2018 Subaru Outback

2018 Subaru Outback Review

The 2018 Subaru Outback has many advantages compared to a traditional SUV.
4 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Calvin Kim
Edmunds Editor

There are a lot of choices in the SUV segment. Read some of our reviews and you'll quickly learn they all have their respective strengths and weaknesses. The 2018 Subaru Outback, though, is strong in just about all areas you'll really care about, including fuel economy, interior volume, off-road capability and standard in-car technology.

The Outback's standard 2.5-liter flat-four engine gets an EPA-rated 28 mpg combined, which is pretty respectable for a vehicle of this size. It also features a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, plus hill hold and hill descent control, to help get off the beaten path with ease. And with 73.3 cubic feet of interior cargo volume, 60/40-split fold-down rear seats, and standard roof rails, you'll be able to bring all your toys and supplies while you're roaming the countryside. This year's Outback is packed with the latest technology, too. Every 2018 Outback now comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as part of its updated touchscreen display.

But the Outback does have one weakness: performance. While its four-cylinder engine may get good mileage, its 175-horsepower output is down on power compared to its class. (There is a six-cylinder engine available, though.) The Outback is also not particularly crisp or willing to drive with enthusiasm around turns. It's a compromise we wholeheartedly accept, however. If you're looking for a capable crossover SUV that's useful for just about any situation, give the Outback a look.

Notably, we picked the 2018 Subaru Outback as one of Edmunds' Best Midsize SUVs for this year.



what's new

The 2018 Subaru Outback receives a variety of changes. On the outside, the grille and front and rear fascias have been updated for a more aggressive look, and there are new headlights that feature LED daytime running lights. A new side mirror design reduces interior cabin noise. On the inside, the Outback features a new infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a new center console and steering wheel design. Premium and higher trims receive contrast stitching on the doors, seats and dash.

we recommend

If you simply need a do-it-all, go-anywhere wagon for not a lot of money, it's hard to beat the Outback 2.5i Premium. It comes with heated front seats and the larger 8-inch display. Subaru's EyeSight bundle of driver assist features is a recommended option.

trim levels & features

The 2018 Subaru Outback is a five-passenger wagon that comes in six trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 3.6R Limited and 3.6R Touring. The base model covers the essentials (roof rails, Bluetooth), while Premium and Limited trims include conveniences such as heated seats, leather and satellite radio. Touring trims are fully loaded, and 3.6R models have similar equipment but include a more powerful six-cylinder engine.

The base 2.5i starts with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (175 hp, 174 lb-ft) and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that feeds power to all four wheels. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, hill descent control, hill holding assist, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, roof rails (with integrated crossbars), air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth connectivity, Subaru's Starlink 6.5-inch touchscreen interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB interface.

The 2.5i Premium adds rear privacy glass, heated exterior mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, foglights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with two-way lumbar adjustment), heated front seats, a cargo cover, a bigger 8-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, three additional USB ports (one front and two rear) and six speakers for the sound system. The Power Moonroof package adds the obvious plus an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A power liftgate with memory height is also optional.

The 2.5i Limited bundles the Premium options plus 18-inch wheels, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, a front bumper underguard, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, driver-seat memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat, rear air vents, heated rear seats and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Xenon headlights are optional on the 2.5i Limited.

The 3.6R Limited gets the xenon headlights as standard equipment and a more powerful engine, but it is otherwise the same as the 2.5i Limited.

The Premium and Limited trims can be upgraded with Subaru's EyeSight system (adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights and upgraded gauges). Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are included in the Premium version of EyeSight, and navigation can be bundled with this package. The Outback Limited's version includes navigation, automatic braking for rear collisions and steering-responsive LED headlights. Note that Subaru bundles these items into one big package, so you can't order them individually.

The 2.5i Touring and 3.6R Touring trims include the standard features and options from the Premium and Limited trims, as well as the Driver Assist Technology package. Touring models also have different 18-inch wheels, dark exterior trim, fixed low-profile roof rails without crossbars, premium leather upholstery, wood grain interior trim, and a heated steering wheel.

trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our Full Test of the 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited (2.5L flat-4 | CVT automatic | AWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Subaru Outback has received some revisions, including an updated infotainment system with larger screens, improved interior materials, and additional noise mitigation measures. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's 2018 Subaru Outback.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall4.0 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Acceleration2.0 / 5.0
Braking3.0 / 5.0
Steering4.0 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability3.0 / 5.0

Comfort

4.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort4.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort4.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.0 / 5.0

Interior

4.5 / 5.0

Ease of use4.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Roominess4.5 / 5.0
Visibility5.0 / 5.0
Quality4.5 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
The four-cylinder is slow to accelerate, and handling performance isn't fantastic. The Outback is much more adept when it comes to handling bumpy back roads or snowy highways.

