By on April 18, 2019

Image: Subaru

For 2020, Subaru’s revered Outback wagon undergoes a host of changes while remaining unmistakably an Outback. And, as New York is hardly the first locale that springs to mind when thinking “Outback,” Subaru decided to have the great outdoors accompany the next-generation wagon to this week’s auto show. The automaker brought both the Outback and an eye-catching display showcasing America’s national parks (as well as Subaru’s partnership with the National Park Foundation).

Yes, Outbacks look great with coniferous trees in the background. As for the car itself, we called it. As predicted, the turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer four that appeared in the Subaru stable for 2019 didn’t remain the sole property of the Ascent crossover for long.

Now riding on the considerably stiffer Subaru Global Platform (architecture it shares with the equally new Legacy sedan), the Outback’s exterior design changes are modest, yet many.

The Outback’s headlamps receive only a minor reshaping, but the Exploding Galaxy badge, suspended in mid-grille by a chrome crossbar, appears to have gone on a recent eating binge. It’s huge. Below that, the front fascia adds acres of cladding designed to repel brush and twigs, while the circular foglights seen on the current-gen model swap to a vertically oriented set.

Image: Subaru

As before, that cladding continues aft, tracing the wheel arches and underscoring the body along the rockers. Along the flanks, the character line seen on the current model connecting front fender to taillight now flows across a pronounced rear fender bulge. A second set of creases appear in the hood, lending the Outback something of a power bulge. Out, um, back, the taillights keep their general shape, but grow pointier. The rear bumper now sees more cladding, too. It’s almost like the late ’90s are back.

(It should be noted that non-Onyx Edition Outbacks, unlike the one you see here, underscore the front and rear bumpers with a metallic strip, breaking up the expanse of matte grey cladding.)

Under hood, the 2020 Outback gains the 2019 Forester’s reworked 2.5-liter Boxer four as a base engine, now generating 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Not far off from its predecessor, though Subaru claims the mill boasts nearly 90 percent new parts. Power flows to all four wheels through a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission.

Image: Subaru

In an interesting turn of events, the 2020 Outback gains the XT trim the Forester lost for 2019. Like in the bygone Forester, XT denotes the presence of a turbocharged engine, though this one isn’t a 2.0-liter — it’s the 2.4-liter found in the Ascent, good for 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque and also mated to a Lineartronic. That tranny features a standard manual mode and paddle shifters.

Opting for the turbo four, which replaces the previous model’s (256 hp, 247 lb-ft) 3.6-liter flat-six, affords the buyer 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.

Assuming buyers actually head to the national parks Subaru so dearly loves, they might notice the going getting better as the roads get rougher. That could be a product of the Outback’s revamped suspension, which utilizes front MacPherson struts with a new internal rebound spring, aluminum lower L-arms, and a new 23mm hollow stabilizer bar. The rear double-wishbone layout adds a new 19mm hollow stabilizer bar. Ground clearance, as before (and as always), is 8.7 inches.

Image: Subaru

Inside, cargo area behind the front seats grows by nearly two cubic feet. You’ll gain access to that space, depending on trim, through a hands-free power tailgate, meaning the Outback is now truly closer to a crossover than ever before. Improvements in weatherstripping and thicker window glass is said to lower road noise in the cabin (at highway speed) by 3 decibels.

Other items of note are standard EyeSight driver assist tech on all trims — a bundle that includes adaptive cruise control with lane centering. Also new for 2020 is Subaru’s Front View Monitor, which erases blind spots by displaying a 180-degree, forward-facing view on the 11.6-inch multimedia screen. This expansive screen is standard on all but the base trim.

Subaru’s Outback trim ladder is as follows: Base, Premium, Limited, Touring, Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT, and Touring XT models. Expect pricing will be announced closer to the 2020 Outback’s fall on-sale date.

Image: Subaru

[Images: Subaru]

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30 Comments on “2020 Subaru Outback Picks Up New Platform, Deep-sixes the Six...”

  • avatar

    While the shape is fine, as always, it’s pulling a Pontiac and growing too much cladding. The rear lamps are now overworked and have a prior gen Traverse feel about them.

    “Outback gains the 2019 Forester’s reworked 2.5-liter Boxer four as a base engine, now generating 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Not far off from its predecessor, though Subaru claims the mill boasts nearly 90 percent new parts.”

    Coming from HG central manufacturer, 90% new parts isn’t a good thing. I’d give this new one a year or two.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Subaru claims the mill boasts nearly 90 percent new parts”

    Hopefully head gaskets are among the new parts.

