Subaru Outback: Which Should You Buy, 2020 or 2021?

subaru outback 2021 exterior front three quarter oem jpg 2021 Subaru Outback | Manufacturer image

Most significant changes: Adaptive LED headlights, and backseat and passenger seat belt reminders now standard

Price change: $150 increase for base, Premium, Limited and Touring trims; $250 increase for Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT and Touring XT; destination charge increases $40 to $1,050

On sale: October

Which should you buy, 2020 or 2021? 2021. Lower-level trims and Onyx Edition XT add adaptive LED headlights as standard, and the price increases are minimal on all models.

Subaru redesigned the all-wheel-drive Outback wagon for 2020 to make it closer to a crossover, though it still shares its design with the Legacy sedan and differs mainly in its taller ground clearance and SUV styling cues. For 2021, the base, Premium and Onyx Edition XT trims gain standard adaptive headlights that swivel in the direction of turns, making that feature standard across the board (all models already had LED headlights as standard). Also newly standard are a reminder to check the backseat before leaving the vehicle and a seat belt reminder for passengers.

Related: Who Makes Subaru?

Shop the 2020 Subaru Outback near you

Used
2020 Subaru Outback Limited
43,230 mi.
$24,899
Used
2020 Subaru Outback Limited XT
30,660 mi.
$254,506

Price

Price increases are modest: $150 on the base, Premium, Limited and Touring models and $250 on the others. The destination charge is $40 higher at $1,050.

The base model starts at $27,845 (all prices include destination), and there are no factory options available to pad the price. Prices climb rapidly, though, to $30,095 for the Premium, $34,645 for the Limited and $38,545 for the Touring. The top-of-the-line Touring XT is $40,995.

Features and Safety Tech

All models come with AWD, a continuously variable automatic transmission and the EyeSight safety suite that includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. All models also seat five.

Engine

Base, Premium, Limited and Touring models come with a 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder engine. The Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT and Touring XT come with a turbocharged 260-hp, 2.4-liter horizontally opposed engine. 

Interior

The Outback has a roomy, functional interior with ample cargo space, and higher-level models come with an 11.6-inch vertically oriented screen for the well-executed multimedia system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all models.

Performance and Gas Mileage

The base engine feels sluggish and the CVT does little to help performance, but the turbo engine delivers more satisfying performance. If you consider the Outback a compact to mid-size SUV, the EPA combined city/highway fuel economy estimates of 29 mpg for the 2.5-liter engine compares favorably with other five-seat competitors.

A comfortable ride and competent handling give the Outback good road manners, and with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, it can handle light off-road duty. The standard X-Mode system adjusts engine, transmission and AWD settings for greater off-road traction, and the Onyx Edition comes with a Deep Snow/Mud setting. Towing capacities are modest: 2,700 pounds with the 2.5-liter engine and 3,500 with the turbo 2.4-liter.

The Outback was a pioneer in steering the auto industry away from truck-based SUVs to car-based crossovers, and it still offers decent value in a five-seat, versatile family vehicle.

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