Subaru is known for two things: All-wheel drive and turbocharged engines. And after a long absence, those two things are finally coming together again in 2020 on the brand’s most iconic model: the Outback.
The 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the same used in the three-row Subaru Ascent, and makes 266 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. That is a substantial boost from the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder used on the previous generation Outback (it only makes 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet). Base versions of the Outback will remain available with that motor, while the XT trim level adds the turbocharged engine. Prices have not yet been announced. Fuel economy for the 2.5 is improved by one mile per gallon to 26 city, 33 highway. The turbocharged engine returns 23 miles per gallon in city test cycles, and 30 on the highway. The only transmission available is the functional if unexciting continuously variable item you've already been bored by.
Like the bigger Ascent and smaller Crosstrek and Forester, this new Outback now rides on Subaru’s global platform. That means its structure is 70 percent stiffer in torsional rigidity and 100 percent stiffer in lateral rigidity. Those improvements will benefit everything from ride quality to handling, and should also make this new Outback a quieter place to crunch highway miles. The new platform is also capable of absorbing 40 percent more energy in both front and side crashes, making it substantially safer than the outgoing model, which was already one of the safest vehicles on American roads.
Subaru’s EyeSight suite of driver assist safety technologies will be standard on all new Outbacks. That brings features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, and automatic emergency braking to all Outback drivers. Subaru also includes driver monitoring technology, which uses face recognizing infrared cameras to monitor drivers for signs of fatigue or distraction, then alerts them to that. Optional will be other safety and convenience technologies like LED headlamps that turn with the steering wheel, reverse automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, a rear cross traffic alert, and heads up display. Also new is an options front view camera that provides drivers with a 180-degree view from low on the front bumper, helping them navigate parking spaces, or off-road obstacles.
Most of the new Outback’s buttons have been replaced with an 11.6-inch high-definition touchscreen. A travel guide to 400 national parks is one of the included apps on the system, which features a smartphone-like interface. The Outback now also comes with its own WiFi router, providing LTE-speed internet to its passengers. The slick, vertically oriented touchscreen completes an improved interior, which now features optional leather-wrapped surfaces on the dashboard.
All these new features are combined in a package that's almost identical to the Outback you already knew and loved. Subaru has taken what was already the best do-it-all vehicle available in this country, and made it substantially faster, safer, and more luxurious. Do I recommend that you buy one? Unless you want a smaller, more affordable Crosstrek, or need to carry three rows of passengers with the Ascent, then the answer is an emphatic yes.