Review: Can the 2020 Subaru Outback Compete With SUV Functionality?
The Outback has inspired imitators, but none have ever come close to the success of this station wagon / near-SUV. After a few months with the 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx 2.4 XT that we’ve been driving for a year, we have a better idea of how it compares to the midsize two-row SUVs it competes with. So what is the interior convenience of this SUV-equipped wagon compared to an SUV? Read on to find out.
How the Outback is a match for SUVs
Part of the reasons MotorTrend has loved Subaru Outbacks for years now is their combination of SUV features offered at a lower price than some competitors. This is still the case for the 2020 Outback, including our one-year Onyx 2.4 XT tester. Let’s start with the Outback loading area. Every Outback from the $ 31,305 Premium version with a package gets a power tailgate. Open it up, and you have 32.5 cubic feet of space. It’s roomier than the Chevrolet Blazer and Nissan Murano, but falls short of the Ford Edge and Honda Passport.
The Subaru’s cargo floor is of course low, thanks to the fact that it is a raised wagon. Unfortunately, there is no storage under the floor, but two levers easily fold the rear seats from the cargo area. One of the best cargo space features is a sliding security cover that provides a larger notch, perfect for road trips when someone inevitably overpack. Rear visibility is reduced in this setting, but the setup would still be manageable while driving from house to hotel / campsite. And when you push the tailgate close and lock button to direct you to a pit stop, this feature ensures your belongings are out of sight.
In the back seat, the Outback is spacious for two. There’s even a ton of headroom, a fact perhaps helped by the fact that a panoramic roof isn’t available on this Subaru at any price. The seat tilt latch is located at the bottom of the outboard seatbacks, and every Outback, except the base model, has two rear USB ports. Spring for the Outback Limited 2.5 from $ 34,455 and up to add heated rear seats, which again comes down to Subaru’s value argument over some of its competition.
We’re focusing on interior practicality here, but two of Subaru’s biggest strengths are its easy-to-use retractable crossbars and standard all-wheel drive, which we found effective off-road.
How SUVs beat the Outback in terms of functionality
Despite all the exterior styling details Subaru has added to make the Outback look rugged, there isn’t much the automaker can do to change the ride height. And while the Outback has a larger seating position than a car, it’s not as tall as an SUV. If a higher ride height is part of an SUV’s appeal to you, the Outback does a passable job.
Beyond its place in the mid-size “auto-type SUV” segment, the Outback is also a crossover in another sense. The price is so reasonable that Subaru’s mainstream site compares the wagon to compact and mid-size SUVs. Regardless of what you compare the Midsize Outback to, some SUVs do a better job of making room for the mid-seat passenger with a flatter transmission hump.
The Outback is also longer than most of its competition. If you’re considering a Forester, this roomy Subaru is 9.2 inches shorter, which should make parking easier. While the Outback’s rear visibility is better than many of its competitors, the rear headrests that fold down so as not to get in the way (like on a Volvo V60, Chevrolet Blazer, and a few other vehicles) would. better.
Image, of course, is arguably the biggest reason some might still stick with an SUV on the Outback, a raised wagon that outperforms some off-road SUVs. Over the past two decades, wagons have gone from being a must-have choice for families to being a niche choice for those who want to be different. So far, while I wish the Outback had a higher seating position, the Subaru more than deserves its place in the mid-size two-row SUV segment. Buyers brave enough to give this raised wagon a try should especially be happy with the comparison of its interior functionality to that of an SUV.
Learn more about our long-term 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx:
- Update 1: Quirk takes a while to get used to
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