2018 Subaru Outback

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$25,895

starting MSRP

2018 Subaru Outback
2018 Subaru Outback

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Attractive styling
  • Easy entry and exit
  • Backseat roominess
  • Visibility
  • Interior quality
  • Standard AWD
  • Exposed Latch anchors for car seats

The bad:

  • Roof rails mean car can be pitched around by heavy winds
  • CVT's lack of idle-creep leads to lurching starts
  • Rear center shoulder belt not integrated with seat
  • Sensitive lane departure warning system

6 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2018 Subaru Outback trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Lightly revised styling for 2018
  • Five-seat, all-wheel-drive wagon
  • Four- or six-cylinder engine
  • 8.7 inches of ground clearance
  • Camera-based EyeSight safety system available
  • Reverse automatic braking available
  • Steering adaptive headlights with automatic high beams available

2018 Subaru Outback review: Our expert's take

By Jennifer Geiger

The verdict: The Subaru Outback offers a blend of two worlds: It’s rugged-looking and capable outside, and it provides just the right balance of comfort and coddling inside.  

Versus the competiton: The Outback blurs the line between wagon and SUV, but it’s more affordable than similarly sized SUVs and just as capable and practical.  

Minor updates for the 2018 Subaru Outback make an already good thing better. Subtle styling tweaks — like more angular headlights and a slightly larger grille — maintain the Outback’s clean, unfussy design, while an updated multimedia system and retuned transmission improve usability and drivability. Compare the 2017 and 2018 models here.

The Subaru Outback’s most direct competitor — spiritually if not in size — is the VW Golf Alltrack, another tall wagon with AWD. The Outback also competes against more traditional mid-size SUVs like the Ford Edge and Jeep Cherokee. Compare them here.

Boring? Not So Fast

While the Outback’s exterior styling doesn’t raise eyebrows, it stands out among the throngs of SUVs in grocery store parking lots and school drop-off lanes in that it’s not an SUV — or at least, not exactly. Its tall-wagon looks set it apart from the pack, though with each redesign it takes on more of the bloated stance of an SUV.

The Subaru Outback’s cabin has always had a utilitarian, serviceable look to it, but there’s a surprise inside for 2018. Interior design is classier across the lineup, and materials quality is better overall. Subaru even added a dose of luxury in higher trim levels, with high-quality materials highlighted by padded plastic where it counts, plus comfy leather seats with contrast stitching and faux (but believable) low-gloss wood paneling on the door sills and dash. New stitching on the upper dash of top trim levels also adds some pizzazz. These small pops of unexpected luxury impress in the thoughtfully designed cabin.

The controls got tweaked, too. A standard 6.5-inch touchscreen replaces last year’s smaller unit, and an 8-inch touchscreen is optional. The graphics are crisp and modern, the menus straightforward and easy to use. Even better are the handy tuning and volume knobs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone infotainment compatibility are new this year, and they’re standard. Lastly, the climate controls have been relocated directly under the multimedia screen for a more cohesive look.

Slow? Not So

My time in Subarus past was marked by irritation and aggravation; the brand’s heavy use of continuously variable automatic transmissions has helped fuel economy but hurt responsiveness and quietness. The 2018 Outback, however, is both responsive and quiet.

While I wouldn’t call it quick, the Subaru Outback isn’t slow, either. A 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder is standard, while a 256-hp, 3.6-liter six-cylinder is optional. Both engines work through a CVT and standard all-wheel drive. Subaru says it retuned the Outback’s steering, brakes and shock absorbers to improve drivability, and I believe it. The ride is composed, with good bump absorption and predictable, comfortable maneuverability. Steering is nicely weighted, direct and natural.

Subaru retuned the CVT for a smoother response and, again, the changes made an impact. I found the four-cylinder adequate off the line and the transmission convincingly natural, with artificial stepped gears that make it feel more like a conventional automatic and cut down on the powertrain’s former albatross: a loud, continuous droning noise.

