Now in its sixth-generation, the 2020 Subaru Outback is not so much all-new as it is refined for this model year. Still competent off road, available with two engines and now more tech features you expect in a new vehicle.
Let’s start on the inside of the Premier model I enjoyed which is in the middle of the Outback lineup. My first impression when getting into the driver’s seat was “Wow.” Beautiful brown Nappa leather seating with contrasting soft trim and brushed aluminum accents. The front seats are heated and ventilated and supportive. Rear passengers enjoy heated seats too. But the seat heaters are slow to do their job when it's cold outside. Like, really slow. The instrument panel has a new infotainment interface with a dual seven-inch display or an available 11.6-inch tablet-style display. The larger screen was on my test car and it was easy to use and quick with large icons and minimal frustration. There are knobs for volume and tuning the radio.
Do you still have some CDs sitting idle at home? I do, and for people like us there is a CD player in the centre console. Just what I like for a long road trip, unfortunately, no road trip in The Outback. Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ are standard, which the younger generation will appreciate. I should also mention a few models including the Premier have a Harman Kardon® 12-speaker sound system with 576-watt amplifier and subwoofer. What a delight on the ears.
Seating is comfortable, head, shoulder and legroom are abundant inside and six-footers will have no problem sitting in the back seat. So if you have kids growing bigger by the day, they will fit just fine behind you. A family of five will have plenty of cargo space in the back as this jacked-up wagon does not have a third seat. Total cargo volume with the seats up is 920 litres and with the rear seat down, 2,144 litres. Should you ever have to transport a couple of Great Danes, no problem.
Everyone has big windows from which to look out, large mirrors for the driver to use and a hushed interior to enjoy even at highway speed. There are many places to store your stuff inside and a ride that is impressive on pavement or gravel. With AWD and Toyo winter tires, my Outback had no problem tackling the heavy snowfall week had during the second week of February. The high ground clearance means you can be daring and go off-road in more places than you might imagine. The suspension is updated for 2020 with hollow anti-roll bars in the front and rear for weight savings, although the front strut and multilink rear layouts are unchanged.
There are two powerplants from which to choose: a new 2.4L turbocharged, direct-injection Subaru Boxer engine, producing 260 ponies on regular grade gasoline. This engine is available on Outdoor XT, Limited XT, Premier XT trims. My Premier had the injected 2.5 litre four cylinder now making 182 horsepower. All models come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that can mimic an eight-speed automatic. You can choose to go fully automatic or place the tranny in manual and shift gears so to speak, using the column mounted shift paddles. The transmission is sluggish at times but that’s to be expected with some CVT transmissions. You can expect about 9.0L/100 km fuel consumption around town. I only managed 10.8L/100 km because of winter driving conditions. On the highway Subaru rates the Outback with the 2.5 litre engine at 7.1L/100 km.
Painted in Abyss Blue Pearl the Outback Premier looks quite striking when it's washed and parked in the snow. If the shape looks familiar to current Outback owners, so it should – little has been changed to the body other than making it stiffer and adding a little length. The extra length is used to benefit rear seat passengers.
My Premier model started with a base price of $40,995 and Subaru offers a long, long list of optional accessories to make your Outback very personal. This really impressed me and shows how considerate Subaru is of traditional customers who have an active lifestyle and need a vehicle capable of getting them to often remote locations. The least expensive Outback is the Convenience model priced to start at $30,695. Load up some options and you could have a very well-equipped car for well under $40,000.
Read more of Garry Melnyk’s Auto Talk at https://www.stalberttoday.ca/auto-talk