Is it a capable alternative to the SUV status quo?

Subaru has been doing remarkably well lately, posting impressive growth and sales numbers over the past several years. Helping to fuel that success is a strong stable of vehicles that cover a broad range of segments, including a few that manage to straddle the line between segments and still offer the benefits of both. The Outback is one such vehicle. Framed as the “World’s First Sport Utility Wagon,” the Outback nameplate has been around since 1994 and is currently the brand’s top-selling model, bringing all the capability and utility of a crossover, but in a wagon body style that’s a little closer to a traditional passenger car. It’s a nice combo, and to keep it feeling fresh, Subaru unveiled a mid-cycle update for the Outback at the 2017 New York International Auto Show, giving it new styling, an updated interior, more technology for safety and convenience, and a few bits and pieces that lend it a more premium feel.

The appeal for something like this is clear, and on paper, it looks like it should do well amongst buyers looking for a non-SUV that fits their particular active lifestyle. But does the 2018 Outback have what it takes to steal sales from folks more inclined to get a crossover? Read on for details.

Update 6/23/2017: The 2018 Subaru Outback is currently in preparation to roll into dealers in the coming weeks, and we now have full pricing information. Compared to the outgoing model, the Outback gets a mild price increase that ranges between $250 and $495, depending on the trim level. The base model officially starts out at $25,895. Check out the prices section below for full details on model and option pricing.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Subaru Outback.

  • 2018 Subaru Outback
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    CVT
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    175
  • Torque @ RPM:
    174
  • Displacement:
    2.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.1 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    139 mph
  • Price:
    25645
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    7.3/10

Exterior

2018 Subaru Outback High Resolution Exterior
- image 712116

“Rugged” is one adjective Subaru loves to use when describing the Outback. It makes sense, given the model’s target buyer is probably inclined to partake in the outdoorsy, bike-riding, hike-taking, ski-slope type of activities you see in so many Subaru adverts. As such, Subaru updated the model for the 2018 model year to help reflect those tastes and priorities, giving it more of the soft-roader cues you’d expect from front to back.

Starting in front, we see a newly reshaped bumper with wider intakes below, plus a horizontal hexagonal grille above, bisected by a prominent polished bar housing the Subaru six-star badge. Bookending the grille are C-shaped headlights, which are fitted with “Konoji” LED daytime running lights. Subaru also says there are new character lines stretched out horizontally from the grille that are a reference to the flat boxer engine configuration under the hood. A matte-black cover for the lower section of the bumper helps to repel errant rocks and grit from scratching the paint, extending along the profile into the rear bumper. Large fog lights sit in the bumper corners.

2018 Subaru Outback High Resolution Exterior
- image 712121
Subaru updated the Outback the 2018 model year to reflect those outdoorsy tastes, giving it more of the soft-roader cues you’d expect from front to back.

The side view reveals a decently lifted ride height, plus an extended roofline to accommodate more stuff in back. There’s also four-door access for the passengers, and polished metal frames for the windows. In the corners, you’ll find new wheel designs for the 2018 model year Limited trim level. Wheel sizing comes in at 17 inches for the 2.5i and Premium trims, while Limited and Touring trims get 18-inchers as standard. All wheels utilize a lightweight alloy construction.

The taillights wrap into the rear fenders, continuing the profile’s prominent top character line, and a matte-black undercladding finishes it off.

In back, the rear hatch flips up using a top-mounted hinge, with the trailing edge of the roof extended thanks to an integrated spoiler. The taillights wrap into the rear fenders, continuing the profile’s prominent top character line, and a matte-black undercladding finishes it off.

Up top, the Outback equips roof rails with retractable crossbars as standard, with the Touring getting low-profile bars in a silver finish for a touch of extra premium feel.

Exterior Dimensions

Length (Inches) 190
Width (Inches) 72
Height (Inches) 66
2018 Subaru Outback Exterior High Resolution
- image 714749
2015 - 2017 Subaru Outback
- image 721206

Note: 2018 Subaru Outback vs. 2017 Subaru Outback

Competing Exterior

While the U.S. market isn’t exactly overflowing with affordably priced wagons with a penchant for outdoor activities, there are a few alternative models to pick through, starting with the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
- image 714745
2015 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
- image 714744
The Alltrack is remarkably similar to other Golf iterations, albeit with an extended wagon roofline and the usual lineup of softroader cues.

Visually, the Alltrack is remarkably similar to other Golf iterations, albeit with an extended wagon roofline and the usual lineup of softroader cues. For example, there is tough undercladding added to the lower edges, complemented by silver garnish. The roof rails are also finished in silver, and there are available 18-inch wheels for added style. Standard spec includes 17-inch wheels. The nose is also equipped with available bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, while up top is an available panoramic sunroof. Chrome window trim adds yet another level of garnish, while standard heated side view mirrors, integrated turn signals, and heated windshield washer nozzles round it out.

