2020 Subaru Outback: A Brand New Beast (With A Few Old Tricks)

  • The Subaru Outback receives updates across the board for the 2020 model year. 
  • For the first time in the model’s history, the Outback has a turbo engine option. 
  • Safety features are numerous as are the connectivity and infotainment features. 

The 2020 Subaru Outback is here, and when I say new, I mean all new. New body, new interior, new safety features; lots and lots of new stuff. The only thing that isn’t entirely new is Subaru’s fantastic boxer engine and the use of all-wheel drive. But why would you even mess with something as good and as proven as that?

Really, when you get down to it, Subaru will always have two aces up its sleeve. The first is that all-wheel drive system. If you live anywhere north of a line stretching from Mendocino to Atlanta, you already know why having all four wheels putting out power is a good thing.

The other is that flat-four-banger engine. It’s good but not outstanding in a lot of engineering terms. But what it does bring to the table is a laughable low center of gravity. You put that engine together with that all-wheel drive system and you get capital “G” grip for days. To top it all off, you get Subaru’s Active Torque Vectoring along with a number of the automaker’s vehicle control systems.

But what else is Subie bringing to the party for 2020?

Power & Performance

A first for 2020 is the availability of a turbocharger, previously unseen in the Outback lineup. This 2.4-liter turbo plant kicks out 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque, more than enough to get me into trouble. If you opt for the standard naturally-aspirated engine, a 2.5-liter flat-four, you get 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft. of torque. Subaru says almost 90 percent of the 2.5-liter’s parts are new. The transmission is a Lineartronic CVT with an eight-speed manual mode accessed via steering wheel paddle shifters, which is fun.

You can get up to 3,500-lb. towing capacity, the most of any Outback in history, from the turbo 2.4. Perfect if you need to tow things like a trailer with a bunch of kayaks for a weekend camping trip. Even the mileage figures are pretty good now, with the 2.5-liter getting you 26/33 city/highway and the turbo returning 23/30 city/highway. Note these are Subaru’s estimates and not the official EPA ratings.

2020 Subaru Outback. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Suspension Setup

The suspension is entirely new, lighter, and more responsive. There are MacPherson struts up front with a new internal rebound spring, aluminum lower L-arms, and a 23mm hollow stabilizer bar. It’s hard to miss the weight savings in all of those components. The rear end has a double-wishbone with a subframe, coil springs, and a 19mm hollow stabilizer bar. There’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance on all Outbacks, so that’ll come in handy if you’re one of those camping/skiing/hiking types.

Safety & Security

As you would expect, there’s lots of safety features in the 2020 Subaru Outback. The vehicle structure itself is 70 percent stiffer in both torsional and front-suspension rigidity, and 100 percent stiffer in both front lateral flexural and rear subframe rigidity, compared to the previous Outback. That is impressive in and of itself because it improves crash protection. If that isn’t enough, the Outback comes with eight standard airbags. Ultimately, Subaru expects the Outback to achieve top safety scores during testing later this year, including a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Speaking of safety stuff, Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is standard and includes Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering; a DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System and LED Steering Responsive Headlamps; Reverse Automatic Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist; and finally, the EyeSight Assist Monitor with a heads-up display.

New for 2020 is a Front View Monitor that captures images within the driver’s blind spots in front of the vehicle. It then displays them on a 180-degree view inside. In other words, if you run over anything in the 2020 Subaru Outback, you must be a complete idiot and should take cabs from now on.

Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Connectivity & Technology

In addition to all the safety tech, the 2020 Subaru Outback has enough connected vehicle and entertainment technology to make you feel like you’re driving a block of downtown Tokyo. Subaru’s STARLINK system allows you to control entertainment and vehicle settings via the touchscreen display, although now it has new on-screen controls. It also has smartphone and app integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth capability, and audio streaming connectivity. That tablet-style touchscreen is an 11.6-inch, full HD setup with voice-activated navigation powered by TomTom.

SiriusXM radio and SiriusXM Travel Link come with complementary subscriptions. Tunes are provided by a 12- speaker Harman Kardon audio system, with Clari-FiTM compressed audio restoration technology and a GreenEdge amplifier and speakers.

The 2020 Subaru Outback offers the new Chimani app that provides a guide to more than 400 national parks in the U.S., including park history and highlights written by local experts. You can’t say Subie doesn’t know their buyers backwards and forwards.

2020 Subaru Outback interior layout. Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Interior Treatments

On top of all this technological goodness is a great deal of creature comforts. Limited and Touring models feature 10-way power front seats with lumbar support and adjustable cushion length. Both the front and rear seats are heated with more coverage – up to your shoulders – for 2020. Ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel are also available, as are four USB ports and two 12-volt DC power sockets.

There’s lots of cargo space, with up to 75.7 cubic feet of space on tap and a cargo floor length of 78 inches. More than enough for half a Marshall stack and a couple of guitars in hard cases!

There’s even a new feature that opens the rear hatch by simply waving in front of the Subaru emblem. For those on an outdoor adventure, the Outback offers roof rails with retractable cross bars and tie-downs. In other words, if you can’t fit it in the 2020 Outback, you should be able to fit it on the 2020 Outback.

Photo: Subaru of America, Inc.

Pricing & Availability

Pricing for the 2020 Outback will be announced closer to this fall’s on-sale date. The 2019 Subaru Outback starts at $26,345, so expect the 2020 version to be at least that much. The Onyx Edition XT will also be available in the Outback lineup. It features black exterior elements, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a gray two-tone interior.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle formatFollow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

2020 Subaru Outback Gallery

Photos & Source: Subaru of America, Inc.

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