New York, NY – Being from Vancouver, BC, I know a thing or two about the Subaru Outback. They are everywhere here; at the golf club, the supermarket, the hockey game and the campsite. Outbacks, Outbacks, Outbacks everywhere you look. The same goes for the whole of the Pac Northwest, really, all the way down to NoCal. Folks love ‘em ‘round here, and I happen to know from experience that often, once you buy one Outback, you tend to buy another. And another. And another.
Subaru is obviously keenly aware of this phenomenon; so much so that at the launch of the all-new 2020 Outback, they attempted – rather successfully, I might add – to bring the Pac Northwest to the halls of the Javits Center and the New York International Auto Show. There were boulders, evergreens – even a fire watching tower right there on the show floor. It was quite the spectacle, and you have to think that Subaru may have overextended themselves a little. I mean, it’s just the Outback, right? A tame, all-business station wagon for the masses.
Well, maybe it once was. But not anymore. Not from where I’m sitting.
For 2020, Subaru has managed to temper the ultra-butchiness of the old car without completely betraying its rough-and-tumble image. So, while there’s still some plastic cladding around the wheels, rocker panels and bumpers, it’s been reduced a little so as not to be too in-yer-face. Indeed, the only place you can really see it is on the bumper; the fender and rocker panel treatment almost makes it look athletic as opposed to butch, even though there still is 220 mm of ground clearance. They’ve also slimmed down the headlight lenses and grill in an effort to bring the Outback into lockstep with other recent Subarus such as the XV Crosstrek and Ascent. Add a set of dark wheels, and you’ve got a cool-looking thing that deftly walks the line between rock-bashing and interstate hauling.
Inside, it’s anything but butch; the main focal point is always going to be the massive, Ram-esque 11.6” touchscreen display. It’s the biggest any Subaru has ever seen; heck, it’s one of the biggest you’ll find anywhere in the car world today.
Obviously, X-Mode AWD is standard and so is EyeSight safety (adaptive cruise, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, etc.) – that’s not really news, although X-Mode can be upgraded to a new dual-function system that offers Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. The existence of an optional turbo engine, though, is very good news and something we’ve been clamouring for, for quite some time now. The Outback is a big, heavy car; used to be you either saved gas but wheezed along with the standard 2.5L Boxer-4, or you guzzled gas but drove at a faster clip with the 3.6L six. Now, however, the new, 260 hp, 277 lb-ft 2.4L four should offer the best of both worlds, and will likely be the engine of choice. The 2.5L naturally aspirated four still exists, but really? Indeed, if you’re going to make use of the Outback’s claimed 1,590 kg tow capacity, you’re gonna want that turbo.
Watch for the 2020 Subaru Outback to hit dealers this fall. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.