Up next, we have the Mini Cooper Clubman, which immediately stands out thanks to its unique exterior styling. Bearing the same fascia and aesthetic as other Mini models, the Clubman offers six doors, with four for passengers, and two doors that split the rear hatch for easier loading and unloading. Styling options are plentiful, and include a wide assortment of paint colors, stripes, trim, light upgrades, side-view mirror caps, and more to customize your Mini to your taste. Wheel sizing is set at 16 inches as standard, but rollers up to 18 inches are available.

2016 Mini Clubman
- image 714746
2016 Mini Clubman
- image 714747
The Clubman offers six doors, with four for passengers, and two doors that split the rear hatch for easier loading and unloading.

The three models covered here offer different things to different buyers. The Outback, for example, is a classic softroader wagon, looking like it’s got the chops to hit the rough stuff without batting an eye. The Volkswagen is similar, but it’s definitely designed with a sleeker, more urban attitude in mind. The Mini, however, is the real outlier, and looks the parts with tons of flash and customizability.

Exterior Dimensions

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Mini Cooper Clubman
Length (Inches) 179.6 168.3
Width (Inches) 70.8 70.9
Height (Inches) 59.7 56.7
Ground Clearance (Inches) 6.65 N/A

Interior

2018 Subaru Outback High Resolution Interior
- image 712114

While the exterior of the new Subaru Outback continues on the theme of rough and ready, the interior attempts something a little more upper crust. This is where the biggest updates can be found for the 2018 model year refresh, with Subaru focusing primarily on improving the “comfort, safety, and multimedia capability” in the facelift.

This is where the biggest updates can be found for the 2018 model year refresh.

Starting it off is a new center console design. The layout isn’t terribly different from the old, but the various buttons and switches are moved around to accommodate equipment changes. The clock was also redesigned and is now bigger.

While it isn’t the most amazing interior we’ve ever seen, it gets the job done, with a simple, straightforward look that’s vaguely reminiscent of something you’d get in an Audi circa 2002. That means that while it’s functional, it also allows passengers to indulge in a little luxury when the time is right.

But let’s be honest – if backside coddling is at the top of your list of priorities, there are better options out there. The Outback is more about carrying the things you need to the place you want to be, and as such, it’s got the goods in practicality.

2018 Subaru Outback High Resolution Interior
- image 712115
The Outback is more about carrying the things you need to the place you want to be, and as such, it’s got the goods in practicality.

For example, the doorsill kick plates offer a step-up style that enables easier access to items secured to the roof. Subaru also boasts that the Outback gets the most interior room of any entry in the modern sport-utility wagon segment. Check out specifics on the specs at the bottom of this section.

Making the most of the volume is a rear bench with a 60/40 split activated via seatback release levers, plus there’s a nearly flat load floor.

In terms of comfort, the new Outback gets a quieter interior thanks to a surplus of drivetrain tweaks. There’s also less wind noise courtesy of more aerodynamic side-view mirrors, better sound insulation for the front glass, and more robust rear wheel aprons.

In terms of comfort, the new Outback gets a quieter interior thanks to a surplus of drivetrain tweaks and less wind noise.

Complementing the newfound quiet is an assortment of new materials, which were added across the trim level lineup. The steering wheel, for example, now offers a more premium feel, and the mid and upper grades get new stitching on the dash. Meanwhile, the top grades get new stitching in the seats and door panels. The top trims also get glossy black bits and silver bezels. New for the 2018 model year is the Titanium Gray interior color scheme, but buyers can also get theirs in Warm Ivory, or Slate black.

Obviously, infotainment upgrades are a major focus of any modern mid-cycle refresh, and the new Outback has plenty of ‘em. The standard 6.2-inch touchscreen on the outgoing model was ditched for a slightly larger 6.5-inch screen offering “quicker performance,” while higher trim levels get an 8.0-inch unit with improved operation akin to what you’d expect from a smartphone. The onboard voice command is also improved, with support offered for Apple Siri and OK Google. There are auxiliary inputs and USB ports, plus even more USBs on higher trim levels. The list of supported apps includes Aha, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Calendar, Music Player, News, Weather, Navigation, eBird (essentially a bird watching and locations app), Best Parking, Yelp, Glympse, RightTrack, Quick Guide, and eventseeker.

Subaru also upgraded its Starlink infotainment platform for 2018.

Subaru also upgraded its Starlink infotainment platform for 2018. Further features include Bluetooth support, iPod integration, smartphone support with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and if you go for the right option, TomTom navigation with three years of complementary map updates. Higher trims also get over the air updates with a Wi-Fi connection.

The climate control was upgraded to more quickly cool the cabin with the A/C running, while also making for a more uniform temperature between individual sections of the interior. The controls now use the inside rim of the control dial as an indicator for the settings, and the interior power now remains on after you switch off the ignition if needed.

