2020 Subaru Outback Picks Up New Platform, Deep-sixes the Six

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2020 subaru outback picks up new platform deep sixes the six

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.

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.

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.

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.

[Images: Subaru]

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2 of 30 comments
  • Slavuta Slavuta on Apr 19, 2019

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

  • Thegamper Thegamper on Apr 19, 2019

    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.

  • Lou_BC You'd think cops would have an understanding of the laws they are supposed to enforce.
  • Merlyn I’m on my second Spark and love it! I can pass any car I’ve never had a problem going up a hill it does just fine. As for cargo I can fit three suitcases, two book bags and still have the front seat for a passenger. Not sure what point this guy is trying to make. I have hand free phone service and Sirius radio plug in my phone and have navigation. I would buy another spark in a heartbeat.
  • Buickman I won't own one and I'll be happy!
  • Jeanbaptiste Ever since y’all started sending your damn geese down here we’re just been waiting for one of you to show up.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Cherokee for several days at the beginning of this year. Since the inventory of rental cars is still low, this was a 2020 model with 48k miles and V6. Ran fine, no gremlins, graphics display was easy to work, plenty of power, & very comfortable. Someone must of disarmed the lane assistance feature for the steering wheel never shook (YES!!!!!!!!). However, this woman's voice kept nagging me about the speed limit (what's new!?!?!?!).I was impressed enough to consider this a prime candidate to replace my 11 yr old Ford Escape. Might get a good deal with the close out of the model. Time will tell. 🚗🚗🚗