Bigger, Better, Faster
To whet our appetites, Subaru released the above teaser image, which shows off the new 2020 Outback with a close-cropped view of the front three-quarters.
Pouring over this image, there are a few takeaways we can pick out.
The first thing we notice is the prominent black plastic undercladding along the front bumper, fenders, and side skirts. This can also be found on the outgoing model, and is intended to ward away bits of terrain that might fly up while pursuing your favorite outdoor activity. Compared to the 2019 model year, the 2020 Outback’s cladding looks thicker and more prominent, which should help to reinforce the Outback’s claims to off-roading prowess.
Further details include a new wheel design finished in black, which is a nice complement to the thicker black side cladding. Standard spec on the current Outback is a set of 17-inch alloys with the option to upgrade to 18’s. Zooming into the above teaser image, we can see the tire sizing is 225/60R18, which means Subaru is most likely teasing a top-trim level model here.
Pulling back a bit, we also see reshaped headlight housings, which look more horizontal than those on the current model year. The headlights also come with notches that lead into the front fenders, while the brand’s signature C-shaped daytime running lights ring the main projector.
Lower in the fascia are vertical LED fog lights, which replace the outgoing model’s round fog light units.
The sideview mirrors also look new, with horizontal stalks rather than the outgoing model’s vertical mounting, a small change that could help with overall fuel efficiency.
Final details include a large roof rack basket, which we think will be an optional upgrade. The Outback’s tall stance is also on full display here.
Overall, we think this teaser reveals some solid exterior upgrades for the 2020 model year. What’s more, we think the image reveals what could be an upcoming “off-roader” package. For now, Subaru offers a number of standalone trim bits to make the Outback more at-home in the rough stuff, such as additional lower body protection and all-weather- floor mats, and it would be nice to see some of these more-popular options lumped together into a single package.
What Will It Look Like Outside?
Back in 2018, Subaru revealed the Viziv Tourer Concept at the Geneva Motor Show, which offered striking styling unlike anything in Subaru’s production lineup. We speculated the new concept could preview the next-gen Outback, and while that’s still true, we have to take the prediction with a grain of salt.
The problem is this – Subaru is notorious for producing fantastic concepts that never actually make it to production. That’s likely the case here as well.
While we think the Viziv Tourer looks utterly fantastic, the final production Outback will look completely different after the bean counters have their way with it.
That said, some of the Viziv’s smaller details could scoot past the accountant’s pen. For example, the hexagonal grille shape up front will likely make it to production, while the vertical styling elements in the lower front fascia could carry over as well.
However, all the really juicy bits, like the huge wheels, the awesome proportions, the carbon details, the fender flares, and the sleek body panels… well, that’s likely nothing more than one-off eye candy. Shame.
That said, the Outback will definitely look different heading into the 2020 model year. Reshaped bumpers, new headlights and taillights, new character lines, and new undercladding are all likely.
We’d also expect the Outback to break from the Viziv in terms of ride height, once again offering as much as 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the same ground clearance you get with the current model. In our eyes, 8.7 inches of ground clearance is one of the Outback’s best specs when it comes to off-roading agility, as it matches the spec of off-road specialists like the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, and falls just under the 8.9 inches offered by the Toyota Land Cruiser.
What’s more, the Outback’s ground clearance is head and shoulders above its primary rivals, including the Audi A4 Allroad (6.5 inches) and the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen (5.4 inches).
This latest generational update will also likely bring slightly larger exterior dimensions. For reference, the current model is 190 inches long, 72.4 inches wide, and 66 inches tall, with the front track measured at 61.8 inches, the rear track measured at 62.2 inches, and the wheelbase measured at 108.1 inches. Heading into the 2020 model year, we’d expect greater overall length, a slightly taller height, and a little extra wheelbase to boot.
What Will It Look Inside?
Inside, we expect the 2020 Subaru Outback to take cues from the recently released 2020 Subaru Legacy sedan, both in terms of look and layout, and in the infotainment goodies lineup.
