BETWEEN PERTH AND SYDNEY: on the continent nation Down Under, lies a vast, predominantly desolate desert wilderness. The America’s Mojave and Sonoran, Africa’s Sahara and Mongolia’s Gobi deserts can fit within the Australian Outback with room to spare.
Association with the resilience and durability needed to survive the vast Aussie expanse is exactly what the Yank’s most popular lifted family station wagon banks on. For 2020 a sixth generation of raised & ruggedized Subaru Legacy derived wagon arrives ready to conquer America’s road’s, rough and smooth alike, from sea to shining sea.
ABOUT 10K MILES FROM SYDNEY OR PERTH: Roadblazing.com editors took to the far more verdant and more hospitable Upper Midwest getaway of Door County, Wisconsin U.S.A. in a new 2020 Subaru Outback XT equipped with all-new turbocharged flat-4 motivation.
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WHAT: 2020 Subaru Outback Touring XT Touring mid size station wagon/ estate, built on the Subaru Global Platform BT, shared once again with the Legacy sedan.
Standard Power: 2.5L DOHC 16V DI gas flat-4 = 182 hp/ 176 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm + continuously variable transmission + asymmetrical all-wheel drive.
Optional Power (Std. XT): intercooled twin-scroll turbocharged 2.4L DOHC 16V DI gas flat-4 = 260 hp/ 280 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm with idle start/ stop + continuously variable transmission w/ shift paddles + assymetrical all-wheel drive.
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: The original BG Subaru Outback sport wagon was a lifted, ruggedized Subaru Legacy station wagon. This 6th generation hops onto the new Subaru Global Platform BT derived of the 7th generation Subaru Legacy. As with the BT Legacy sedan cosmetic differences from the Mk. 5 BS Outback series are subtle. More assertive accents are intended to better line up with the brand’s crossovers. But make no mistake about it. With the new Outback Subaru is still delivering a through and through station wagon to the families with an active lifestyle yearning.
√ New beveled edge clamshell hood. √ Lower beltline crease blends smoothly into flared thinner rear directional. √ More promiment roof spoiler debuts vs. the Mk. 6 BS. √ Standard LED headlamp housings grow inboard “Zs” while inward “C” red traced white rear directionals span from quarter-panel to liftgate beltline. √ Thinner is the hexagonal grille with black rungs save for a central chrome one.
Ruggedized Legacy Wagon: √ Four indent dark plastic lower body cladding is more flared and loops to integrate with more prominent lower door line bumper…. Wheel arches get the dark plastic stuff too; √ Matte metallic front, rear skid plates; √ Dark clad front mid chin and rear lower bumpers protrude at the corners with appearance diffusers; √ Wing mirrors now pose in brushed metallic finish; √ Roof rails also adopts the matte metallic finish in the spans.
√ Look for the “Outback” badging in relief on the rear door body cladding.
WHY: Up-powered update to the outdoor active lifestyle standard bearer ensures continued popularity of lifted wagon.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2019
WHERE: Subaru new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.A.
HOW ROADWORTHY: The first twin-scroll turbocharged boxer application in a Legacy derived Outback wagon punches above its weight, considering that the Touring XT trim totes almost 2 tons. Without a dedicated sport ratio locking mode, the CVT and long throttle tip implied a long wait to cross at a two-way stop on Door County Road A in search of that local delicacy, sour cherry preserves. Steering wheel shift paddles, which won’t bounce the rev limiter, hasten Interstate 43 passing though with less urgency than expected.
-1 Idle start/ stop is a shaker; Grittier sound of the 2.4T versus naturally aspirated 2.5L flat-4.
Always a daily special at Subaru (save for BRZ) is Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Nominal full time torque split, front to rear = 60:40%. +1 On ascents selectable X-Mode cuts wheel slippage by applying ABS earlier. On the downhill approach X-Mode uses VDC signaled ABS to simulate low gearing, and can be supplemented by dorsal steering wheel shift paddles. -1 X-Mode access lacks dedicated instrument panel switch, instead requiring diving into Starlink media screen.
From terra firma to undercarriage measures a tree stump clearing 8.7″-inches a prime attraction of the Outback wagon. Reigned in suspension travel makes for controlled body lean in tighter curves on the winding west coastal drive from Ephraim south to Fish Creek. Steering response is duller than in the Legacy sedan Roadblazing.com recently tested. Generous damping compliance smooths out pockmarked or lacking pavement alike.
HOW FAR: 27 combined miles per gallon fuel economy; 490 highway miles range
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 5 Occupant 2+3 seating. Tilt reclining 60/40 split flat folding Row 2 seatbacks.
Outback legacy = the low cowl, low beltline delivers on a spacious sensation. Outboard armest integrated door pulls makes benefits egress swing. +1 Smaller door sills than most crossovers make Outback the easiest 8.7″-inches to climb into.
– For Comparison’s Sake:
- 108.1″-inch Wheelbase: 2.8″ < Audi A4 Allroad, 5.1″ < Volvo V60 Cross Country
- Maximum cargo capacity: 29% < A4 Allroad, 28% > V60 Cross Country
- 2nd Row legroom: 3.8″ > A4 Allroad, 4.3″ > V60 Cross Country
HOW USEFUL: No other mid-sized wagon can stuff nearly as much stuff as an Outback. Load height is at a good comfort zone. Accessing the roof rails is but a slight stretch. Deeply channeled accessory cargo mats are adventure de rigeur.
