CHATHAM, Mass. – The Subaru Outback has continuously evolved from its mid-90s inception as a Legacy Station Wagon variant heavy on rugged design cues, light on capabilities, to a fully capable compact sport/crossover utility vehicle (SUV/CUV). In many ways, it was the first major CUV in the market.
It still looks like a raised wagon, but with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, multi-mode all-wheel drive and up to 3,500 pounds of towing capacity, it functions as well as, or in some cases, better than many of the boxy, traditional SUVs on the market.
Subaru introduced a completely redesigned sixth generation Outback for the 2020 model year. A week in a 2020 Subaru Outback XT Onyx Edition proved this latest iteration, now built on the company’s global platform, is the best version by a large margin!
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XT in the name means it has the new for 2020 2.4-liter turbocharged, flat-four-cylinder engine, the first turbo in an Outback since 2009, which provides 260-horsepower, 277 pounds-feet of torque and the grunt to pull that 3,500-pound trailer. (Non-XT versions have an upgraded 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 182 hp and 176 ft.-lb. of torque.)
A more rigid body structure thanks to the new platform means even more precise handling, better ride characteristics and the quietest Outback in history – and as quiet a Subaru as I have ever driven or in which I have ridden – and I have spent considerable time in all versions of the marque since 1990! And it is larger all around than previous ones, providing even more room inside for people and their stuff.
I loaded a new vacuum cleaner, boxes, a wooden high-chair, various other large shopping items and realized I did not have to lower the second row of seats. And loading the rear cargo area – which can hold 35 cubic-feet with the second row erected or 75 cubic feet with the 60/40 split seats folded flat – was made easier thanks to the power rear door.
Onyx Edition offers unique look inside and out
Slotted between the Limited and top-of-the-line Touring models, the Onyx Edition combines styling enhancements with a variety of functional features. Special 18-inch alloy wheels and badging in a black-finish, as well as a gray two-tone interior set the Onyx Edition apart visually.
Unique to the Onyx Edition, the seats are wrapped in Star Tex water-repellant material which are cool and comfortable even in late August heat. When the weather turns chilly, you can turn on the seat heaters (front and rear) and the fronts also offer power adjustment (10-way for the driver, eight-way for the passenger).
Convenience touches abound as all four windows are one touch up and down and the power rear door can be operated from buttons on the dash, the exterior of the door or the key fob. A 4G WiFi hotspot allows easy Internet access for all onboard and multiple USB ports front and rear mean everyone can keep their mobile devices charged and ready to go.
Dominating the interior is the 11.6-inch color touch-activated tablet-like screen extending from the top of the dashboard to the base of the center console. In the review Outback, the screen, along with voice activation, controlled not only the optional Multimedia Navigation Infotainment System but the dual-zone automatic climate-control system, basic vehicle features and advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) as well.
Some of these systems can also be controlled remotely through the Subaru STARLINK Smartphone Connectivity App. Your smartphone can also be a part of the infotainment system providing wireless streaming audio as well as access to either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto depending upon your phone’s operating system. The remainder of the infotainment system offers up the usual mix of AM/FM and SiriusXM satellite radio.
Full suite of ADAS
All Outbacks come with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver-Assist Technology. The system features advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering function; EyeSight Assist Monitor that offers a head-up display with EyeSight warnings and system status on the windshield; lane departure and sway warning; LED headlights (low & high beam) with high-beam assist; and automatic emergency braking (AEB) and 180-degree front-view monitor supplementing the rear-view camera system to further provide the driver with information about his or her surroundings when performing low-speed maneuvers under crowded conditions.
In addition to these ADAS, our Onyx Edition had the optional reverse automatic braking (RAB) which will ensure the vehicle stops before you hit an obstacle while backing up. This feature came into play when I found myself having to make a three-point turn on a tight, rural road. I came to a construction closure without any advance signage and the RAB helped ensure I did not hit anything as I maneuvered my way out of trouble.
Dynamics of a Subaru
Boxer engine (flat design with the pistons configured on opposite sides of the crankshaft), all-wheel drive, independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes have been hallmarks of the brand for decades, helping to establish Subaru as a vehicle you could trust in virtually any weather, a trust reinforced by solid reliability,
The XT package provides lots of smooth, quiet power, responding quickly to right-foot inputs. The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) does its job seamlessly, as do all the systems of the Outback.
Stopping power is provided by power-assisted four-wheel disc with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), four-channel/four-sensor anti-lock (ABS), brake assist, brake override and auto vehicle hold (AVH). The rotors are ventilated front and rear with the fronts’ 12.4 inches, the rears’ 11.8 in diameter. Dual-piston calipers operate in the front, with single-piston ones at the rear.
Those black Onyx Edition wheels are shod with 225/60R18 tires. There are actually five tires of this size with every Onyx Edition because it includes a full-size spare, something very unusual in today’s American car market.
Like I said, this Outback was better in every way when compared to previous ones. One of the most pleasant surprises was the excellent fuel economy I saw during my time. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a bit heavy on the accelerator which does not generally translate into great mileage numbers. Despite my less than stellar driving habits, I beat the federal Environmental Protection Agency rating ending the week with 28.6 miles per gallon, some 2.6 mpg above the combined EPA figure (the EPA rates the Outback XT at 23 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway).
Continuing to talk numbers, we come to the price. The 2020 Subaru Outback XT Onyx Edition carries a $34,895 price tag. Our ride added one major option package (which included the navigation, RAB and power moonroof) for $1,845 which brought the total, including destination and delivery charges ($1,010), to $37,750.
That’s not an insignificant amount of money, but it represents good value within the segment. You can build the Outback you want and need as the range starts at $26,645 and runs up to the Touring XT at $39,695.
Locally, the Subaru television commercials sing “There’s a lot to love about a Subaru” and I second this when it comes to the new Outback!