Interior Measurements

Headroom Front/Rear (Inches) 38.3/38.9
Legroom Front/Rear (Inches) 42.9/42.9
Shoulder Room Front/Rear (Inches) 58.1/57.3
Passenger Volume (cubic feet) 108.1
Rear Cargo Volume, Rear Bench Up/Down (cubic feet) 35.5/73.5

Competing Interiors

2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Alltrack High Resolution Interior
- image 670014
2016 Mini Clubman Interior
- image 634920

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack pictured on the left, Mini Cooper Clubman pictured on the right.

Inside the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, you’ll find a handsome cabin layout well suited to the brand’s connotations for high-end fit and finish. The look isn’t terribly exciting, but rather just a solid piece of design that takes cues from more expensive models within the Volkswagen Auto Group umbrella (like Audi, for example). Standout standard features include a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, LED lighting, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, Volkswagen’s Car-Net App-Connect system, Bluetooth support, a USB port, 8-speaker audio system, and available dual-zone climate control. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also supported.

The Mini once again looks like the obvious choice if you’ve got a taste for fashion and flair, while the Volkswagen and Subaru are tied in terms of elegance and refinement.

Meanwhile, the Mini once again makes its presence known with standout design and inimitable style. Dominating the central console is a large, rounded control hub that houses a 6.5-inch high-def touch screen as standard. App support is offered for Pandora, Spotify, Tunein radio, and more, while Mini’s navigation system comes complete with real-time traffic updates. The central tunnel houses extra hard buttons, including a touch controller and handwriting recognition, while a heads-up display over the gauge cluster projects further relevant info to the driver. Leatherette upholstery is standard, while options include leather, heated front seats, bolstered sports seats, and a whole lot more.

The Mini once again looks like the obvious choice if you’ve got a taste for fashion and flair, while the Volkswagen and Subaru are tied in terms of elegance and refinement. Get either with the right set of options, and you’ll be sitting pretty indeed.

Interior Measurements

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Mini Cooper Clubman
Headroom Front/Rear (Inches) 38.6/38.6 40.2/38.0
Legroom Front/Rear (Inches) 41.2/35.6 41.4/34.3
Shoulder Room Front/Rear (Inches) 55.9/53.9 54.7/52.8
Passenger Volume (cubic feet) 94.3 92.5
Rear Cargo Volume, Rear Bench Up/Down (cubic feet) 30.4/N/A 17.5/47.9

Drivetrain

2015 - 2017 Subaru Outback Drivetrain
- image 549732

Note: previous model Subaru Outback shown here.

Under the hood, you’ll find a standard-issue 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams. Per tradition for a Subaru, the engine is arranged in a flat “boxer” configuration, offering a lower center of gravity compared to a typical inline four configuration. Output for the base model is rated at 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque.

If that’s not enough muscle for you, higher trim levels offer a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine, also with dual overhead cams and a flat boxer configuration. Equipped on the 3.6R model, this powerplant produces upwards of 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque, with 90 percent of peak torque produced at just 2,000 rpm.

More than 250 horsepower is a decent wallop for an entry in this segment, and the Outback is expected to produce a 7.1-second 0-to-60 mph time and 139mph limited top speed.

That’s a decent wallop for an entry in this segment, expected to make for a 7.1-second 0-to-60 mph time and 139 mph limited top speed, but there are also active grille shutters in place to help to cut back on air resistance and enhance efficiency. Exact fuel return figures for the 2018 model have yet to be released but based on last year’s model, expect 32 mpg highway and 25 mpg city for the 2.5-liter, plus 27 mpg highway and 20 mpg city for the six-cylinder.

Speaking of efficiency, the Outback is offered with a standard Lineartronic continuously variable transmission, or CVT, which includes a seven-speed manual mode that allows the driver to select his or her preferred gear ratio via paddles on the steering wheel. This unit was retuned for 2018 to offer smoother response, and it also gets a quieter short-pitch chain to make for a more silent ride. The engine timing was also tweaked for less noise under throttle.

Every Outback comes with Subaru’s famous Symmetrical AWD system as standard, plus Active Torque Vectoring.

Finally, every Outback comes with Subaru’s famous Symmetrical AWD system as standard, plus Active Torque Vectoring. That means it generates lots of grip, even in less-than-ideal conditions, with active electronics that continuously alter the variable transfer clutch for “actively managed torque distribution.”

And since the Outback is all about practicality, it bears mentioning that both the four-cylinder and six-cylinder can tow up to 2,700 pounds.

2018 Subaru Outback Engine And Drivetrain

Engine 2.5-liter four-cylinder 3.6-liter six-cylinder
Horsepower 175 HP 256 HP
Torque 174 LB-FT 247 LB-FT
Drivetrain AWD AWD
0-to-60 mph 7.1 seconds
Top speed 139 mph
Fuel economy (est.) city/highway 25/32 20/27
Towing capacity 2,700 Lbs 2,700 Lbs

Competing Drivetrains

2015 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
- image 714750
2016 Mini Clubman
- image 714751

Note: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack pictured on the left, Mini Cooper Clubman pictured on the right.