Quietness is improved in other areas, as well: Reshaped mirrors, thicker wheel-well panels and new sound-insulating glass help cut cabin noise. The result is pleasant overall, both on the highway and around town.

The Subaru Outback leads competitors in fuel economy. Four-cylinder versions are EPA-rated at 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined. That’s better than the base version of the Golf Alltrack, at 22/30/25 mpg, as well as the AWD four-cylinder Edge (20/27/23 mpg) and AWD Cherokee (21/28/23).

Skilled With Kids … and Mud

For families with one or two children, the Outback is plenty roomy. Alas, I have three, yet the Outback accommodated us with minimal squeezing. Three child-safety seats do not fit comfortably, but in a pinch, the Outback can make it work. My 3-year-old twins’ convertible car seats went in with ease thanks to exposed lower Latch anchors and ample legroom. There was just enough space left over in the middle for my second-grader’s compact, inflatable booster. We wouldn’t road trip like this, but it worked for a weekend of errands. Click here for the full Car Seat Check.

The front and rear seats are comfortable, and there’s plenty of headroom and legroom in both. By the numbers, the Outback offers a smidge more rear headroom than the Cherokee and Alltrack, but a bit less than the Edge. For rear legroom, it offers a bit less than the Cherokee and Edge, but more than the Alltrack. Backseat passengers are treated to a couple of perks: The seatback reclines for added comfort, and there are two USB ports for charging mobile devices. (There are two more up front.)

Someday, my house, car and [insert thing here] will be clean. That day will not come this decade, but the Outback can handle it. After an incident involving mud, a pair of toddlers and several pumpkins, I developed a fondness for the Outback’s cargo area. Its wide opening makes loading easy, and the storage area is both deep and a snap to clean thanks to a removable heavy-duty mat. Folding the seats for more storage is also seamless, with cargo-area handles that drop the seats with one pull.

By the numbers, the Outback is mid-pack in terms of cargo volume. Seats up, there’s 35.5 cubic feet of space — a bit less than the Edge but more than the Alltrack and Cherokee. Seats down, there’s 73.3 cubic feet, roughly tying the Edge and besting the Cherokee and Alltrack.

Safety

The 2018 Subaru Outback earned top crash-test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It was also one of the few vehicles to pass IIHS’ new, tough front passenger-side small overlap crash test.

A backup camera is standard across all trims and — new for 2018 — the guidelines that display on the screen move in sync with the steering to provide more accurate vehicle positioning. Subaru’s EyeSight suite of safety systems is optional on all but the base model; it includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping departure warning with steering assist, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Other safety options include a blind spot warning system, automatic reverse braking and adaptive headlights with automatic high beams.

Value

The Subaru Outback appeals for its differentness, versatility and value. It starts at $26,810 (all prices include destination), $290 more than the 2017 Outback and around the same as the VW Alltrack ($26,670) and Cherokee ($26,990). However, it’s less than the base AWD version of the Edge ($31,840).

This anti-SUV can be a lot of things depending on what you need. It offers SUV-like room and capability with un-SUV looks, plus a well-appointed interior that could easily double as a comfy hideout from camping in the rain.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.8
  • Interior design 4.7
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value for the money 4.7
  • Exterior styling 4.7
  • Reliability 4.8

Most recent consumer reviews

4.7

Great driving car

Very comfortable and reliable. It is a very functional vehicle. Very pleased with it. I would buy again without question. Has all the necessary electronic features.

5.0

Outback

The vehicle has many amenities !! Great looking and offers many things in upgrades. Beautiful looking and love the seat comfort. Nice package and great value.

5.0

Best Dealer Anywhere

I think it’s a good reliable car to last me a while.He came with a lot more options than I probably would’ve ordered which was great thank you again

See all 444 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and certified pre-owned programs by Subaru
Certified pre-owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 years/80,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
Coverage available for purchase
Powertrain
7 years/100,000
Dealer certification required
152-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Compare the competitors

2018

Honda CR-V

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2017

Volkswagen Tiguan Limited

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2018

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

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