- All-weather capability
- Wagon versatility
- Upgraded interior
- New touchscreen infotainment
- Should have a quieter cabin
- Aging engine selection
- CVTs can whine
- Flat-4 can feel breathless passing
- Not a big change from last year?
Look twice: The 2018 Subaru Outback doesn't change the best-selling formula much beyond more creature comforts and new headlights. Is that a bad thing?
The new 2018 Subaru Outback may be hard to spot at first blush, but the automaker's same popular formula hasn't changed. The all-wheel-drive wagon-cum-crossover is still a cold-weather multipurpose tool with plenty of interior space for people and cargo. Over the last few years, Subaru has worked to improve comfort, refinement, and convenience in the Outback, and a majority of the changes for 2018 focus on those specific qualities.
Starting with softer springs, thicker sound deadening, and quieter windows, the automaker claims the 2018 version should be the most refined—starting with base 2018 Subaru Outback 2.5i models. Standard 2.5i models get an updated 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment, but the Premium, Limited, and Touring models get an uprated 8.0-inch touchscreen. All infotainment systems are equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.
Top-of-the-line Outback Limited and Outback Touring trims have an updated center stack with bezeled climate control knobs and detailed stitching on the dashboard and seating surfaces.
Subaru hasn't yet announced how much the 2018 Subaru Outback will cost, but said models should start arriving in dealerships around August. The 2017 Subaru Outback ran $25,520 to start and could reach into the upper-$30,000 with the optional 6-cylinder engine and more interior amenities.
Under the hood, the 2018 Subaru Outback sports the same engine choices as before. A 175-horsepower flat-4 is standard and a 236-hp flat-6 is available in Touring and Limited trims. Both engines are mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that works to keep the Outback as fuel efficient as possible. In Subaru tradition, all-wheel drive is standard and, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Outback is more off-road capable than many SUVs. Subaru said it worked on the CVT this year to reduce engine "drone" and programmed the automatic to simulate seven gears when operated in manual mode.
Outside, the new Outback is an eye test; it's virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor. A revised front grille and sharper headlights are the most noticeable, while the side profile and rear end are identical to the outgoing model.
All models of the 2018 Subaru Outback have a standard rearview camera and all but the base offer advanced safety features that should help the car qualify as a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS. Subaru's suite of advanced safety features, which it calls EyeSight, uses forward-facing cameras placed behind the windshield to help steer or stop the car in an emergency. When equipped with EyeSight, the Subaru Outback features forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking at speeds up to 30 mph, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams. New for 2018 are available adaptive headlights that help steer lights around corners and rear automatic emergency braking.
Subaru's efforts to steer the Outback more upscale and luxurious have spurred new competition. The Audi Allroad, Volvo V90 Cross Country, and Buick Regal TourX now compete against the Subaru.
The EPA hasn't yet announced final ratings for the Subaru Outback, but they should largely follow the 2017's ratings, which were 25 mpg city, 32 highway, 28 combined for the 2.5-liter flat-4, and 20/27/22 mpg for the flat-6.