Subaru has updated their stable of rides in the last couple years, launching the all-new Ascent (a giant, three-row Outback, basically) and new generations of the Legacy and Forester, with the Outback update the last to drop. Speculation among Outback enthusiasts (your author included) varied from a major, nigh unrecognizable update in styling, to simply ditching the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine for a more refined, turbocharged four-banger.
Well, the 2020 Outback finally dropped today at the New York Auto show and, clearly, Subaru knows not to mess with a good thing.
The significant differences are all under the skin. The Outback now joins the rest of the Subaru family on their global platform chassis that promises a stiffer suspension, better handling, and enhanced crash protection.
For Base, Premium, and Limited editions, the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4 cylinder engine is a holdover from the previous generation. There’s a murmur of protest among some adventure-vehicle enthusiasts that the 2.5-liter is underpowered, but with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, I’ve never felt it lacking, whether passing or grunting up a steep hill. Towing, of course, would be another story.
This year, the Outback joins Subaru’s “XT” party, with Onyx, Limited, and Touring XT models sporting a turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that Subaru debuted in the Ascent last year. That mill will provide 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque for a much burlier getup and the ability to tow 3,50 pounds. Not bad for a wagon. Plus, the mpgs aren’t terrible for that kind of juice: 23 city and 30 highway, according to Subaru, anyway. The CVT transmission remains.
The interior continues the Outback’s trend of ticking ever closer to European-ish luxury. More leather, more shiny bits on the shift column. Then there’s the massive 11.6-inch touchscreen that’s standard on everything but the base model. Still runs Starlink, which you’re familiar with if you drive Subarus, but it’s an updated version and this one comes with something called Chimani, an app that programs in tons of info about every single national park in the U.S. Subaru knows its market.
Every single model in the line now comes with EyeSight, Subaru’s driver warning system, including adaptive cruise control and lane correction, a nanny system I could never get used to and opted to forego when I purchased my 2016 Outback.
The legendary AWD system remains, thank goodness, with no notable changes. X-Mode is still a thing on the new Subies, a software package that improves traction a little in serious off-road situations. You still get a massive 8.7 inches of ground clearance too.
I haven’t driven the new gen yet, considering they’ve just announced them, but hope to soon. My Outback has proven to be exceptional off-road, and surprisingly refined inside and on the highway. It’s a great replacement for my Toyota Tacoma that wasn’t exactly family friendly. The styling looks subtly refreshed, the turbo-4 is probably a great addition, and a stiffer, better handling wagon is never a bad thing. Hopefully we’ll get to drive one soon and give a full report.