Station wagons have never really been cool. And now they’re practically extinct, going the way of the minivan. There is one big exception and that’s the Subaru Outback, which is the OG of station wagons (reader’s note: OG means original gangster and is a mid-40-year-old’s lame attempt to be hip).
It’s been a couple years since I’ve driven an Outback, so I was excited to spend some time with it, especially since in 2020, the Outback is completely redesigned. And when I say redesigned, I mean new looks, new engine, new technology and built on a new global platform.
The Outback may be the OG, but it has plenty of luster with new life breathed into it. Starting with looks, the Outback holds true to its station wagon styling, but looks less quirky. The looks of the Outback for many years was a love/hate situation with it having a little too much uniqueness for some, while striking up a huge following for others. Now the 2020 Subaru Outback has modern appeal, while still having the lanky look of a station wagon, including roof racks.
There are two engines available for the new Outback. One is a familiar option and is standard for most Outbacks – a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine which makes 182 horsepower and 176 lbs.-ft. of torque. A smaller, yet more powerful option which is the 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine. That cranks up the power and performance to 260 horses. My tester had the standard 2.5-liter engine and it still felt peppy enough. It wasn’t a blazer off the line, but it was more than adequate in performance. The only issue for me was with the continuously variable transmission; I have yet to find a single CVT I like. They’re full efficient, yes, but their quirky shifting takes some getting used to.
The interior is where I was pleasantly surprised. My last time behind the wheel of an Outback felt like a car that had been left behind – a little too OG if you will. Now this ’20 Outback has much nicer touchpoints and a bigger overall cabin.
In fact, thanks to the redesign and new platform, this Outback has increased passenger volume of 1 cubic feet and increased cargo volume of 2.4 cubic feet. As such, the Outback is even slightly wider which is felt in the more comfortable back seat.
The cabin is loud, however, as road and wheel noise seems quite intrusive. Subaru seems to have paid little attention to noise, vibration and harshness and that does detract from otherwise much improved interior.
Also, the new Outback has a way improved infotainment system. The Subaru Starlink multimedia system has an 11.6-inch touchscreen that is intuitive and responsive. There’s even available in-vehicle WI-Fi.
Another impressive advance in this Outback is the sensor-based safety features. The Outback is not quite autonomous, but it is inching closer with features like lane centering, adaptive cruise control and a DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System. You may have seen commercials for this on TV, and it offers even more peace of mind and safety. As a side note, the lane centering feature is pretty annoying, and I eventually disabled that feature.
The 2020 Subaru Outback comes in four trims, including a new Onyx Edition XT trim which has a unique exterior. My tester was the Touring trim which comes loaded with lots of features not seen on the lower trims including the aforementioned 11.6-inch touchscreen and DriverFocus system. Also, my tester had ventilated front seats, cargo tie down hooks, single-touch lifting cargo cover and a leather-wrapped shifter. The Touring trim is incredibly nice, and I wasn’t used to having so many niceties in an Outback.
My tester had an MSRP of $38,355, making this wagon competitively priced for other all-wheel drive vehicles. The Outback’s rugged character retains more of its value over a longer period of time.
The Outback Touring with the CVT and AWD has an EPA rating of 26 mpg/city and 33 mpg/highway. Hitting that 30-mpg threshold makes the Outback a serious contender as a daily driver for someone who may also have weekend adventures too, since it is comfortable going off the road, and even has a towing capacity of 2,700 pounds.
The Subaru Outback has been in existence since 1994. That’s a long time for a station wagon. It’s great to see it holding onto its personality and not totally changing through these years. I will say, this is the best Outback I’ve driven, Subaru having made all the right changes.
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