Standard under-hood equipment for the Golf Alltrack includes a turbocharged four-cylinder engine putting the power down through VW’s 4motion AWD system. The powerplant specs are listed as a 1.8-liter inline four with 16 valves, dual overhead cams, an intercooler, and direct injection, all of which help to produce 170 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 199 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. The block is made from iron, while the head is aluminum. Fuel returns look like 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, while acceleration to 60 mph takes 7.5 seconds and top speed is 129 mph. Making the gear changes is a six-speed dual-clutch automatic with a manual shifting mode.

Clearly, if speed and performance are on big blips on your radar, the Mini is an enticing proposition, especially with that high-strung turbo 2.0-liter under the hood.

Meanwhile, the Mini Cooper Clubman offers a variety of engine and drivetrain combinations, starting with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder making 145 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 162 pound-feet of torque. 0-to-60 mph takes 8.9 seconds. Next is a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 189 horsepower at 5,000 and 207 pound-feet of torque at 1,250 rpm, good enough for a run to 60 mph in 7 seconds flat. Finally, there’s the top-rated turbo 2.0-liter, tuned to produces228 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at 1,450 rpm, and propelling the Mini to 60 mph in 6 seconds flat. Transmission options include a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, and eight-speed automatic with and without paddle shifters. Both FWD and AWD are offered. Top speed is around 130 mph.

Clearly, if speed and performance are on big blips on your radar, the Mini is an enticing proposition, especially with that high-strung turbo 2.0-liter under the hood. By comparison, the Outback and Alltrack’s roughly 7-second 60-mph sprint times are respectable, but probably won’t impress.

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Mini Cooper Clubman Mini Cooper Clubman Mini Cooper Clubman
Engine 1.8-liter four-cylinder 1.5-liter three-cylinder 2.0-liter four-cylinder 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower 170 HP 145 HP 189 HP 228 HP
Torque 199 LB-FT 162 LB-FT 207 LB-FT 258 LB-FT
Drivetrain AWD FWD or AWD FWD or AWD FWD or AWD
0-to-60 mph 7.5 seconds 8.9 seconds 7.0 seconds 6.0 seconds
Top speed 129 mph 130 mph 130 mph 130 mph
Fuel economy city/highway (est.) 22/32

Chassis And Handling

2018 Subaru Outback High Resolution Exterior
- image 712119

The previous model year Outback already offered some pretty decent capability off the pavement, so the new model focused primarily on upgrading the comfort and smoothness on the pavement without hurting capability. This includes an upgraded chassis and new suspension system, with revamped dampers better tuned for cruising. Meanwhile, the steering and brakes were tweaked for a more direct feel, with the Electric Power Steering getting a “smoother, more linear response to driver input.”

As for that previously mentioned capability – the Outback offers up an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance, besting popular crossovers like the Toyota Rav 4 (6.1 inches) and Ford Escape (7.8 inches). And if you’re the kind of person who actively seeks out that hidden trail head or the perfect launch spot for you kayak, that kinda thing matters.

The Outback offers up an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance, besting popular crossovers like the Toyota Rav 4 (6.1 inches) and Ford Escape (7.8 inches). And if you’re the kind of person who actively seeks out that hidden trail head or the perfect launch spot for you kayak, that kinda thing matters.

Further capability can be had when engaging something Subaru calls “X-Mode,” whereby engine power is optimized, the CVT ratio changes, the AWD engagement is increased, and the control logic for the vehicle dynamics control is enhanced. Hill Descent Control is also engaged with this, offering engine braking to make steep, low-traction hills more manageable. Hill Start Assist is equipped as standard.

Competing Chassis And Handling

Mini Clubman All4 Unveiled Wallpaper quality
- image 662631
2015 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
- image 714748

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack pictured on the left, Mini Cooper Clubman pictured on the right.

Keeping the Golf Alltrack shiny side up is a four-wheel independent suspension system, with MacPherson struts up front and a four-link set-up in the rear. While similar to the regular Golf, Volkswagen tweaked the Alltrack’s set-up to offer more ground clearance, with 6.9 inches of space listed on the spec sheet. There’s also Servotronic power steering, and power-assisted vented front brakes with solid discs in the rear. There’s also a dedicated off-road mode, plus an available off-road monitor system that will display a custom set of adventure-oriented readouts, such as altitude, compass, steering wheel angle, and more.

And while the VW and Subaru both tout themselves as accomplished off-roaders, the Mini is more concerned with fun on the pavement.

And while the VW and Subaru both tout themselves as accomplished off-roaders, the Mini is more concerned with fun on the pavement. Up front are MacPherson struts, while the rear gets a multi-link set-up. Options include Dynamic Damper Control, as well as the Performance Control Package, both of which are designed to improve the Mini’s natural “go-kart” like handling.

