There’s more to love in all the things we love already.
When Subaru introduced the Outback in the 1990’s it was a step in the right direction: The brand was the car to have for anyone with weekend cabin, who lived for hiking, who rejoiced in snow days when the roads were empty (Subarus were known for having all wheel drive). We were a tribe and we drove Subarus. Yes, I was one too; mine was a late ’70’s GF.
The Outback took all that capability and function and put it in a wagon that was just a tad short of being a full-fledged SUV. Some people loved the non-SUV scale; getting a kayak on the roof wasn’t a challenge. But others wanted the best of all worlds: An SUV AND a Subaru (which Subaru addressed with the Forester and the Ascent).
For the past 25 years Outback has carefully walked the SUV/wagon line to create its own class of all wheel drive capability, giving owners all the benefits of an SUV without bulk of a truck.
A Redesign of the 2020 Model Makes the Outback More Outback-y Than Ever
And now, in the 2020 model, with a starting price of $26,645 that tops out at just under $40,000, the Outback gives owners even more: more features and more capability. The design of the car has been tweaked; even though the 2020 model has been completely redesigned, it still looks like itself. There are no rude surprises here.
We took a test drive on both on city streets and off road, testing out its AWD capability and some great new features and we found a lot to be impressed with.
1. The New Infotainment System: WOW
I was immediately drawn to this. The new tablet-style system represents Subaru’s new direction with tech; the touch screen holds most of the car’s functions, though there are static buttons and controls for climate, radio, X Mode all wheel drive system and a home button to get you back to square one quickly. The system features navigation by Tom Tom, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. When using the car’s navigation system you’ll see turn by turn directions on the driver’s information screen, including the speed limit of the road you’re on. However, when using Apple CarPlay, directions (and speed limit) only appear on the infotainment screen.
By drawing all functions together in a single cohesive screen, the car’s cabin has an elegant, less cluttered look and feel.
2. Improved Eye Sight!
And, I’m not kidding. Subaru’s driver-assist safety system is called Eye Sight and it’s gotten better. The system encompasses adaptive cruise control, and now adds lane centering, which centers the car in its lane so you can relax a bit while driving (but yes, you must pay attention and keep your hands on the wheel). On our test drive it actually guided the car around curves and followed traffic, letting me relax and enjoy the drive a bit more.
That added a lot of interior glass means you don’t have to miss the view when you focus on the road.
3. More Interior Space in a Same-Sized Car
Subaru’s designers worked to slim the car’s skeleton and make it safer at the same time, increasing interior space without increasing the size of the car. It’s actually a double frame (one on top of the other) that reinforces the car’s structure. We really appreciated the car’s size when driving on the tight off road course and through the Drive-Thru Tree in California. If the car was 6 inches taller or a few inches wider we’d be stuck watching other cars drive through and not having the experience ourselves.
4. Beautiful New Interiors, Including a Water-Repellent one in the Onyx Edition
I fell in love with the Nappa leather in the Touring Edition, but the Onyx Edition boasts a waterproof leather-like upholstery, which, I’m guessing, means it’s dog slobber-proof, too. That’s good news: This interior looks and feels like leather but it’s more resilient, easy to wipe down and keep clean. The Onyx Edition also has a sportier look with toned down exterior details. It might be the most “Outback” edition of the Outback.
5. A More Convenient Lift Gate
If you’re wondering how that can be, this is brilliant: the hands free sensor for the lift gate is in the Subaru badge, so waive your hand (or elbow or arm) at it and when your key fob is on your person, the lift gate will open. And then, assuming you have your hands full, if you’d like to move the cargo cover, tap it with your elbow and it will retract out of your way.
6. Roof Rails With Built in Cross Bars
I LOVE this feature! I don’t have to go to the dealer and pay more money to use the roof rack. Simply flip open the latch and position the roof rails as you like. YAY!
7. More Power If You Want It
New for 2020 is a turbo engine option. The standard 4 cylinder has 186 horsepower—plenty of power for daily driving and most off road challenges; the turbo brings horsepower up to 260, so even more power for climbing mountains. It also has a 3500 lb tow capacity, giving it plenty of power to tow all your toys.
8. Snow, Sand, Mud, Hills: You Got This
X Mode has been upgraded to add Dual X Mode for off road driving; in addition to being even more capable in sand, mud and snow, the Dual X Mode has downhill descent control in which the car determines the speed of the descent to maximize traction and control. All you have to do is steer.
9. Inside, There’s Power Galore- And We Love That!
Because no one should be truly off the grid if they don’t want to be, right? So, a wireless phone charge pad also holds two USB ports, and the back of the center console has two USB ports for back seat passengers (as well as seat heaters).
10. Size and Power for the Road You Want to Travel
Our drive took us up some harrowingly narrow cow paths and around some very tight curves. I was nervous we wouldn’t be able to make the turns or that we might loose our footing, but the Outback was patient and capable, taking each bump and ditch like a pro. On the highway the car was comfortable … it made us forget we were in a car designed to climb hills and let us enjoy the ride.
The Most Ouback-y Outback Ever
The Subaru Outback is the company’s best selling model, and the Subie tribe are a dedicated bunch. So toying with the look and feel could be a risk. But as exec Peter Tenn described the 2020 Outback, it’s like the ultimate performance shoe: elegant and stylish on top, performance-focused at its base. It’s what you rely on daily and also, what you need for unique and amazing experiences. That’s what we love about the Outback. And now, even more.
What We Listened to in the Subaru Outback
My drive partner Eric and I had fun cruising along the forest floor and tagging the ultimate Outback playlist. This is what we thought sounded great on the Harman Kardon sound system!
Disclosure: I was Subaru’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.