2020 Subaru Outback Test Drive Review — More Capable Than Ever?

2020 Subaru Outback Test Drive Review — More Capable Than Ever?


TRAVIS LANGNESS: Is it a wagon?
Is it a lifted hatchback?
Is it a crossover,
or is it an SUV?
I don’t really know.
But I do know is this is
the 2020 Subaru Outback.
And we’re here, Northern
California, taking it out
for a first drive.
We’re going to show you
what’s new about it, what’s
new under the hood, and all
the cool tech and safety
features that you can get.
And we’re going to
take it off road.
But before we do that, be sure
to subscribe to our YouTube
channel and go to Edmonds.com
for more information.
So what’s new about the Outback?
Well, pretty much everything.
Under the hood, the base model
gets a 2.5 liter four cylinder,
which is the same as
the last generation.
But it’s actually a new
engine, same size, new engine.
This one, however, has the turbo
charged 2.4 liter engine, which
replaces the old six cylinder.
And this one gets more
power, more torque,
and better fuel economy– all
great things for a new car.
There’s different sheet
metal, different styling
up front and in the back–
different set of roof rack
systems with tie-down sections.
It’s also got the same
tent weight rating
as the previous generation got.
So you can put a
700-pound tent on here
while this thing is parked,
or a 176 pounds while moving.
As you go down the
side of the vehicle,
you notice some Subaru styling.
They’ve styled it
they said to look
kind of like a hiking boot
with the rubber on the bottom
but a little bit nicer up top.
Then you come around
back, different tail
lights, different rear fascia.
And if you get the option, you
can have a power lift tailgate
with the hands-free section.
But it doesn’t use a foot swipe,
like some other manufacturers
just uses a little sensor
here in the tailgate.

On the inside of the new
Outback, there’s a lot to like.
For starters is the
big party piece–
this optional 11.6 inch
tablet style touchscreen.
Now, there are a couple of
things to note about this.
First, it’s really high quality.
It’s high resolution.
The touch screen moves easily.
It responds to touch mode
stuff well to your inputs well.
But it is a little bit small.
If you look up, like, Apple
CarPlay player Android
Auto, that seems a
little kind of shrunken,
because width-wise,
it’s not very large.
Otherwise, though, the nav
map shows up really cool.
It’s powered by TomTom.
So it’s got good
directions in here.
This is a really nice system.
It does, though, intrude a
little bit on storage space.
You can’t really
put much down here.
There’s two USB plugs here.
And there’s an option
for dealer accessory,
charging wireless pad.
Now, over here on
the passenger side,
there is some more
smartphone storage space.
But it’s not a lot.
There are some nice
soft touch points
on the side for
your elbows here.
It really feels good
to drive and relax in.
And the center console here has
this nice little top section
and then a larger section
below for more of your gear.
Now, you can’t put a smartphone
here in the center console.
And there’s a nice little
addition for cup holders.
These are nice and deep.
And also on the passenger
side here, there’s
another bit for storage.
So small item storage, it
seems like they’re kind
of making due with the space.
When you go down into
the touch screen,
there are a couple of
things worth noting.
It’s got all of the controls
for the driver aids in here.
You’ve got systems,
like, auto stop,
start are integrated
into the touch screen.
The climate control also
integrated into the touch
Sure, you can do the heat
and cooling buttons here.
But the fan buttons are here.
And they’re small
and don’t always
respond to your touch inputs.
It’s kind of annoying.
And when you get deeper
into the screen settings,
you can go into things that
have to deal with the car
and driving its distance.
So you can look at the
pre-braking collision,
turn that on or off.
Or you can going into
lane departure warnings
and see which ones you
want to turn on and off.
One of the coolest
parts, though,
is you can go into the
cruise control acceleration
characteristics on
the menu and change it
from level one, eco,
two, comfort, three,
standard to four, dynamic.
Now, what this means is you
can adjust the level of speed
that the car picks up
when someone gets out
of your way on the
highway, and you’ve
got adaptive cruise
control engaged.
This is a complaint we
have on tons of cars
that when someone
gets out of your way,
and the adaptive cruise
control re-engages,
the car kind of takes
some time to pick up.
But on this one, it
can adjust it yourself.
Steering wheel is great.
It’s pretty much the same
as the previous generation,
got heff to it.
And while at first glance, it
seems like it’s kind of crowded
with buttons, and you
get a little overwhelmed,
things fall the hand easily.
And once you got it figured
out on the road a couple hours
behind the wheel,
you’re not going
to have a problem
with these buttons.
It’s also nice that there
is still a volume knob here,
despite there being
one over here.
And the driver display
system, it’s bright.
It’s got a good
font, good contrast.
And it doesn’t distract
you from the road.
There’s not a lot of extra
information going on there.
This is, all in all,
a great place to be.
We’re out on the road.
Moving to the back seat, I
have the seat set for me,
and I’m 5 foot 9.
There’s definitely
enough knee room
here for somebody
who’s even taller.
If I sit all the way
back and upright,
there’s plenty of space here.
A lot of foot room underneath.
And there’s plenty
a head room up top.
There’s also a couple
of nice features
back here for passengers, like
your two USB charging ports
and outboard heated seats.
So it’s a little cold.
People sitting on the outboard
seats– be nice and warm.
And then the center
here, obviously, you’ve
got the full data center
console with cup holders.
You have the 40/60 split seats.
And if you sit in
the middle, it’s
not entirely uncomfortable.
Now, I wouldn’t want to be
here for a long road trip.
But a trip to the
store, no problem.
We’ve got a hands-free tailgate
and a couple of cool features
in the back here.
For instance, let’s say you
do have a bunch of stuff.
Your hands are full.
And you want to load it in.
But it’s too large
for this cargo cover–
simply push down on
it, slides right up.
It’s pretty awesome.
Now, back here, you’ve got
32.5 cubic feet of storage
behind the rear seats,
which may seem smaller
than the previous generation
because it’s a smaller number.
But it’s just a difference
in the way the [? SCAE ?]
ratings work out.
This is actually more space than
the previous generation car.
And you’ve got the folding
seats there with the handles.
And you get, now,
over 75 cubic feet
of cargo space, which is more
than enough for two adults
to lay down in a camping
trip or just enough to put
a lot of lumber in.
Either way, it’s a spacious SUV.