With the Outback’s greater ground clearance, symmetrical AWD system, and off-roading credentials, if looks like the better choice for off-roading prowess compared to the VW, even though the Alltrack does come with a lot of equipment that’ll help it on the trail. By comparison, the Mini should probably stick to the black top – and if fun the corners is your concern, that’s exactly what the Clubman can offer.

Safety And Convenience

2018 Subaru Outback High Resolution Exterior
- image 712118

One of Subaru’s biggest selling points is its safety record, and the 2018 Outback gets all sorts of techy new additions to keep that association going strong.

Heading the list of safety features is the available EyeSight Driver Assist suite, which includes a litany of advanced systems, such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking, Vehicle Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist (now updated to activate at speeds of 37 mph and above), Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Change Assist.

Heading the list of safety features is the available EyeSight Driver Assist suite, which includes a litany of advanced systems.

Higher up in the trim level pyramid, buyers are offered the EyeSight Driver Assist with High Beam feature to help avoid dazzling oncoming motorists. The 2018 model year also gets available Steering Responsive Headlights. Get the LED head light units, and this feature will automatically turn the headlight beam around corners for better nighttime illumination.

There’s also available Reverse Automatic Braking, which will issue an audible warning if an obstruction is detected behind the vehicle, even displaying the object’s distance and position in the contral command screen.

Further improvements were made to the Blind Spot Detection, with the Rear Cross Traffic Alert lamp made bigger and now mounted to the profile of the side-view mirror. Higher trims get new LED turn signals integrated with the side-view mirrors. There are also new automatic locking doors, and better LATCH anchors for buyers who need to mount child seats.

Subaru is offering the Outback with its Starlink Safety Plus package, which is a subscription-based service (free for the first year and $99 per year afterwards) that adds in stuff like SOS Emergency Notification, Maintenance Notifications, Monthly Vehicle Health Reports, and Diagnostic Alerts. Further upgrades can be had with the Starlink Safety Plus & Security Plus Package, which adds in Stolen Vehicle Recovery, Vehicle Security Alarm Notification, a remote door lock and unlock feature, remote horn and lights activation, and a remote vehicle locator.

Subaru is offering the Outback with its Starlink Safety Plus package, which is a subscription-based service (free for the first year and $99 per year afterwards) that adds in stuff like SOS Emergency Notification, Maintenance Notifications, Monthly Vehicle Health Reports, and Diagnostic Alerts.

All trims also get a rear-view camera as standard, which was updated for 2018 to provide guidelines that change with the steering wheel angle. Finally, the onboard tire pressure monitor will now evaluate the tire pressure in individual tires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to post safety ratings for the 2018 Subaru Outback, but we expect results similar to last year’s model, which managed five out of five stars in frontal crashes, five out of five stars in side crashes, and four out of five stars in rollover tests, with five out of five stars overall. Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2017 Subaru Outback with its TopSafety Pick+ designation, giving it a “Good” rating in every crash category and a “Superior” rating in crash avoidance and mitigation.

Competing Safety And Convenience

2016 Mini Clubman ALL4
- image 662676
2015 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
- image 714748

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack pictured on the left, Mini Cooper Clubman pictured on the right.

The Volkswagen Alltrack uses high-strength steel in its construction to keep it safe in a collision. Onboard safety tech includes a standard tire pressure monitoring system, an automatic post-collision braking system, an intelligent crash response system, and a litany of electronic driver’s aides, including electronic brake-pressure distribution, electronic stability control, front assist, adaptive cruise control, parking pilot, parking assist, lane assist, and more. The NHTSA has awarded the Golf Alltrack with four out of five stars in frontal crashes, five out of five stars in side crashes, four out of five stars in rollovers, and five out of five stars overall. The IIHS gave the 2017 Golf Alltrack its Top Safety Pick designation, with a “Good” rating in every crash category and an “Advanced” rating in crash avoidance and mitigation.

The Mini also gets lots of safety and convenience features, such as eight dual-stage airbags, adaptive cruise control, dynamic stability control. Options like a rear-view camera, parking assist, parking distance control, Active Driving Assistant, and more can be added in. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have rated the Mini Cooper Clubman as of this writing.

If safety technology is one of your primary concerns, then the Subaru Outback is the choice for you. All three options get a nice lineup of features and tech, but the Outback outshines the other two with better ratings and a proven record of safety to go with it.

Prices

2018 Subaru Outback High Resolution Exterior
- image 712125

Just as in years before, when the 2018 Outback rolls into dealers across the country, it will be offered up in six different trim levels. The entry-level Outback 2.5i comes with a sticker price of $25,895, which is just $250 more than that of the outgoing model. Moving up to the 2.5i Premium or 2.5i Limited will set you back by $27,995 or $32,695, respectively ($300 and $305 more than the outgoing model.) The 2.5i Touring, the highest trim you can get with the 2.5-liter, comes in at $36,490, just $495 more than it’s outgoing counterpart. In the realm of Subaru’s 3.6-liter, you can get the 3.6R Limited or the 3.6R Touring, which comes in at $35,396 and $38,690, respectively. The 3.6R Limited comes in $400 higher than last year’s model, while the 3.6R Touring comes in at $495 more.

