First drive: 2020 Subaru Outback crosses over into the un-crossover

July 29, 2019

Don’t tell the 2020 Subaru Outback it’s an SUV. 

Talking to cars not only makes for poor one-way conversations, it also looks weird. 

And certainly, don’t tell Subaru Outback owners they’re driving an SUV. 

Most Outback owners I know are proud that the longtime wagon isn’t a boxy, upright utility that swills at the pump quicker than last call at Happy Hour on Friday. Those Outback owners would rather set fire to a redwood than drive anything with a right angle in its exterior sheet metal.  

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

The Outback’s specs make a compelling argument to the contrary that it is a true SUV. The Subaru’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance is taller than many Jeeps on the road. The Outback carries five adults in relative comfort, with more than 30 cubes of cargo space behind them—about the same as a Range Rover. There’s an 11.6-inch touchscreen up front that handles all the infotainment duties in the Outback. The Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class has a similarly sized one too. 

If it walks like a duck, transports like a duck, and touchscreens like a duck (Eds note: Sure, why not?) then isn’t it a duck? No. Not for less than $30,000 for a 2020 Outback Premium with all of the above. 

I hear you: “What the duck?” is the correct response.

That’s because among new cars on sale, SUVs are some of the worst values. Even Monty Hall couldn’t make good a deal for one—neither can we. Shoppers willingly overspend for boxy vehicles that cost thousands more than they should. Don’t get me wrong: Capitalism works well, sometimes it just works against “value.” The Outback has plenty to spare. 

For $29,905, the Outback Premium hits a sweet spot for shoppers that many SUVs won’t. 

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

It has an 11.6-inch tablet-style touchscreen with smartphone capability, four USB charge ports, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, sound-insulating front windows for a quieter cabin, cloth upholstery, and 17-inch wheels. To SUV aficionados who insist on paying more for that kind of kit, this next part is going to sting: The Subaru Outback goes everywhere else the other guys brag about, without beating its chest about it. 

I can hear a clenched fist of an Outback owner squeezing the life from a hacky sack somewhere in Portland. 

Relax. The Outback’s 29 mpg combined fuel economy rating far outpaces most of its mid-size crossover SUV class by a wide margin. What’s more, the Outback has an estimated range of more than 600 miles (country or not) on a single tank for fuel. That’s very un-SUV. 

Further still, the Outback drives like it’s lower to the ground, with more power, and verve than many SUVs. Subaru’s engineering team is renowned for building cars, suspension first, that handle better than cars twice its price. 

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

For hours in California, the 2020 Outback blasted through dusty fields, scrambled up logging two-tracks, and tiptoed down muddy grades steeper than 20 percent. It was enough to give Jeep owners pause, and certainly tougher than what 99.9 percent of Outback owners will ever ask their vehicles to do. 

It’s not just a value at less than $30,000. The 2020 Outback is nearly a steal among new cars for that much. 

Forget talking to the car. That price is speaking to me. 

Subaru provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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