A lot of people are going to
buy this car with the base
engine– the 2.5 liter naturally
aspirated boxer four cylinder.
And I would tell them not
to, because this 2.4 liter
turbocharged engine is
definitely the one to have.
It’s got a ton of get up and
go, 260 horsepower, 277 pound
feet of torque.
And it’s honestly a really
nice engine to drive.
Even with the CVT, it feels
like it’s got down shifts.
It feels like it’s got
some real get up and go.
I’m just a fan of it.
It’s not grading either.
It’s not wheezy or loud.
And even when you’re
going up grades,
it seems to have a
good low tone to it,
unlike some other
turbo-charged four cylinder
engines, especially when
they’re paired with CVTs.
You don’t get that with
this 2.4 liter engine.
And this is the
same engine that you
get in the Subaru Ascent,
their big three-row crossover.
Oh, it’s got some power.
It feels good, especially on
a straight away like that.
Brakes are good too.
Turn in is good.
Really, it feels
kind of sporty, which
is something I
didn’t think I’d find
myself saying after driving
this car for a few hours.
But it feels like something
that I could definitely
go on, like a
canyon run in, which
is weird for a
midsize SUV/crossover.
Now, there are a couple of
competitors in the class that
give you that same vibe.
The Passport is very similar.
We just did a video with
the Passport and the Blazer.
And while I’m not a huge
fan of the Blazer myself,
I do agree that it’s
got a very sporty vibe.
But despite this
outback’s outdoorsy looks,
it’s a car that really
holds its own when
it comes to curvy roads and
getting around and having
a little bit of fun.
This is definitely not something
you would think is an SUV.
It kind of lends to the
idea that this feels more
like a wagon or a car, which
in my opinion is a good thing.
Yeah, I know
everybody likes SUVs.
They’re really popular.
That’s why Subaru has made this
car bigger and more capable
over the years.
But the party trick
that it’s kept
is the fact that it’s still
really capable around corners.
Steering has a good
on-center field,
returns the center really
easily in your hands.
It’s got good weight to it.
And where you don’t get all this
body roll and heave to and fro.
And on the highway, it’s
really comfortable– good ride
quality, good seats.
It’s a little bit noisy in here.
You can probably hear kind
of that low hum of the tires.
But it’s not too bad.
You turn on the music, and
it drowns out real easily,
especially with the optional
Harman Kardon sound system
that this trim level has.

There’s a lot of
passive, active–
all kinds of safety features
available– optional standard
on this Subaru.
And some of those, like, lane
keep assist and blind spot
monitoring– those
are across the board
in a lot of different vehicles.
You can get them
pretty much everywhere.
But this car has a system
that’s very unique.
It’s called driver focus.
And there are actually
infrared radar systems here
that read my face and can tell
if I’m looking down too long
or getting drowsy.
It also knows who I am.
You can store up to five driver
profiles in here that greet you
when you get into the car.
And well, it seems
kind of Skynetty.
I do like it.
It’s fun.
And it sets up your
seat based on your face.
It’s definitely a new and
interesting system but one
I’m happy to get used to.
So what I’ll do here is,
I’ll look up at the road.
I’ll put my head down.
And in a second, the car
should figure out– yep,
you hear that beep?
The car just figured out that I
wasn’t paying attention– told
me to keep my eyes on the road.
So if you’re looking at
your cell phone, which
you absolutely
shouldn’t be doing,
it will make that noise as well.
One of the great features too
about the inside of this car
is that everything is
kind of down and away.
It’s out of my line of sight.
It’s a great flat dashboard,
tons of forward visibility.
And there aren’t really
any appreciable blind spots
in the Outback.
But there’s an optional
180-degree front-view camera
helpful when you’re
out on the trails.
And there’s a nice big
rear-view camera display
in this 11.6 inch tablet.
Now, these seats– these
are pretty comfortable too.
From the second you
get at them, you
realize that you don’t really
have to adjust much when you’re
out on the road.
There’s good bolster support.
There’s adjustable
lumbar support.
That was lane departure.
I got out of the way of a
truck that was oncoming.
Now, when it comes
to this driver aids,
they can be a little
bit sensitive.
But honestly, it’s
probably still
one of my favorite
systems on the market.
There are other systems,
like, for example, the Honda
One that’s a little
bit more sensitive,
and I’m not a huge fan.
But this Subaru system
is, it’s really intuitive.
And you can adjust things,
like, how fast it pulls away
from adaptive cruise.
And someone gets
out of your way.
And you can just turn off
some of the systems entirely.
And it goes around
corners pretty well–
look at that.
So what’s the Outback
like on the road?
Honestly, it’s really good.
Same as last generation.
It handles well.
It steers well.
Sure, it’s no sports car.
This steering is a
little bit vague.
But it’s definitely more
connected than somebody
on frame SUV competitors.
And it’s got a good heft
in your hands, good return
to center field here.
And I would enjoy driving
this on any back road.

So now that we’ve done
some on-road stuff,
we’re going to do some
off-roading in this Subaru
And really, there
is a difference
between this kind of off-roading
and the kind of stuff
you might see on
Jeep commercials.
We’re going over a
few water crossings
here through some ruts.
And there’s plenty
of ground clearance,
because this Subaru, just like
all its Subaru SUV brethren,
has 8.7 inches of ground
clearance at the lowest places.
It’s got OK approach
and departure angles.
But it has dual X-Mode.
So it’s the upgraded
version of the base X-Mode.
This is deep mud engage X-Mode.
OK, so let’s go into
the system here.
X-Mode is on.
And I will move
forward for deep mud.