On the options front, going for the moonroof and powered rear gate will at a total of $1,695 to your sticker price. Then you have four different options with EyeSight. The entry-level package includes blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, powered rear gate, and high beam assist for $1,995. If you want to add on the moonroof package and navigation along with everything in the first EyeSight package, you’ll have to pony up $3,590. For something a little more basic, you can get EyeSight with navigation, high beam assist, and reverse auto brake for $1,585. Add on LED headlights and steering responsive headlights to the aforementioned package and you’ll pony up a total of $2,085.

2018 Subaru Outback pricing

Model/Trim Transmission Applicable Option Code MSRP MSRP + $915 destination and delivery
Outback 2.5i CVT ‘01 $25,895 $26,810
Outback 2.5i Premium CVT 11, 12, 14, 15 $27,995 $28,910
Outback 2.5i Limited CVT 21, 24 $32,695 $33,610
Outback 2.5i Touring CVT 31 $36,490 $37,405
Outback 3.6R Limited CVT 21, 23 $35,395 $36,310
Outback 3.6R Touring CVT 31 $38,690 $39,605
Moonroof Package + Power Rear Gate $1,695
EyeSight® + Blind Spot Detection/ Rear Cross Traffic Alert (BSD/RCTA) + Power Rear Gate + High Beam Assist $1,995
EyeSight + BSD/RCTA + Power Rear Gate + High Beam Assist + Moonroof Package + Navigation System $3,590
EyeSight + Navigation System + High Beam Assist + Reverse Auto Brake $1,585
EyeSight + Navigation System + High Beam Assist + Reverse Auto Brake + LED Headlights + Steering Responsive Headlights $2,085

The Competition’s Prices

2016 Mini Clubman High Resolution Exterior
- image 634904
2016 Mini Clubman High Resolution Exterior
- image 634904

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack pictured on the left, Mini Cooper Clubman pictured on the right.

The Volkswagen Alltrack starts at $25,850 for the base model S. The mid-grade option is the SE, which starts at $29,430, and adds in a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, and a premium Fender audio system. Heading the lineup is the SEL model, which goes for $32,890, adding in 18-inch wheels, leatherette upholstery, and upgraded infotainment.

The Mini Cooper Clubman starts at $24,100 for the base model, which gets a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine and 134 horsepower for the front axle exclusively. After that is the Cooper All4 at $25,900, which replaces the FWD drivetrain with AWD. Next is the Cooper S for $27,650, which upgrades the engine to a 189-horsepower four-cylinder, which powers the front wheels. The penultimate model is the Cooper S All4 at $29,450, which uses the 189-horsepower four-cylinder while adding AWD. Finally, there’s the John Cooper Works All4 sitting at the top of the line, which goes for $25,100 and upgrades the engine to the top-spec 228 horsepower tune and adds AWD.

A Few More Alternatives

Looking for something else? Perhaps these options can pique your interest.

Buick Regal TourX

2018 Buick Regal TourX High Resolution Exterior
- image 712576
2018 Buick Regal TourX High Resolution Exterior
- image 713687

Buick just introduced the new 2018 Regal at the 2017 New York International Auto Show, and incredibly, it replaces the old sedan body style with a brand-new wagon. Of course, when I say “brand-new,” what I really mean is the Regal is actually an Opel with a little bit of badge engineering, but very few Americans know what an Opel is, so let’s just roll with it. The Regal is larger than the Outback, and arrives with lots of nice equipment in the cabin, plus a sizable amount of cargo volume as well. Making the go is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 250 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, plus an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Read the full review here.

Audi A4 Allroad Quattro

2017 - 2018 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro High Resolution Exterior
- image 661330
2017 - 2018 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro High Resolution Exterior
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If you’re digging the VW Alltrack, but need something more luxurious, then Audi has a solution with the A4 Allroad Quattro. The Four Rings just introduced the latest-generation model last year at the Detroit Auto Show, and it’s got the goods with a handsome, resilient exterior, LED lighting, an attractive interior decked-out in high-end materials and the latest tech, and an extra bit of ground clearance as well. Making the power is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, which goes to the ground by way of a seven-speed automatic gearbox and standard quattro AWD. A run to 60 mph takes just under 6 seconds. It’s a nice bit of kit, but it also takes a pretty penny to get into your garage, starting at $44,000, and ranging as high as $51,400, plus options.

Read the full review here.

Conclusion

All things considered, it’s no surprise the Outback has been selling so well. Many buyers these days are looking for something that can do it all, offering comfort, capability, space, and technology in a single, cohesive package. The Outback definitely ticks all those boxes, and should undoubtedly be a top consideration for any buyer out there looking for an alternative to the SUV status quo.

Many buyers these days are looking for something that can do it all, and the Outback definitely ticks all the boxes. Any buyer out there looking for an alternative to the SUV status quo should undoubtedly make it a top consideration.

