The new Outback should be better, if not bolder

The Subaru Outback is due for a refreshment next year as the Japanese manufacturer prepares to roll the sixth generation as a 2020 model. Expect the same build quality and ruggedness from the next-generation off-road station wagon.

The new Forester will come next year along with the new seventh-generation Legacy to which it will still be linked. Both cars will sit on the new Subaru Global Platform which should ensure better handling thanks to a lower center of gravity, increased structural rigidity and versatility.

Subaru previewed the design direction of the new Outback with the Viziv Concept Tourer, but don’t hold your breaths for anything that sporty. Some design elements will be kept, albeit toned down a few notches, but, otherwise, this crossover between an SUV and a station wagon should retain its familiar proportions and lines.

Keep reading to find out how we reckon the new Outback will turn out to be

Exterior

2020 Subaru Outback Exterior
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Subaru hasn’t stunned us through the design of its road-going models in quite a while.

The Viziv Concept Tourer showcases a very bold interpretation of the Dynamic x Solid design language which tells us that this is just a case of Subaru flexing its muscles as the production Outback will be way more docile in the looks department.

The hexagonal grille will be kept although it will probably end up looking much more squared-off on the production model, something like on the fifth-generation Forester that was launched this year. The aggressive C-shaped headlights will not be seen in production, but they will retain a similar sharp yet elongated appearance to those on the current-generation model. The fender vents might receive a makeover but the plastic add-ons along the lower side of the body will be retained, naturally.

The side profile of the Viziv Tourer Concept is low with narrow side windows and big wheels. The many creases and surfaces also are something that won’t translate into the production version although you may expect the rear quarter panel to be more muscular with added bulging and a character line to underline it. Looking at the mule of the upcoming Legacy, which features an almost unchanged roofline, we can expect the new Outback to follow a similar path so expect similar proportions to the ones on the model we see now on the streets.

2019 Subaru Forester Adds Size And Safety, Scraps Turbo And Manual Gearbox Exterior
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The new Forester debuted some C-shaped taillights which are a departure from the styling of the current Outback, Legacy, and Ascent.

The new Outback will follow some of the design cues of the Legacy which shouldn’t stray too far off the beaten path at the back either, so don’t expect the C-shaped taillights to be carried over from the Forester SUV - although it might look sharper than before.

The 2015 Outback is 189.6 inches long while the wheelbase measures 108.1 inches. If we look at the pattern of the previous generations, the Outback grew slightly from one generation to another but the wheelbase of the 2013 model is identical to that of the 2015 model. Should we, then, expect a bigger wheelbase this time around? Well, this will be the first Outback to be mated to the Subaru Global Platform which should enable better packing and, potentially, a longer wheelbase.

Interior

2015 - 2017 Subaru Outback High Resolution Interior
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The interior of the new Outback will be updated although, as with the exterior, there won't be any dramatic changes here either.

Expect a more modern-looking center stack with, maybe, a bigger digital screen in the middle to control the infotainment system and digital gauge cluster behind the steering wheel.

Otherwise, the Outback will remain a 5-seater and should continue to boast the same ride quality and comfort as the previous generation, maybe with added sound deafening.

The Subaru Eyesight system will come standard with the new crossover. This is a system that uses a set of cameras to identify the other cars on the road, pedestrians, and other objects around the car, including the road itself and the lanes. Under the right circumstances, the Eyesight system applies the brakes or decreases the throttle input to help reduce the severity of, or help avoid a crash. The system is packed with a variety of other functions including Adaptive Cruise Control and Lead Vehicle Start Alert or Lane Departure Warning and Lane Sway Warning. Subaru says that its system needs time to analyze and observe the environment which means that if you are traveling at 20 mph above the speed of the obstacle you’re approaching, the system might miss it. However, the Subaru is relentlessly working to improve the technology so expect it to get better by the time it comes with your new Outback

Drivetrain

2015 - 2017 Subaru Outback
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The current model comes with a choice of two gas-powered engines and a CVT transmission. You can go for the basic boxer 4-pot (either SOHC or DOHC) with 175-horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque or the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder unit that produces some 256-horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque.

However, this is about to change with the arrival of the next Outback. Subaru is poised to drop the high-capacity unit in favor of a turbocharged one.

It will most likely be the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder unit taken from the Ascent which develops 260-horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque.

This engine will replace the 3.6-liter engine on the new Legacy as well. Direct injection will also become the norm with the forthcoming models.

Meanwhile, the CVT transmission is set to stay put as will the AWD system. No manuals are foreseen for the Outback in the future. Currently, Subaru offers a 6-speed manual transmission for the Outback with the Touring trim level in Canada.

Meanwhile, the new platform should provide "a fun driving experience for all passengers regardless of the roads and weather conditions," and be very much rooted in the ’Enjoyment And Piece Of Mind’ idea which is behind the Subaru brand. The new SGP will see the new Outback and Legacy models be safer than ever.

Pricing

2020 Subaru Outback Exterior
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The current MSRP for the Outback is between $26,810 and $39,605. Expect the next generation to edge closer to $30,000 for the base model.

Competition

Audi A4 Allroad

2017 - 2018 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro High Resolution Exterior
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The A4 Allroad Quattro is one of the few cars on the road that shares the Outback’s original philosophy. It’s the all-wheel-drive station wagon version of the A4 sedan. The Audi hasn’t fully morphed into the crossover territory like the Outback has, which has an SUV-esque profile compared to the A4, but the two cars are still similar in size. The A4 Allroad measures 187 inches in length just a couple of inches shorter than the current Outback.

The A4 is, however, a lower car which means there’s less headroom and less leg room in the back as well. The trunk capacity is also not particularly imposing and it’s arguably less of an off-roader than the Outback is.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro.

Honda CR-V

2017 Honda CR-V High Resolution Exterior
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Now that the A4 has been mentioned, a car that shares the original philosophy of the Outback, you have to also look at an SUV crossover to cover the whole range of competitors that the Outback faces and will have to face in the future. A good example is the CR-V.

The fifth generation was launched last year with a length of 180 inches and a wheelbase of 104.7 inches, so smaller than the Outback. However, the CR-V is 7 inches taller than the Subaru since it doesn’t pretend to be a station wagon on steroids, rather a full-blown compact crossover SUV. It comes with four engine options, none of which extend over 190-horsepower. The best option of the four has to be the 1.5-liter inline-4 turbocharged engine with its 190-horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. Honda still offers a diesel with the CR-V. The car proved to be a hit, selling some 377,000 units in its first production year. It’s a tough market to be in for Subaru, although the Japanese also have the Forester in the crossover SUV market to try and take a piece of the sales cake.

Read our full review on the 2017 Honda CR-V.

Final Thoughts

2020 Subaru Outback Exterior
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The Outback has been Subaru’s flagship model in terms of sales, in spite of its niche position as a crossover AWD station wagon that is edging into the compact SUV territory. It’s still a good choice for families that want a rugged runabout that can tackle all weather and offer great comfort and safety.

The new generation pushes to take the Outback beyond the 200,000 examples-sold-mark. Currently, the Outback stagnates at around 185,000 cars sold (182,000 in 2016 and 188,000 in 2017). This is still an increase over the stats from 5 years ago so the potential for growth is there.

  • Leave it
    • No manual is on order
    • Probably no sporty version either
    • Prices might go up for the whole range

Further reading

2015 - 2017 Subaru Outback High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru Outback.

2020 Subaru Outback Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru Viziv Tourer Concept.

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