I did just fine.
Honestly, that wasn’t
really that deep.
So we’ll ignore that part.
But the X-Modes come in two
available software systems.
There’s the base X-Mode,
which allows you to do hill,
descent control–
things like that– kind
of manages the traction
of the all wheel drive system.
And then there’s the dual
X-Mode, which is on this car
and which allows for
sand, snow, rocky areas.
It gives you some wheel
slip so you can get out
of kind of hairy situations.
So if you live in an area
where there’s a lot of snow,
or you know you’re going to be
traversing trails more often,
than maybe go for one of the
Outbacks with the dual X-Mode.
Now, as we go
through this section,
you can see that I’m going
between a cut down tree.
And it is really precarious–
find something maybe two,
three inches wider–
wouldn’t make it through there.
And one of the nice
things about this vehicle
is that it does have kind
of smaller dimensions
than some of its
bigger competitors,
like the forerunner.
Out here on the trails too,
most of the stuff you’re
going to find isn’t Moab.
Look, I know jeeps are good.
I know forerunners are good.
I know a Raptor can go anywhere
and do jumps in the desert.
But vehicles you want to
live with on a daily basis
are ones like the Outback.
OK, I’m not a huge fan of CVTs.
But this one is
really well-tuned.
And the 2.4 liter turbo-charged
engine has plenty of power.
It’s also got plenty
of space in the back.
And as opposed to
a high-riding SUV,
it’s got a nice low load floor.
So you can get big heavy items,
your camping totes, your kid’s
strollers, whatever
in the back, easier
than you could if you had
something that was higher up,
like a pickup truck or
a body on frame SUV.
It’s got its benefits.
And it’s going to be
less expensive than some
of those competitors too.
So there’s a good reason to
check this one out first.

Does the 2020 Subaru Outback
deliver on all its promises?
This is one of the
most comfortable,
capable, spacious and high
tech midsize SUVs on the market
It’s hard to tell yet whether it
will edge out top competitors,
like the Honda Passport.
But once we get it
in-house at Edmonds
and do a full instrumented test,
we’ll be sure to let you know.
So for more information
for vehicles like this
and for all of its
competitors, go to Edmonds.com.
And feel free to subscribe
to our YouTube channel
and go to Facebook or Instagram
for more great content.

100 Replies to “2020 Subaru Outback Test Drive Review — More Capable Than Ever?”

  1. For some reason the look of both the outback and the Forester appeal to me. As for the CVT I haven't yet drove a vehicle with a CVT so I can't really speak from personal experience.From what I've seen online it seems like they should be pretty good on a scenic trail.I don't have plans for Rock Crawling but would like to get a little bit off the beaten path.With the fuel economy they talk about maybe a nice Sunday drive or overnight camping trip would be more affordable for some. As for the camera's with face recognition,no thanks. If I was gonna get one I'd get a trim level without that.

  2. Great review. Just what I wanted to know without too much detail. A solid assessment of the Outback and solid journalism. Thank you

  3. The Subaru Outback is to the Legacy what the AMC Eagle was to the Concord/Hornet…..direct lineage but two totally different animals! Thanks for the review, great job.

  4. With the introduction of the Ascent last year and the year after year growth in size of the Forester I was wondering if the Outback would be squeezed out by other Subaru vehicles from both above and below. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be the case, especially for the turbo XT model.

    I wasn't impressed with the 2.4L turbo in the Ascent. Almost all brands have standard of optional V6 engines in their 3 row crossovers. (The Mazda CX-9 is the exception.) And the same is true of the smaller two row midsize crossovers. Only the Outback and the Santa Fe limit the engine choice to a four cylinder turbo in the "tweener" category between 188" and 192" in length. There's a reason for that. In vehicles with curb weights over two tons and weighing close to 5000 lbs or more when loaded with fuel, passengers, and gear/luggage a small displacement more highly stressed four cylinder turbocharged engine has a lot of weight to propel. Performance may be adequate but smooth power delivery and especially durability remain issues to consider. I remain skeptical about the Ascent (and for that matter the CX-9) compared to its rivals.

    On the other hand, the Outback XT with the same engine as the Ascent has a curb weight nearly 700 lbs less. Add fuel, passengers, and gear and the difference increases to 900 lbs or more. (Remember the Outback seats five, not 7 or 8.) That's the equivalent of cramming three NFL lineman in the Outback's cargo space! Both performance and durability benefit compared to the Ascent. In fact, early reviews suggest only the Edge ST and some versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee are quicker to 60 mph.

    Some will find the fact that the Subaru offers only a CVT in the Outback (and the Ascent) a major drawback. (In the entire midsize crossover class only the Nissan Murano imposes the same restriction.) I'm no fan of CVT's and adding faux gears and paddle shifters strike me as kinda silly. But I have to admit that CVT's from various manufacturers have improved a lot in the last decade or so. Subaru has apparently done a good job with theirs. And given the weight difference between the Outback and the Ascent I'd guess it's more appropriate in the lighter vehicle.