That said, there are better options out there, depending on your priorities. If a nice cabin space and more refinement are important, than the VW and Audi products listed above might be the better buy. If presence and speed and fun are what matter, than the Clubman seems to best the Outback.

However, if you want something that’s reliable and capable and just gets the job done, the Subaru Outback is heard to beat.

  • Leave it
    • * Not terribly exciting, even with the six-cylinder engine
    • * More refined options available
    • * A little pricey with all the options ticked

Press Release

Subaru of America, Inc., which has posted month-over-month growth for 64 consecutive months, today announced that it will debut the 2018 Outback at the New York International Auto Show on April 12. The Outback is the Subaru’s best-selling model. The 2018 Outback arrives this summer.

Featuring revised front and rear styling for a more robust stance, the 2018 Outback also debuts significant upgrades to comfort, safety and multimedia capability. Many new engineering and design details throughout the 2018 Outback enhance the driving experience and the vehicle’s versatility.

As the World’s First Sport Utility Wagon the Subaru Outback was instrumental in launching the crossover trend more than 20 years ago, with rugged styling that highlighted increased capability. Today, the Outback offers the most interior room in an expanding segment of sport-utility wagons: total passenger volume 108.1 cu. ft., plus 35.5 cu. ft. of space behind the rear seats and 73.3 cu. ft. with the standard 60/40-split fold-down rear seatback folded. The load floor is nearly flat, and the cargo area features convenient rear seatback release levers.

Numerous details help make the Outback convenient to load and carry cargo, as well as items such as kayaks and bikes. Roof rails with integrated retractable crossbars are standard on all models, except Touring, which features exclusive low-profile roof rails in a silver finish with available detachable crossbars. Step-style doorsills allow a person to stand firmly when securing objects to the crossbars on all Outback models.

Rugged Good Looks, With an Added Touch of Elegance
The Outback shows a bolder, more rugged looking face for 2018, highlighted by wider, lower grille openings and a new bumper that complement the iconic Subaru hexagonal grille. The C-shaped headlights, parking lights and new horizontal character lines extending outward from the grille subtly suggest the piston motion of the BOXER engine, a Subaru core technology. The redesigned headlights feature distinctive “Konoji” daytime LED running lights.

The redesigned front cladding enhances protection from mud and stones when the vehicle is driven off pavement. A new high-contrast wheel design on Limited trim highlight the luxury-class appearance for the 2018 Outback. The 2.5i base and Premium trims are equipped with standard 17-inch alloy wheels, and all Limited and Touring models offer 18-inch alloy wheels.

More Safety Tech for 2018
A proven safety standout, the Outback adds to its array of driver-assist features for 2018, including available new Steering Responsive Headlights (SRH). Available in conjunction with LED headlights, SRH aim the lights into turns as the driver steers. Also for 2018, Outback Limited and Touring models with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology feature High Beam Assist, which automatically turns the high beams on and off depending on traffic conditions.

More Responsive and Quieter
Enhancements made throughout the Outback chassis include retuned suspension dampers for a smoother ride, along with retuned steering and brake systems for a more direct feel and a more enjoyable driving experience. The Electric Power Steering (EPS) yields a smoother, more linear response to driver input.

Subaru made the Outback even quieter for 2018. The Lineartronic CVT for 2.5i models now uses a quieter short-pitch chain, and adjustments to engine timing under acceleration further reduce powertrain noise. Reshaped exterior mirrors are among a number of enhancements that further reduce wind noise. New sound-insulating glass for the front side windows makes the front seat area quieter, while thicker rear wheel well aprons reduce rear seat ambient noise.

Enhanced Comfort Throughout
All trim lines in the 2018 Outback line introduce new premium materials and a redesigned center console, highlighted by an available 8-inch display screen for enhanced multimedia capabilities. The Premium and higher trims feature genuine stitching detail on the dashboard, while Limited and Touring models also add stitching detail to the seats and door panels along with high-gloss black trim and silver-color bezels for various controls. A new Titanium Gray interior is now available, in addition to Slate Black and Warm Ivory, and the new steering wheel has a more luxurious look and feel.

In the Subaru tradition, numerous – and sometimes unseen – details enhance everyday comfort. The revised air conditioning system cools the cabin more quickly and provides more uniform temperature throughout the cabin. The temperature setting indicator is now located inside the control dial for more intuitive operation. As an added convenience, interior power is retained for a short time after the ignition has been switched off. The redesigned clock is larger and easier to read.

Rugged Capability
The Outback 2.5i is powered by a 175-hp double overhead cam (DOHC) 2.5-liter BOXER engine that produces 174 lb-ft peak torque. The Active Grille Shutter system helps to improve fuel economy by reducing wind resistance. The DOHC 3.6-liter 6-cylinder BOXER engine in the Outback 3.6R produces 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of peak torque, sustaining 90 percent of peak torque from 2,000-6,000 rpm for exceptional response at all vehicle speeds. Both engines are teamed with standard Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) now with a seven-speed manual mode and paddle shift control switches. The CVT offers smoother response for 2018, thanks to a retuned electronic control unit (ECU).