Front and center will be a new touchscreen, with a vertically oriented layout mounted high in the dash. The screen will likely measure in at 11.6 inches, which is a sizable upgrade over the outgoing model’s standard 6.5-inch screen and optional 8.0-inch screen.
True to form, the Outback will also come stuffed with a plethora of safety stuff thanks to the Subaru EyeSight suite, which will likely be standard across the line. That means you’ll get features that include:
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Lane Departure Warning
- Lane Sway Warning
- Automatic braking.
Subaru will also include its DriverFocus distraction-mitigation system, which was introduced just last year with the 2019 Subaru Forester.
In addition to fresh tech and a new layout, we expect the 2020 Subaru Outback to offer slightly greater interior room thanks to the expanded exterior dimensions. You can find a breakdown on interior dimensions for the current model and its competitors at the bottom of this section.
Finally, the Outback’s available cargo room will likely remain static heading into the 2020 model year, as it already offers impressive specs next to its competitors, including 35.5 cubic-feet behind the rear seat, and 73.3 cubic-feet with the seats down.
Compare that to the 24.2 cubic-feet and 58.5 cubic-feet found in the Audi A4 Allroad, and the 30.4 cubic-feet plus 66.5 cubic-feet found in the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen and the Outback is the best of the bunch in terms of cargo room.
Interior Dimension Comparison
What About The Oily Bits?
Under the hood, the 2020 Subaru Outback is expected to come some pretty big updates – as it should for a major generational changeover.
The current model is offered with both a four-cylinder and six-cylinder powertrain, with 175 horsepower produced by the former and 256 horsepower produced by the latter. Both powertrains connect to a CVT and full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.
Heading into 2020, Subaru will likely ditch the six-cylinder option in favor of a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder, just like it did with the latest 2020 Legacy sedan.
Power from this boosted four-banger will jump to 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, a gain of 4 ponies and 30 pound-feet compared the ‘six. The extra muscle will also cut the Outback’s 0-to-60 mph sprint time to less than 7 seconds, as compared to the current model’s 7.1-second sprint time.
That’s important, as one of biggest criticisms leveled at the current Outback is that it’s underpowered and slow. For the sake of comparison, the Audi A4 Allroad can hit 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds, and comes with 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen posts a time of 7 seconds even in the benchmark, and comes with 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque thanks to a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder.
Unfortunately, the base-model 2020 Outback will likely stick with the same naturally aspirated four-cylinder as before, which produces 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. In this configuration, the Outback posts a 0-to-60 mph sprint time of 9.4 seconds, which is sluggish, even for the crossover segment.
While more power and more torque higher in the range is definitely appreciated, we would have liked to see Subaru add an electrified variant to the lineup, specifically something similar to what the brand did with the Crosstrek. Although it produces just 148 horsepower, the Crosstrek Hybrid also offers upwards of 90 MPGe thanks to its highly efficient plug-in powertrain. Of course, the problem is coaxing enough output from the setup to give the Outback a decent 0-to-60 mph time, but without putting a sizable dent in fuel economy, which is undoubtedly an issue that Subaru’s boffins are currently working to correct.
Finally, the 2020 Subaru Outback will be based on the latest Subaru Global Platform, and will feature a lower center of gravity and greater torsional rigidity – not to mention lower production costs for Subaru.
Why It Matters
All told, the crossover segment is still massively popular, and rather profitable as well. And that makes the 2020 Subaru Outback one of the brand’s most critical updates.
The brand just unveiled the mid-size Ascent SUV last year, and so far, sales are looking pretty decent. If Subaru can pad its figures with a successful update to the highly popular Outback, then it’ll be sitting pretty heading into 2020. After all, the Outback was Subaru’s best-selling model in 2018, with just under 180,000 units sold. Time to continue that streak.
The Outback currently starts at $26,345, but with the 2020-model-year’s new turbo engine option, new platform, new tech, and larger dimensions, we’d expect a small bump in pricing with this latest update.
Look for the 2020 Subaru Outback to debut at the New York Auto Show next week. Sales will likely commence early next year.
Read our speculative review on the 2020 Subaru Outback.
Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru Outback.
Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru Viziv Tourer Concept.