    All in all, I'm impressed with the new Outback. My wife and I dropped it from our shopping list when we purchased a "tweener" size crossover last year primarily because it was so little changed since we considered it six years before. If we were shopping again in the near future that would no longer be the case.

  5. Subaru made a point to talk about the new platform enhancing ride stability and reducing noise – but your review seems to not notice any improvements ? Also the base engine has a few more HP from last years model and is supposed to be slightly better ? Again no mention. Front and rear seat room was also suppose to be increased from 2019.

  6. Designed to resemble a hiking boot? Seriously, that has to be some of the dumbest marketing I've heard.

    And I'm sorry, you can't call that screen responsive. Every clip I've seen shows a clear delay between the touch and the response. The first iPad is better than this thing and it's almost ten years old!

  7. …but some of us like to listen to CDs in their original format…this can't do that. what is glare like on that screen? fingerprints? nighttime blindness? operation in colder temps with gloves on that may or maynot have a tech finger??? [edit: I've been told a cd player can be installed in the center console, but haven't verified it]

  8. Looks like some serious sun glare on the screen at 10:26? Was it an issue to read the display when the sun was hitting it like that?

  9. I'm younger, and I love tech, but I'm honestly tired of seeing all these giant screens. Don't get me wrong, I want a big screen, but all I'm going to use it for is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I just don't want to have to take my eyes off the road to see where to touch a screen to adjust the air conditioning, and I don't need all the distracting other UI around CarPlay/Android Auto. I'm loving the 10.25 screens in Kia, with physical controls for AC. That's the big screen setup I'm here for

  10. Thanks for a fine review. How do you compare the handling and ride to the Ascent. I have owned an Ascent for almost one year now and I like the smooth ride and the engine. The reason I bought the Ascent is for the 3rd row seat when I have the grand children with us.

  11. Finally a review that shows the ivory color interior! Most only feature the Onyx trim or the touring trim that has the darker brown. The darker brown reminds of the shade of a football. I don't like it, but to each their own. At least there are options besides a sea of black interior!
    Can't wait to get my Limited XT in white in 8-10 weeks! Plenty quick for me, good ground clearance, the best AWD system besides a true off road Jeep; and decent mpgs for the size of the car. I'm excited, first Subie! Long live the wagon!! If more people realized how great wagons are, maybe we wouldn't have a sea of SUVs! All the SUV practicality, in a more car like driving experience. Plus, wagons remind me of being a kid and taking a family vacation. Wagons have a cool nostalgic factor that SUVs and crossovers can't match. Bring on the NY winter snow! This year, with a good set of snow tires; I'll be ready for anything winter can throw! Hopefully when I'm ready for the next car, Subaru will have a hybrid Outback model! One that won't cut down on cargo space like the Crosstrek PHEV!!

  12. Dual Xmode sounds like a software upgrade that costs $0 to make but is an extra charge to the consumer 👎👎👎

  13. Esta es la maquina para subir al volcan Villarrica, se ve esplendida. En casa de mi abuela hay un subaru leone 1987. Subaru the best.

  14. I like Subaru’s but I would be concerned about someone buying an Outback and not being diligent with oil changes. With the turbo engine on what would be considered a utilitarian car for most owners, I can see people falling behind with oil changes. I own a turbo Legacy and I change my oil every 2,500 with Mobil 1 (synthetic) and I have 122k miles and the car runs like new.

  15. It's beautiful, but I hate the idea of climate control integrated into the touch screen. I'm always fiddling with that on a road trip, and the idea that I cannot memorize the tactile feel and location of the controls, and I might have to fight with a finicky screen, is almost a deal breaker. I might have to snag a high-end 2018 or 19. (I just rented a 2018 with the 2.5 liter engine and it was fine.)

  16. Turbos have to be replaced after awhile, wonder what the cost will be? I will take a straight 6 over a turbo 4 anytime.

  17. Subarus are amazing off road. Infact so good I drove my stock Subaru forester and outback 2.5i through the Sahara desert many times. It out performs some real 4x4s because it's power to weight ratio is very good. I cannot say I would trust any of subarus competition to go where I take my stock Subaru.

