Our favorite wagon isn't much of a wagon at all. Except when it is.
The Subaru Outback does for car buyers what fig jam does for grilled cheese sandwiches. Don't ask us to tell you why we like them, we just do. Now try one for yourself.
We gave the Outback a 6.7 TCC Rating thanks to a heavily updated ride that arrived for 2020. The new Outback looks a lot like the old Outback, except inside where many wagons will be equipped with a enormagantic 11.6-inch touchscreen for infotainment.
For our ratings and award, the Outback is a wagon. For most buyers, the Outback's capability will mean it's a crossover. For still more, the Outback's carefully cultivated image means it won't get keyed when street-parked in Boulder, Colorado or Ann Arbor, Michigan. We don't judge here, people.
Looks aside, the Outback feels familiar even if it's new. A base 2.5-liter flat-4 powers most Outbacks and makes 182 horsepower, it's leisurely but efficient at nearly 30 mpg combined, according to the EPA. It's teamed to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive that supernaturally finds the right ratio whether speeding to the next trailhead or clambering up the next dusty trail. It's not quick, but the Outback is bright at slow speeds with a base engine.
The optional engine is a turbo flat-4 that makes 240 hp paired to the same CVT and AWD that makes it our VIP as the Onyx XT. Informally, we say the XT accelerates up to 60 mph in about six seconds, but we're even more jazzed on the Onyx XT's soft black vinyl upholstery that looks durable enough to withstand a nuclear blast.
The turbo-4 mortgages some mpg for better performance, especially at higher altitudes where it's needed. The EPA says it returns 26 mpg combined, which is better than many comparable crossovers that don't offer similar performance.
2020 Subaru Outback - Best Car To Buy 2020
The Outback goes further in practical performance too. The wagon is spacious and comfortable, with more than 70 cubic feet of cargo room available with the rear seats folded forward. When the seats are up, the Subaru seats up to five adults comfortably; the front seats are some of the best from any automaker at any price.
Couple that with the available tech, and the Outback Premium's price starts to call us at less than $30,000. We'd be remiss not to mention the other relevant facts: 8.7 inches of ground clearance, Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, up to four USB ports.
We've been to the tops of mountains and back down in an Outback, multiple times. It does it all, with more room for gear than many competitors for a low price. It's our Best Wagon To Buy this year.