Subaru’s redesigned 2020 Outback arrives this fall with major changes

Massive 11.6-inch screen option and new 2.4L turbo engine nice additions

It’s good to be an SUV these days. If you’re the Subaru Outback, going strong for the past 25 years, it’s even better — especially in a growing Subie family of sport utilities like the new 3-row Ascent by its side, providing families even more options to suite their lifestyles. 

Renowned for safety and proven all-wheel drive wrapped into a distinct sport utility wagon, the 2020 Outback arrives this Fall 2019 entering its 6th-generation with more safety features, capabilities, and a new Onyx Edition XT trim level with unique exterior and interior features.

Redesigned Outback gets major performance updates

New turbo powered Outback for 2020

The new Outback XT variants find a 2.4L turbocharged engine under the hood as standard — the first time since 2009. Putting down 260-hp at 5,600 rpm and 277 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm, all Outbacks are paired with a Lineartronic CVT featuring an 8-speed manual mode function with steering wheel paddle shifters.

Updated 2.5L engine

If turbos aren’t your thing, the standard naturally aspirated 2.5L gets nearly 90% new parts, still making a respectable 182-hp at 5,800 rpm and 176 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, offering off-roaders and city-dwellers alike enough performance when needed. 

Of course, all working alongside Subaru’s all-wheel drive, always standard. 

Outback towing capacity most ever

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Looking rugged and adventure-ready is one thing — actually being able to tow those toys to the cabin is another. Subaru ramped things up for 2020 with the new 2.4L turbo delivering 3,500-lb. towing capacity, the most of any Outback since hitting the scene back in 1994. 

Lighter suspension

A nice update for the next-generation Outback, especially for those going off the beaten path, is an all-new suspension that’s both lighter and more responsive, according to Subaru. We’ll have a better idea when we get a chance to test it out, hopefully sometime this summer. 

2020 subaru outback new suspension
The 8.7 inches of ground clearance for all Outback models is greater than that in many SUVs, yet the Outback maintains a comfortably low step-in height for both front and rear passenger entry. Photo: Subaru

The rear setup now gets a double-wishbone layout with subframe, coil springs and new 19mm hollow stabilizer bar; while the front suspension finds MacPherson struts with new internal rebound spring, aluminum lower L-arms and new 23mm hollow stabilizer bar. 

New Outback platform improves overall quality

In 2017, Subaru rolled out their new platform (dubbed Subaru Global Platform), with the likes of the compact Crosstrek and mid-size Ascent both utilizing it. 

Now, the 2020 Outback joins the list. Building several cars on the same platform has its advantages, especially for the automakers because they can pretty much make as many different vehicles imaginable on one stage. Of course, nobody is rooting for that. 

Increased safety

But for consumers, the pros outweigh the cons — and with the Outback, this new platform offers a structure that is 70-percent stiffer in both torsional and front-suspension rigidity and 100-percent stiffer in both front lateral flexural and rear subframe rigidity compared to the outgoing Outback’s platform.

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Add 40-percent improvement in crash absorption versus the 2019 Outback, the new model ramps up safety as well. 

Front View Monitor — an Outback first

When parking or monitoring road conditions ahead, the new models find a front-mounted monitor capturing images within the driver’s blind spots in front of the vehicle and displays a 180-degree view on the 11.6-inch display. What’s the point? Improved assistance and safety. 

Onyx Edition Outback adds stealthy look

Available in Base, Premium, Limited, Touring, Limited XT and Touring XT models, Subaru adds a new Onyx Edition XT to the mix (sitting between the Touring and Limited XT).

Building on the Premium trim with the 2.4L turbo, this new addition gets a more blacked-out vibe with the addition black-finish exterior elements, 18-inch alloy wheels and badging, and an exclusive gray two-tone interior. 

2020 subaru outback onyx edition
Subaru adds the new Onyx Edition to the lineup with the 2.4L turbo engine and exterior/interior differences. Photo: Subaru

With full-size spare, hands-free power gate, the Front View Monitor, X-MODE selector, and seats with new water-repellant treatment, the Onyx adds a nice little styling boost to the lower level trims. 

Exterior design

Styling-wise, not much looks significantly different between the 2019 and 2020 models. Subaru says it’s more rugged but looks more sleeker to us with smooth panels with some bolder features. 

Breaking it down, however, it does get a burlier look with thicker profile panel surfaces. The rear gate is also raised, while the now finding wider fenders, a large hexagonal grille, front cladding and LED fog lights on the corners of all trims excluding entry-level Base. 

The overall design draws inspiration from the Active x Tough concept with some side cladding which Subaru says “is meant to resemble a hiking boot that further enhances this concept.”

We’re not sure how an SUV with shoe-like qualities is appealing to anyone, but hey, that might just be us. 

2020 Outback interior and tech changes inbound

Tablet-style touchscreen 

We didn’t see this one coming and looks a bit awkward, only because it’s a bit unfamiliar for an Outback that generally hasn’t seen a tech-inspired interior. But again, Subaru has come far in the past 8 years ramping up their product interiors. 

New is this 11.6-inch optional multimedia touchscreen sitting front and centre, to include SUBARU STARLINK with an integrated centre information display.

2020 subaru outback 11.6 inch touchscreen multimedia
Tablet-style high-definition SUBARU STARLINK 11.6-inch touchscreen is new for the 2020 Outback. Photo: Subaru

Less cabin noise and more comfort

Another nice improvement is a quieter Outback cabin via new door weather strips that feature a baffle in the mid-section and dual lips on the roof side for improved quietness, along with sound-insulated glass. 

Other interior updates

For easier access to the back, the hands-free power gate will open up with a hand swipe of the Subaru emblem — a standard on most models. 

Heated seats now come with 3 temperature levels while Limited and Touring models feature 10-way power front seats with lumbar support, adjustable cushion length (driver only) and heated front/rear seats. 

Subaru also widened the windshield to create a longer, larger cabin space. 

More Outback reviews and news from TractionLife:

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    Amee Reehal
    Shooting cars professionally since film was a thing, Amee's work has appeared in various outlets including NBC Sports, Chicago Tribune, SuperStreet, GlobeDrive, MotorTrend, and others. He's the managing editor & founder of Find him travelling, spending time with his kids and family. Or golfing, poorly.