+1 The convenience factor of obligatory split 60/40% folding 2nd Row seatbacks is enhanced by trunk cable and seat mounted releases.
√ 60/40% split folding 2nd Row seat backs w/ center pass-through; √ Cargo floor chrome load plate; √ Extended cargo load bumper cover; √ Cargo floor w/ hooked stretch suspension strap; √ Cargo-area 12V outlet; √ Power liftgate w/ dual grab handles; √ Overhead console retracting sunglass bin; +1 Low cowl and and power folding rear outboard headrests aid outward view; +1 Non-intrusive cargo area wheel arch.
Cabin storage = +1 Dashboard passenger side shelf, –1 Steep angled lower center stack handheld device bin; √ 6 cup, bottle holders, √ Overhead retracting sunglass bin.
+1 Mouse fur lined large glovebox = premium touch
-1 Slipping center armrest bin lining; Short door pockets
HOW SAFE: √ 8 airbags; √ IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus; √ Rear camera w/ predictive grid (forward view incl. on Touring trim); sonar front & rear Park Distance Control; √ Blind spot, rear cross traffic & lane departure warning; √ Auto parking brake hold; √ Standard LED headlamps, auto high beam.
Partial Autonomous Driving:
EYESIGHT suite STANDARD on all models = √ Pedestrian detection braking; √ Forward collision avoidance braking; √ Lane departure & Rear cross traffic warning; √ Adaptive Cruise Control; √ Automatic High beam LED headlamps; √ Rain sensing windshield wipers.
+1 Accurate lane tracking, front view camera (Touring)
-1 Over sensitive Driver Focus warning if not watching directly ahead, confounded by polarized sunglasses; Blind Spot Warning standard only in Limited trim
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: 2020 Subaru Outback updates, less obvious though they are, play a game of catch-up. Fatigue reducing soothing white backlit ELD twin dial gauges sandwiching a color trip display are in the best tradition of informative analog design. The center console is devoid of buttons or dial clutter. More tactile steering audio switches have been adopted. ADAS buttons were inspiringly relocated were invited to the horizontal steering wheel spoke. But what would a Subaru be without idiosyncracy like the hanging chad MFD and steering heat switches between the horizontal and vertical spokes. “Touring” trim provides several touches not foreign to near luxury vehicles.
√ Heated, power adjust 10-way driver, 8-way front passenger seats, w/ manual knee extenders, 2-setting driver’s memory; √ 4 power windows w/ full up/ down express; √ 2-Zone auto climate control; √ Heated leather tilt/ telescoping steering; √ 2nd Row heated seats; √ 2nd Row and aft dark tint privacy glass; √ Door puddle lamps x 4; √ Panoramic power moon-roof; -1 Manual tilt/ telescoping steering wheel.
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Driver Focus eye scan; √ Power folding side mirrors.
Details Done Right: √ Saddle brown contrast stitched, perforated Nappa leather seating & upper door panels & dash-top; √ Brushed metallic accents; √ Flush door and center console toggle switchgear; √ Berber floor mats; √ Contrasting beige mesh headliner.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Hard door pocket linings; Coarse plastic rocker panel covers; Hard plastic center console casing; Thin cargo bay carpet.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE:
√ 11.6″ Starlink vertical tablet-style, pane-swipe, touch LCD infotainment screen; √ Rotary audio volume dial, selection, defroster & Home screen switches ; √ Bluetooth, hands-free communications; √ SMS messaging; √ TomTom voice command/ guidance 3-D HDD GPS navigation; √ Android Auto + Apple CarPlay; √ Starlink Apps; √ USB x 4, 12V x 3.
+1 The proper way to do a vertical infotainment display; Crisp colorful graphics; Fingerprints aren’t so oily gross here; Natural conversation point of interest search.
-1 Without a hood, the glossy Starlink 11.6″ vertical infotainment screen can’t escape glare; Quickness does not always define screen scroll – swipe reaction times; Portrait format images – camera views – phone projection displays are shown only on upper half of infotainment screen.
Audibly: √ 12 speaker, 576 W Harman Kardon = decent spatial sensation, flat highs, volume needs some cranking.
Applications (mobile powered): Starlink Apps: √ Chimani, an onboard guide to landmark travel; √ Ebird ornithological identifier favoring Audubon members; √ Eve Connect monitors connected home security and climate.
By Subscription: √ SiriusXM (90 days incl.) ; Sirius TravelLink apps; √ 4G LTE by Verizon;
HOW MUCH: $40,705 = as tested 2020 Subaru Oubtback 2.4T XT Touring AWD suggested retail price
WHAT’S MISSING: Improved road tracking, steering accuity, less neurotic attention warning chime
ANY COMPETITION: Audi A4 Allroad: +1 virtual cockpit, dual-clutch transmission, handling, ingot build; Volvo V60 T5 Cross Country: +1 steering heft, divine seats, virtual cockpit, choice materials.
FINAL WORD: Latest rendition of volume choice for adventure lifestyle wagon-ing feels fortified and Audubon fine.
Contributing Editor: J. Flynn