    • 0 avatar

      Wrong. The headgaskets are fine in the 2010+ 2.5L engine. You don’t want to mess with that.

      • 0 avatar

        Head gaskets are fine. Oil consumption is fine. Been fixed for 10 years.

        Now please stop. Please grow up.

      • 0 avatar

        Subaru was putting EJ253s in Legacys and Outbacks in the US market through 2012. They still put Subaru ‘Cooling System Conditioner’ in every new Subaru, a product also known as Holt’s RADweld. Caveat emptor. A good rule to live by is never use Stop-Leak in anything you plan on owning for more than another week. They are the fly-by-night used car dealers of the OEM world. I got out of the Subaru repairing business six months ago, and the trend at the time was not towards Subaru suddenly making good cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Old news from the early-mid aughts. Things are well settled now.

        They didn’t go into minute detail but it looks like they addressed the bottom seat cushion extension and maybe added ventilation as well. Hopefully the sunroof is Forrester-sized….

        The 2.5 will be fine in daily commuting as mine has been. Excited the turbo is back. The only thing missing is adapting the hybrid from BFF Toyota – Subaru should be on the front edge of that. I’m not the mechanical type but I imagine it has to do with adaptability to the Boxer; it didn’t make a disernable difference in the Gen 1 Cross-Trek.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          To answer my own questions (thanks to Planet Subaru…), Limited and Touring will have 10-way power front seats (passenger finally gets height adjustment), and Touring will have driver’s cushion extender and ventilated front seats.

          No word on whether sunroof will be pano…

      • 0 avatar

        Our old 2012 Forester with P0300 codes and dropping coolant level would say otherwise. It would puff blue on cold start and piston slap too.

  • avatar

    Could be my next vehicle, especially with the tow rating upgrade, depending on what they decide to charge for the XT. But it might turn out to be cheaper to get the turbo in an Ascent (which has it in all trims along with a 5000# rating) than an Outback. Or maybe we’ll go for a Honda Passport. Given the level of off-roading we do, any of the above should work. Was waiting to see what they were going to do with the new Highlander, then saw it and crossed it right off the list. Grand Cherokee is a little tempting. Obviously another step up off-road, and I’ve always enjoyed them as rentals, but getting to be an old design, and man I don’t trust ’em. And I don’t think I want to drive anything as crude and thirsty as a 4Runner as a daily driver (however great it would be off pavement).

  • avatar

    Isn’t this almost exactly like the current Outback?

  • avatar

    So the new Outback looks like the old Outback with a poorly trimmed cladding beard for a face just like most of the men who will be driving them.

    At least the interior is new, and with the giant well-integrated screen, rather attractive as long as Subaru doesn’t go too downmarket with the lower trim levels.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps it’s different in snow and/or mountain trailhead country but here in the flat and swampy east Outbacks less than three generations old driven by men literally don’t exist.

      Although the women who drive them are often pretty poorly trimmed themselves.

  • avatar

    The six was by far the least terrible Subaru engine. It figures that they’d kill it.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    As someone who tows frequently-putting 3,500 pounds behind the outback would be an experience one would not forget. Even tow ratings for half-tons are overly generous…..

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    On the one hand, I want to lambast Subaru for continuing to cling to frumpiest styling in the industry after Toyota’s.

    On the other hand, Subaru trying to be interesting resulted in the B9 Tribeca, so maybe it’s best they leave well enough alone.

  • avatar

    I would prefer current body. But dismiss my opinion. I will not buy this in the next many years

  • avatar

    I actually like this car alot in 2019 guise, the 2020 is just slightly better looking than the rather bland model it replaces. The added power is nice but I have mixed feelings about a turbo mill, the fuel economy and longevity of the new engine.

    My problems with the vehicle are unlikely to be solved however. First, the base model is unreasonably slow. If they could get 0-60 down to 8 seconds that would be wonderful, probably never happen. Second, you are getting space, ground clearance, AWD an anemic 4 cyl, and the new interior definitely looks a step up, which was definitely needed. Taking all this into account, the Outback still represents a fairly poor value proposition as well equipped models with 4cyl will be in the $40k’s. There is a ton of better equipped, more powerful, better looking vehicles in this price range. As a base vehicle, its not bad, but most people want a few options. Option it up with the things most people want and its just not worth it unless you are really, really taken with the “Love” commercials and that outdoorsey image they want everyone to buy into.

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