The Outback is Subaru's best-selling vehicle, and for good reason. It's capable, it's versatile, it wears inoffensive looks, and it offers plenty of modern tech in a relatively affordable package. So when it came time to rework the model and introduce a new generation, Subaru took the less-is-more approach to the aesthetic redesign, which only has subtle tweaks. The major changes come inside the cabin and beneath the sheetmetal by introducing a more premium interior, and an all-new XT trim with a new 277-lb-ft 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine.
Similar to the approach used to update the 2020 Legacy, Subaru refined the Outback at every level. That started with the car's bones and the Subaru Global Platform. Subaru says the 2020 Outback is 70 percent stiffer in torsional and front-suspension rigidity and 100 percent stiffer in front lateral flex and rear subframe rigidity. The improved structure is also said to be 40 percent more absorbent in front and side crashes.
More exciting is the introduction of multiple XT trims, which come standard with a 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine. Like the Legacy, the Outback is getting rid of the 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine in favor of the model's first turbocharged offering since 2009.
It makes 260 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 277 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm, four more horsepower and 30 more lb-ft than the six-cylinder. Subaru notes the 2.4-liter engine offers a 3,500-pound towing capacity, which is an 800-pound improvement and the Outback's highest tow rating ever. It is estimated to get 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, compared to the 3.6's 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.
All Outbacks come standard with permanent symmetrical all-wheel drive and a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that offer an "eight-speed" manual mode and paddle shifters. Base-model Outbacks continue to use a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated boxer engine, which Subaru says has 90 percent new parts. Its specs increase to 182 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 176 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm from 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft in the previous model.
With the slight increases in power comes a lighter and more agile suspension. Up front the Outback will have MacPherson struts with an internal rebound spring and a new 0.9-inch hollow stabilizer bar. In the back, a double wishbone setup with coil springs and a 0.75-inch hollow stabilizer bar. Overall, the Outback maintains its impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance.
The second shining star of the Outback debut is the available 11.6-inch, which is standard on all but the base trim. It's the focal point of an overhauled interior that comes out the other end much more polished. Subaru says the interior is three decibels quieter at highway speeds, thanks to new weather stripping and thicker insulated glass.
On all 2020 Outback trims, EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is standard, including adaptive cruise control and lane-centering. DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation, WiFi hotspot, responsive headlights, reverse automatic braking, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and front view monitor are also available. The Outback will be the first vehicle to offer the Chimani app within its infotainment system. Aimed at the car's adventurous demographics, Chimani offers guides and information on all 417 U.S. National Parks.
The 2020 Outback will be available in Base, Premium, Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT, and Touring XT trims. The new Onyx Edition adds to the Premium trim with a blacked-out exterior and a trim-specific gray two-tone interior with water-repellant StarTex seats. It also adds a hands-free power gate and the front view monitor.
Pricing has not been announced yet for the new wagon-slash-crossover, but the 2020 Outback will be on sale in the fall.