The popular Subaru Outback has been a longtime favorite among MotorTrend staffers. The wagon comes with standard off-road chops, a spacious interior, and a great ride. It also has a tremendous value and has the top safety scores. And the 2020 Subaru Outback improves in every way. An all-new platform makes the ride better, it comes with new technology, and it’s longer and wider than the previous generation. The new Outback also comes with an optional turbo engine, but given that most owners will buy the 2.5-liter engine, we’ll focus on this popular model.

Although the 2.5-liter engine is carried over from the previous generation, Subaru says the engine is 90 percent new. The four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine comes with direct injection to deliver 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque, which is only a 7-hp and 2-lb-ft increase from the previous model. Those familiar with this engine will know that speed isn’t one of its fortes, and our own testing showed that its performance numbers continue to be pretty much the same. The 2020 Subaru Outback went from 0 to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 16.6 seconds at 86.1 mph. The CVT also received updates to make the “shifts” a bit smoother.

There’s no denying that this engine is underpowered, but most Subaru owners don’t care about that and will find it pretty suitable for themselves. Despite the slow speeds, the powertrain is very refined, and the CVT works well with the engine. Senior production editor Zach Gale welcomed the revisions to the powertrain, as he thought the refined CVT works better with in this new generation. Staffers were most impressed with the way the suspension is tuned. The changes made to the suspension and the new platform stiffness make the ride much better compared to the previous generation, and even after driving luxury SUVs under the same surfaces, the Outback stood out by how refined its ride was.

There isn’t much difference with the performance of the new Outback, but the changes inside the cabin really stand out. A new 11.6-inch touchscreen dominates the center console, and its vertical orientation reminds us of the new Volvo screens. Although the screen looks upscale, we found a few flaws once we started using it. It’s nice to have fixed buttons for the A/C controls at the bottom of the screen, some of the icons are quite small, and often we were touching the incorrect button. The on/off button, for example, is very close to the lower fan speed button, and I was often turning the system off when I wanted to lower the fan speed. Because of its vertical orientation, Apple CarPlay looks quite small. CarPlay can only be used in a horizontal layout, but the screen is a bit too narrow for that, so the icons and fonts are too small to read. Other than that, we applaud Subaru for keeping a volume knob and tune knob for the radio.

Just like its predecessor, the 2020 Outback is spacious, and the Limited model comes with soft leather that feels nice. Even Gale, who is one of our tallest editors (6-4), found the back seat to be roomy, with plenty of legroom and headroom despite the high seating position. The seats can be folded flat from the hatch or from the back row, and passengers get air vents, two USB ports, and heated seats.

EyeSight, Subaru’s safety technologies suite with lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and pre-collision throttle management, is standard on all Outbacks. The system works well on the highway and city streets, and it was pretty useful during stop-and-go traffic on the freeway. When setting the adaptive cruise control to the shortest distance for the vehicle in front, the Subaru will follow the car closely, making it hard for other vehicles to cut you off.

We weren’t as pleased with the recent driver monitoring system, which keeps an eye on the driver at all times. Although we appreciate the effort in keeping the driver alert, we didn’t appreciate how the system was telling us to keep our eyes on the road even when we were looking straight ahead. The constant beeps that the system makes bothered us quite a bit, and the fact that the monitoring doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to and that you have to dig through the menus in the infotainment system to shut it off was frustrating.

But when you look at the Outback as a whole, it’s a quite compelling package. With an as-tested price of $36,500, the 2020 Subaru Outback is great on value. Customers will be pretty satisfied with what they get, and with standard AWD and new safety technologies, the Outback continues to be one of our favorite wagons.

2020 Subaru Outback (Limited)
BASE PRICE $34,455
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.5L/182-hp/176-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve flat-4
TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,752 lb (56/44%)
WHEELBASE 108.1 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 191.3 x 73.0 x 66.1 in
0-60 MPH 8.7 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.6 sec @ 86.1 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 130 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.4 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 130/102 kW-hr/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.67 lb/mile

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