2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review: Sticking With A Winning Formula

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The new 6th generation Subaru Outback is true to the original formula, only bigger, better and with more boot.

Whitehorse, Yukon. But seriously, do the Yukon, the great outdoors, and the new 2020 Subaru Outback not seem like a match made in marketing Heaven? The experience certainly served to expose the new Outback’s principal attributes. The road we took lead us to Skagway, Alaska, and back to Whitehorse.

The highway that connects the two towns, Highway 2, takes us through some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. A portion of it could literally have served as an alternative Middle Earth. While not all road trips in a new Subaru Outback will take you to such places, one thing quickly became immensely obvious as we set out from the Edgewater hotel: the new Outback is exactly what its needs to be, but better where it counts.

Subaru Global Platform

The new 2020 Subaru Outback and, subsequently, the new Legacy sedan, are the latest Subies to be built on the company’s Global Platform. This structure has proven to be a major ally in what is turning out to be Subaru’s rebirth. Underpinning the Crosstrek, Impreza, Ascent, Forester and now the Outback, its versatility and strength has elevated the brand to a new height.

Not too long ago, the reasons to by a Subaru were for its AWD system, capabilities and relative robustness. Now, it’s these same three elements with added comfort, refinement and a premium feel.

2020 Subaru Legacy First Drive Review

True to the original

What’s not changed is Subaru’s stubbornness about keeping the Outback true to the original concept. It is a highly functional outdoor tool that looks like a mountain boot, if you squint a tad. Relatedly, this is why Subaru’s resisted changing the car’s styling – the new 6th generation Outback is a clear and present evolution. And for this, we thank Subaru. We thank Subaru for cladding, standard LED lighting, ground-clearance and lots of it, and its uber-cool improved roof-rack.

As part of this evolution, Subaru’s introduced a new Outdoor trim. The latter includes black wheels, trim, a full-size spare (always a good idea) and Dual-Mode X-Mode which is designed to help you get out of deep trouble.

2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback

Only a little bigger and more luxurious

The new car 36mm longer, 57mm wider and scarcely taller. The wheelbase has not changed but the overall interior space has grown. Most notably, the boot is now more capacious at 920 litres (with the new measurement standards). Accessing the trunk via the ultra-rapid power hatch has become easier thanks to an available sensor in the rear logo which is a smart alternative to the “kick.”

The cabin itself is where the most notable improvements have taken place. The dashboards design went from the 90s to the 21st Century with the addition of an available 11.6-inch touchscreen. Although it covers nearly all possible functions, from audio, HVAC to infotainment, a few hard buttons remain. The layout and setup are intuitive and responsive. To note, only the base Convenience trim does without the large screen. The fact that a heated steering wheel is only offered with the top-most trims, a mistake I think, demonstrates where priorities lie.

2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback

Overall, the cabin is a genuinely more cosseting place with soft-touch surfaces throughout and numerous available seat materials. Ventilated seats and revised rear heated seats are on offer as are a new front-view camera and Subaru StarLink Connected Services.

Ain’t no mountain high enough, or road long enough

Subaru’s seriously upped the ante on the inside – this is where we will spend much of our time. This “softening” of the car’s cabin relates wonderfully to the Outback’s newfound skills as a cruiser.

The chassis is tuned with a knack for excellent on-road behaviour and satisfying steering response and feel. Kilometre after kilometre, the Outback performed predictably through changing road conditions, from dry, to sandy and wet.

Part and parcel to this is Subaru’s legendary and standard full-time Symmetrical AWD. Attached to it is thoroughly revised 2.5-litre boxer 4-cylinder engine. It provides 182-horsepower and 176 lb.-ft. of torque on-tap sooner and for a longer period of time than previously. The Lineatronic Continuously Variable transmission (CVT) is also 80% new and is largely responsible for impressive fuel numbers of 9L city, 7.1L highway per 100km.

While the 2.5L might be at the very least adequate, I can’t imagine that loading up the car with four passengers and exploring its 2,700 lb towing capacity will be much fun, Under uphill acceleration, it managed the task with little oomph to spare.

The return of the XT!

For those who desire all the Outback’s capabilities, the 220mm of ground clearance, impressive off-road capabilities, and generalized ruggedness but must have more power can now (YAY!) opt for an XT version.

As most know, XT stands for turbocharged. As with the Ascent and Legacy, the boosted 2.4-litre boxer 4-cylinder engine makes quite an appearance with its 260-horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. Subaru boasts that the Outback XT will reach 100km/h in 6.4 seconds and that, on the highway, it will consume 7.9L/100km, or little more than the 2.5L.

The 2.4T’s torque is prodigious and capable of keeping with all the Jones. The CVT juggles engine revs and boost almost flawlessly for rapid transiting, especially when passing. In this instance, with four passengers and a max 3,500 lb trailer out back shant pose too much of an issue.

2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback

Value, AWD, space, it’s all here

Pricing for the 2020 Subaru Outback is competitive, especially when compared too its immediate its immediate competition, such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. In fact, much of the big wagon’s conquest sales come from ex-owners of said vehicles. With a starting price of $30,695, the Convenience 2.5 is packed with arguments for it. The Outback Outdoor XT begins at $38,695, or very close to the new Toyota RAV4 Trail.

According to Subaru, the top purchase reasons for an Outback are AWD, reliability safety, road holding/handling and storage/cargo. Never has the Outback delivered so strongly on all these points.

Sales of the Outback have increased four-fold between 2008 and 2018. Although I doubt the meteoric rise will continue as such, the 2020 Subaru Outback is seriously worth considering. There’s something comforting about that fact that it is still true to its original winning formula. And we love it for that!

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