2020 Subaru Outback: What's It Like to Live With?

Versatility rules and the Outback is one of the best at it. The countdown to 20,000 miles starts now with 8 miles on the odometer.

Subaru Outback 2020
Miles DrivenAverage MPG

Latest Highlights (updated 11/12/20)

  • The Outback is really comfortable on the road.
  • The large touchscreen is good for the most part.
  • Climate controls should be in their own area. Hard buttons aren't a bad thing.
  • The turbo engine is awesome. Can we get an eight-speed auto instead of the CVT?

What We Bought and Why

by Rex Tokeshi-Torres, Vehicle Testing Technician

Our test vehicle: 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT
Base MSRP: $34,895
MSRP as tested: $36,336

The Subaru Outback and Forester are the best-selling vehicles for Subaru. Known to be comfortable, roomy and ultra-versatile, the Outback can do it all. This time around, it was our utility vehicle of choice between the two.

Whether you drive off-road into muddy terrain with your camping equipment or down your neighborhood streets for a trip to the shopping center, this SUV is ready to get you moving at all times. It has full-time all-wheel drive and a standard X-Mode traction system when things get a little slippery. The best part about this new-generation Subaru Outback? The return of the much-desired turbo engine. It was a no-brainer for us to get one. The thought of a turbo Outback gets us giddy.

What Did We Get?
We selected a 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT because we expect it to be one of the volume-selling trims. The Onyx Edition XT (with the 2.4-liter turbo) is the gateway to the turbo trims and priced between the 2.5-liter non-turbo Limited and 2.5-liter Touring. If you want a turbo with more luxury, we suggest either the Limited XT or the top-of-the-line Touring XT.

We liked the Onyx Edition XT trim not only because it is the most affordable turbo in the lineup but also because it can tow 3,500 pounds and comes well-equipped with the aforementioned standard all-wheel drive and Subaru X-Mode traction system, LED headlights, roof rails, heated power-adjustable front seats, a hands-free rear tailgate, an 11.6-inch multimedia touchscreen, and a suite of advanced safety and driver aids. Since Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, we skipped the optional onboard navigation system. We added door scuff protectors ($168), a rear bumper cover ($159) and a rear seatback protector ($104), which brought our total to $36,336.

Why Did We Get It?
We are tired of being cooped-up. We want to get out and the Outback gives us a perfect excuse. It's a crossover as adept at traversing the unbeaten path as it is commuting through the urban jungle.

Its lack of true four-wheel drive means we may not be able to go everywhere, but we'd like to see how far its all-wheel drive and X-Mode traction system can take us. With 32.5 cubic feet of standard cargo capacity, we have enough room to carry four passengers to go camping and take even longer road trips. The maximum cargo of 75.7 cubic feet is more than enough to accomplish most Home Depot runs. There is a lot of possibility here.

Here are our questions: Will its shorter roof (relative to the Forester) have us wishing for a taller cargo area? What will we think of the StarTex water-repellent upholstery? Will the turbo perform better on 87 octane or can we improve fuel economy with 91 octane? How will we feel about the continuously variable automatic transmission in a few months? Will we long for the ventilated seats found in the Touring and Touring XT? We can't wait to find out. This should be a fun year with the Outback, especially since we are encouraged to socially distance. What's more socially distant than being outdoors at the lake with no one else around for miles? So come hang with us!

The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.

2020 Subaru Outback: Real-World Fuel Economy

The Outback is rated as one of the better fuel-sippers for the midsize SUV class. At 26 mpg combined, the EPA says our Onyx Edition XT should get 481 miles on one tank. The road trip ideas are already coming in.

Average lifetime mpg: 22.3
EPA mpg rating: 26 combined ( 23 city / 30 highway )
Best fill mpg: 24.6
Best range (miles): 397.8
Current odometer: 3,522

2020 Subaru Outback: Technology

With technology, there's usually a lot of user testing being done to ensure that things like icons are large enough for a variety of people. Maybe Subaru users prefer small icons...

Logbook Highlights

"We opted against the $1,845 package that added a moonroof, reverse automatic braking and navigation. That makes us reliant upon navigation apps on our phones, which we're fine with. This weekend I noticed, however, the CarPlay projection from my phone displays really tiny buttons. See them on the left rail while the navigation screen is up? They are smaller than my fingertip. I wish they were bigger." — Mike Schmidt, senior manager, vehicle testing operations

2020 Subaru Outback: Utility

Getting out of town is the name of the game in the Outback. First excursion: fishing getaway!

Logbook Highlights

"My son and I skipped town for a guys fishing getaway over the weekend. There was plenty of space for his car seat on the upright side of the 60/40 folding seat and our poles on the lowered side. It's always a plus when you don't have to break them down for transport. The rest of our gear easily fit in the cargo area behind his seat." — Mike Schmidt, senior manager, vehicle testing operations

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