  18. Subaru needs to design Outback more boxy in the rear to increase the cargo space. We know it is capable so it needs to be more practical as well.

  19. Did you try to climb over any obstacles with it? That is the knock on the modern CVT Subaru. I can tell you that I have seen less capability with my 2016 than I did with my 2005. It is still great on the beach and better than any jeep but if you go down into a short mudhole, don't expect it to just climb up the other side if you have a steep embankment. It cuts power, something my 2005 did not do.

  20. Great review, informative, detailed, fun to listen to (for serious buyers). Great car.

    One question – does the cargo cover fold into the trunk floor?

  21. See …this electronic ‘touch’ switches is just crap that can fail, and the car buyer will be overcharged to get it fix. It’s utterly stupid how we’re being ‘gouged’ by car manufactures.
    Quit insulting Outback owners by calling this an SUV. It’s an All Wheel Drive Station Wagon. WAGON! NOT SUV! It’s also NOT a Crossover.

  22. You say 'body on frame SUV's' an awful lot considering that the 4runner is really the only one left that isnt a behemoth. I doubt jeep/runner buyers are cross shopping an outback. This to me compares w the small to midsize cuteutes. Edge murano etc and below. And I'd rather have the Sub than any of those. But let's not kid anyone saying this competes w a runner that is way more capable, can tow, and is just a totally different genre. A wagon suv and truck SUV are not competitors.

  23. I have a 2010 3.6r. Its an amazing car and i'm sad to see Subaru going away from the 6 cylinder. I'd have to be really convinced in a test drive that the 2.4 Turbo is a better power plant. Also, would the 2.4 Turbo be as reliable as the 3.6r, or will I have to constantly check on my head gasket?

  24. Recently, Subaru interiors look better than premium brands.😲
    Also, I wish they would add that huge screen in the Forester 2020.
    Oh… and the engine.😍

  25. Was looking at the XT Touring but at $41K I’m back pedaling to that XT Limited. I can still check all my boxes for $1-2K less

  26. So when the center console goes out (like my 2018 did) and stays out for over a month waiting on parts (like my 2018 did) you are hosed? More crap on the console is not an improvement. Fan control ?? Seriously?

  27. "…70 percent of new Subaru vehicles are now the object of recalls or service campaigns within two years of being purchased, noting that the “permissible limit” should be around 10 percent."


  28. Outbacks are champs.. I have the 2011 3.6R. I live in Kenya so you can imagine I'm off the beaten track a lot!
    Minus the small brakes, which I'm saving up for bigger brembos..no other issues, I swear by that car 💪💪

  29. I don't want to sound like a Luddite, but I would much rather have more physical buttons, and less screen. I don't even want to know what it will cost to replace that screen in the event that if fails after the warranty period.

  30. This vehicle has a CVT. CVT is not a acceptable liability. Therefore the car is not acceptable. No car with a CVT is even remotely acceptable due to transmission failure rate. Even if the transmission lasts as many miles as a traditional automatic or standard, (which I doubt) the cost is double to repair. A car with 120,000 miles with a $7000 repair or a car with 120,000 with a $3500 repair. Not a acceptable liability.

  31. We just bought the 2020 Limited model today in metallic olive green with a TON of features (just maybe 3 less than the Touring vision) and we can't wait to pick it up in 5 days!

  32. Nice review Travis. You covered enough to make it educational and interesting. Definitely considering trading my 17 Outback for the turbo charged one.

  33. He said that this model has the dual X mode, I though that only the onyx had dual mode? The onyx has black wheels and different seat coverings, Can anyone answer this question?

  34. I like how this car was presented in this video. It's a normal car for normal ppl. No jumps no obnoxious exhaust no nurburgring times necessary.

  35. The touch screen works perfectly. Like what dummy is going to punch the screen so hard that it doesn’t respond. Do a review and use the machine like u would on a daily. Stop down playing Subaru’s because you’re bias to them. I hate these reviews when u guys talk about things that’s are irrelevant. Speak to the buyers wants and needs and utilize the car as if it was yours on a daily.

  36. Great review. I am going to buy one. The only negative you pointed out was the fan controls are small and not always responsive. that is not good given the fan up and down is something I used all the time. Good to know this before I buy it. Darn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *