I’m in Seattle and not sure if the snow will ever stop. Cars are sliding, trucks can’t get up hills, and it’s a challenge just to get out of the hotel parking lot. I just want my family’s 2017 Subaru Outback! We’ve enjoyed having it in the Midwest, and on long trips through the South, but I get why so many people in the Northeast and Northwest buy them. They laugh at snow. With this yuck in mind, I couldn’t wait to drive the completely redesigned 2020 Outback Touring.
Sleeker Outback Style
Designers had the opportunity to completely re-imagine the Outback as a sleek wagon, boxy crossover, or something between, but when they interviewed owners, orders were clear: Make it look like an Outback. So, stylists lengthened it marginally, sleeked it out, and graced it with corner-following LED headlamps. Jeep-challenging 8.7 inches of ground clearance and 18-inch wheels remain. Touring models trade the previous generation’s slimline luggage rails for the full-function rack with integrated crossbars. Given the car has a lower roof height than most SUVs, it’s easier to loft bicycles and kayaks too. It’s clearly an Outback.
According to Subaru, Outback customers are well-educated given 37 percent have college diplomas while 32 percent earned post-graduate degrees. Household incomes range from $75,000 to $99,000. While they can choose more expensive cars, they choose Outbacks. But, a more luxurious Outback wouldn’t hurt.
That’s where the luxury Touring trim comes in. Sliding in the new cabin, passengers first notice the 11.6-inch tablet style touchscreen in the center dash to intuitively control infotainment that includes Harman Kardon audio, Tom Tom navigation, and automatic climate control. It steps up with brown Nappa leather seats, woodgrain, and stitched dash/door trim. Heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel add comfort – as do extendable lower driver’s side cushions and power moonroof. Connect with wireless charging, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Wi-Fi hotspot.
Families can feel safe. Beyond a stiff body structure that absorbs crash forces like a steel sponge, our Touring edition is loaded with all of the latest safety gear. Equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight system with twin cameras above the rearview mirror, the car has lane keep assist, adaptive cruise, forward collision warning with auto brake, and blind spot detection. Add to that lane centering, reverse auto braking, and a front camera to aid when exiting alleys or topping trails. This all earns the car an IIHS Top Safety Pick ranking.
New Turbo Power
Gone is the previous-generation’s optional six-cylinder engine, replaced by a new 2.4 liter turbocharged horizontally-opposed four-cylinder that delivers 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. If you’re counting, that’s 78hp more than the base 2.5-liter non-turbo engine. Both connect to the all-wheel-drive system through a continuously variable transmission. Fuel economy is rated 23/30-MPG city/highway.
I always thought my family’s Outback rode and handled well, but the new one’s stiffer body structure and refined suspension is better. Where my car’s suspension can clunk a bit over rough impacts, this one just soaks it up like an Audi. The torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive is impressive in the way it slightly over-rotates the rear to tighten corners. Steering feels more direct for a more engaging driving experience.
When off-roading, press the XMode button that configures the traction control, powertrain, and hill descent control to shift torque between wheels on tough trails and creep it down steep hills while automatically. Combine that with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and you have a pretty serious off-road machine. Few owners will ever explore the Outback’s true capability.
I used to joke that if I ever ran a business, I’d buy a Subaru Outback…because everybody would know they might as well roll on in because I’d be there. Even without a business, my family has enjoyed the all-weather capability, efficient fuel economy, roomy interior, and ample luggage space in our 2017 edition. The all-new 2020 Outback Touring takes all I already liked and made it so much better. I just wish I had it in Seattle.
2020 Subaru Outback Touring
- Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
- Powertrain: 2.4-liter T4, CVT auto trans
- Output: 260hp/277 lb.-ft. torque
- Towing: 3,500 lbs.
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Luxury, Capability
- Fuel economy: 23/30 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Lafayette, IN
- Base/As-tested price: $26,645/$40,705