SAVE
Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
Photos
Reviews
Safety & Recalls
Warranty & CPO
Compare
Back to top

Key Specs

of the 2018 Subaru Outback. Base trim shown.

From the Manufacturer

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

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

Notable Features of the 2018 Subaru Outback

  • 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 Road Test

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 Competition:

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 stit...

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.


2018 Outback Video

Subtle changes to the 2018 Subaru Outback make it more likable and comfortable

Latest 2018 Outback Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.7)
Interior Design
(4.8)
Comfort
(4.8)
Reliability
(4.9)
Value For The Money
(4.8)

What Drivers Are Saying

(4.0)

Seems a bit under powered

by Old dude from Roswell, ga. on September 22, 2018

Plenty of room both front and back. Could use the larger engine. Have more functionality in my old stand alone Tom Tom GPS than the one in the vehicle. Needs a manual panel light dimmer rather than ... Read full review

(5.0)

The best of the Japanese cars

by Lucky Louise from Boca Raton, FL on September 17, 2018

The Subaru Outback was a big surprise! Most Japanese car driving experiences leave you with a rather ho-hum numb driving experience. We recently purchase a new 2018 Subaru Outback Limited with the 3.... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2018 Subaru Outback currently has 0 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2018 Subaru Outback 2.5i

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
good

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Headlights

Overall Rating
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
good

Small overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/thigh
good
Lower leg/foot
good
Restraints and dummy kinematics
good
Small overlap front
good
Structure and safety cage
good
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / 36,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Subaru

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance and Carfax vehicle history report

  • Limited Warranty

    7 years / 100,000 miles

    Powertrain: 7 years/100,000 miles from original date of first use. Roadside assistance: 1 year from date of purchase
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 85,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 152 point inspection and reconditioning.

Change Year or Vehicle

0 / 0 0 Photos
0 / 0

Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Outback received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*

Latch or Latch system

A

Infant seat

B

Forward-facing convertible

(second row)

A

Rear-facing convertible

A

Booster

(second row)

A
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.
For complete details,

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker