some pretty technical off-roading. Its off-road abilities also make it great for nasty road conditions like snow and rain, which is part of why it's so popular in the mountain region of the U.S." -- Autotrader
  • "During my testing on a moderately gnarly ATV trail, I was impressed at how the Outback found traction when tackling some challenging climbs with all-season street tires on loose dirt. The large tall wagon is no rock crawler, but I think the off-road capabilities far exceed what the average weekend warrior will need to get to a campsite or mountain bike trail." -- CNET
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2020 Subaru Outback

MSRP: $26,645 - $39,695

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