The combination of standard Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and Active Torque Vectoring gives Outback confident grip in all weather conditions. In all 2018 Outback models, Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is an active AWD system that uses an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch to actively manage torque distribution based on acceleration, deceleration and available traction. The 8.7-inch ground clearance on all Outback models excels many crossovers.
For driving in challenging conditions, standard driver-selectable X-Mode optimizes engine output and CVT ratio position, increases active all-wheel drive engagement and uses enhanced control logic for the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) stability system to reduce individual wheel spin. Engaging X-Mode also activates Hill Descent Control, which uses engine braking to help maintain a constant vehicle speed when traveling downhill. The Outback also features standard Hill Start Assist.

Four Trim Lines
The 2018 Outback 2.5i will be available in standard, Premium, Limited and top-of-line Touring trims; the 3.6R will offer Limited and Touring trims. The top-of-line Touring was new for 2017, featuring the highest luxury content in the model line, plus standard Subaru EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and exclusive design elements. The Touring interior features Java Brown perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, door panels and armrests with contrasting ivory stitching. In addition to all the equipment from the Outback Limited, the Touring includes a heated steering wheel, unique woodgrain patterned interior trim, and piano-black switch panel accents

Subaru Multimedia Upgraded for 2018
The 2018 Outback offers the brand’s latest SUBARU STARLINK Multimedia system with Bluetooth wireless capability, iPod control, smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and more. The top-level system includes TomTom navigation with three years of free map updates. Two USB power ports are added to the back of the center console for rear seat passengers’ convenience.

The standard STARLINK 6.5” Multimedia system is an upgrade from the previous STARLINK 6.2” system and offers quicker performance. The available STARLINK 8.0” system debuts a new 8-inch central touch-screen display that provides smartphone-like operation. More smartphone-linked operations improve the multimedia experience while reducing the need to divert attention from the road or hands from the steering wheel.

Now using two microphones and technology by Nuance (maker of Dragon Dictation apps for computers and other devices) voice recognition is significantly improved in the 2018 Outback. The driver can more easily use Apple Siri or OK Google voice commands, and the system is compatible with multiple languages.

Among standard features on all SUBARU STARLINK systems are Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, iPod control, a USB port and auxiliary input jack. High-line trims add dual USB ports and other features. Smartphone integration features Aha and Pandora, along with STARLINK cloud applications iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Calendar, Music Player, News and Weather. Apps added for 2018 include:

Magellan NAVI offers advanced cloud-based mapping.
eBird advises of local bird sightings and locations.
Best Parking locates and compares parking rates.
YELP delivers crowd sourced reviews of businesses.
Glympse provides real-time location sharing.
RightTrack monitors driving habits and recommends improvements.
Quick Guide is a digital reference guide for the vehicle.
eventseeker provides information on local events.

Premium, Limited and Touring Outback STARLINK Multimedia systems are also compatible with Over the Air (OTA) updates using WiFi.

Safety Leader with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology
The brand’s available award-winning EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, available on most trims, includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking, Vehicle Lane Departure Warning. The Lane Keep Assist system now activates earlier, at just above 37 mph. Models with EyeSight also come with Blind Spot Detection/Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which includes Lane Change Assist.

All Outback trim lines come standard with a rear-view camera. New for 2018, when reversing, the guidelines displayed on the screen move in sync with the steering to provide more accurate vehicle positioning.

The Outback builds on its long record as a safety standout, offering Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB) and the new available Steering Responsive Headlight (SRH) system for 2018. RAB can detect objects in the vehicle’s path and convey audible warnings to the driver, showing distance and position of the object in the center display screen when reversing.

Also new for 2018, the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) now detects pressure changes at individual tires. The Blind Spot Detection/Rear Cross Traffic Alert indicator lamp is larger and has been moved from the mirror’s surface to its side. In highline trims, redesigned LED turn signals in the mirrors are easier to see. Automatic locking doors are also new, and improved LATCH anchors make child seat installation easier.

SUBARU STARLINK Connected Services
Two SUBARU STARLINK packages are available and are among the most affordable in the industry. The STARLINK Safety Plus package, which is complimentary for the first year and $99 per year after that, includes SOS Emergency Assistance, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Automatic Collision Notification, Maintenance Notifications, Monthly Vehicle Health Report and Diagnostic Alerts. For even greater peace of mind, the STARLINK Safety Plus & Security Plus Package adds Stolen Vehicle Recovery Service, Vehicle Security Alarm Notification, Remote Lock/Unlock, Remote Horn and Lights and Remote Vehicle Locator.

Subaru of America, Inc. offers a full line of all-wheel drive sedans, crossovers and SUVs, along with the rear-wheel drive BRZ sports car. The Impreza, Legacy and Outback are built at Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA).

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