acceleration

edmunds rating
One of the Outback's weakest areas, at least if you go with the four-cylinder engine (175 hp) instead of the 3.6-liter six-cylinder (256 hp). There's not much power with the four-cylinder, and it takes 9.6 seconds to reach 60 mph.

braking

edmunds rating
The brakes don't feel all that powerful around town, with a spongy pedal feel. At our test track, the Outback stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is typical for a vehicle of this size, but did it with considerable nosedive.

steering

edmunds rating
This is a precise system that responds quickly to input. Effort is appropriate, though some drivers will feel it errs a bit on the heavy side.

handling

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There's significant body roll when rounding corners in the Outback, so it doesn't feel particularly nimble.

drivability

edmunds rating
Aside from the Outback's abrupt gas pedal, this is an easy car to drive, with a soft suspension, a manageable size and a CVT that doesn't wind out the revs too much.

comfort

edmunds rating
We were suitably impressed by the Outback's seats, both front and rear, which provide all-day comfort. The soft suspension delivers a smooth ride quality, but there's more road and wind noise than we'd like.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
The front seats are fantastically plush with supple leather and generously wide with lateral support. The door and center armrests are well-padded, and the driver seat has power lumbar adjustment. The rear seats are also comfy, though the cushions are on the short side.

ride comfort

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A generally soft, comfortable ride thanks to plentiful suspension travel. Parking-lot speed bumps barely even register. It soaks up small ripples with ease, but strangely, certain big hits at speed come through to the cabin.

noise & vibration

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There's some tire noise over road surface changes, a bit of tire hum and wind noise from the side mirror/front roof pillar window area. The engine only gets loud at high rpm, and the transmission rarely lets it wind out that far. Engine noise on the highway is hardly noticeable. Quiet idle, too.

interior

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There's nothing fancy here, just plenty of passenger and cargo room, terrific outward visibility, solid build quality and easy-to-operate controls.

ease of use

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All controls are within easy reach. We like the old-school, single-knob mirror controls. Temperature knobs and buttons are large and easy to use. The new navigation touchscreen has large icons and quick responses. The digital clock and outside temperature readouts are tiny.

getting in/getting out

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The front doors are large and open wide, making entry a snap. But the tall ride height and wide rocker panels make it harder to step out. The rear doors don't open wide, but it's still easy to get in and out thanks to near perfect step-in height.

driving position

Essentially the Outback is a tall-riding car, and that's what it feels like to drive it. Although it's lower to the ground than most typical SUVs, the height from the driver seat feels more SUV than wagon.

roominess

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Excellent front headroom and really good elbow room thanks to the big door cutouts. In the rear, there's decent headroom and good elbow room and kneeroom. Foot space under the front seats can be a bit scrunched.

visibility

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There are slim pillars all around, especially the side roof pillars just behind the driver's head. The big rear window and large side windows make for minimal blind spots. Large side mirrors. All trims have a backup camera as standard equipment.

quality

edmunds rating
Compared to the last generation, this current Outback is a huge step up for Subaru. The interior has plenty of soft-touch material on the dash, window sills and door inserts. The trim textures are nice, too, with convincing fake wood on the Limited. The controls feel solid and work well.

utility

With its easily accessible cargo area, spacious rear seats and low roofline, the Outback offers excellent all-around utility.

small-item storage

The front bin has a security door, and the armrest bin is two-tiered. Cupholders lack anti-tip functionality, but the cellphone slot is excellent.

cargo space

edmunds rating
Power hatch opens wide, with 35.5 cubic feet of space behind upright rear seats. A sturdy rubber mat helps keep cargo from sliding around and reduces worry about dirty, muddy items. Max cargo capacity is 73.3 cubic feet. The boxy shape and low liftover point make for easy loading of large items.

technology

The Outback is graced with a modern and reasonably user-friendly touchscreen interface, available in either 6.5- or 8-inch size. Some functions require unnecessary dexterity, but it's one of the easier systems to use. Also packed with abundance of features and smartphone-connectivity apps.

audio & navigation

The 2.5i Limited offers a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio upgrade that includes a subwoofer. Navigation is optional on Premium and Limited trims and features clear graphics and pinch-zoom functionality.

smartphone integration

Starlink Multimedia uses an iPhone or Android smartphone to activate onboard voice-controlled apps such as Pandora and iHeartRadio. Allows voice-to-text messaging ability. Premium and Limited trims also include Siri Eyes Free to control iPhone functions through voice commands.

driver aids

The EyeSight driver assist system bundles adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and intervention, and forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking. EyeSight can also detect pedestrians.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.