Closer Look at the 2020 Outback’s Towing Capacity

Subaru finally increased the Outback's pulling power with redesigned 2020 model but is it enough?

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Editor’s Note: read our full 2020 Outback review here. And here’s a look at the new 2021 Outback.

Before the 3-row Ascent arrived in 2018, the rugged Outback served as Subaru’s biggest SUV all these years. So towing duties from the Japanese brand were handled by the low-slung, wagon SUV with car-like ride and handling.

So the question now is, can the Outback still offer reasonable towing capacity? Does the new redesigned 2020 Outback offer better pulling figures compared to the 2019 model? We take a closer look.

What Is The New Outback’s Towing Capacity?

The good news for new shoppers: the 2020 model is not only redesigned inside and out and touted by Subaru as the safest, most capable one yet, but offers 3,500 pounds towing capacity – the best ever in its 26-year history.

2019 Vs 2020

Compared to the outgoing 2019 model, that’s a hefty 800 pound increase versus the old Outback’s 2,700 pound rating. Maybe this is in response to the large Ascent’s 5,000 pound pulling power, closing the gag a little. Or Subaru finally realized its top-selling large hauler has always deserved better towing figures (certainly better than 2,700 pounds). 

Major engine updates to new, 6th-generation Outback

Powering the new Outback is either the standard 2.5L non-turbo engine making 182-hp at 5,800 rpm and 176 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Or for the first time in ten years, a turbocharged option that’s standard on the Outback XT. The 2.4L turbo powerplant will offer 260-hp at 5,600 rpm and 277 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm.

So, gone is the top 3.6L engine in the outgoing models, replaced by this new turbo.

2020 subaru outback onyx edition
Now, the Outback is only 1,500 pounds below the 3-row Subaru Ascent’s 5,000 pound towing capacity, closing the gap. Photo: Subaru

The 3,500 pound towing capacity remains the same for both engines paired to the Lineartronic CVT transmission sporting an 8-speed manual mode function with steering wheel paddle shifters for a more spirited drive with more control. 

Overall, expect a lighter and more responsive Outback when towing; the front suspension utilizes MacPherson struts with new internal rebound spring, aluminum lower L-arms and new 23mm hollow stabilizer bar. The rear suspension renders a double-wishbone layout with subframe, coil springs and new 19mm hollow stabilizer bar.

The front suspension uses MacPherson struts with new internal rebound spring, aluminum lower L-arms and new 23mm hollow stabilizer bar. The rear suspension renders a double-wishbone layout with subframe, coil springs and new 19mm hollow stabilizer bar.

Towing capacity comparison: 2020 Outback Vs Ascent Vs Forester

As mentioned, the Ascent (2019 reviewed here) and Outback offer 5,000 pound and 3,500 pound pulling power, respectively. But it’s the compact Forester that kills the vibes. With a measly 1,500 pound tow rating, Subaru’s best-selling smaller hauler could benefit with more ability as well, seeing as the competing 2019 Toyota RAV4 offers both 1,500 and 3,500 pounds of towing. 

Here’s quick comparison between the 3 models:

2019 Outback2,700
2020 Outback3,500
2019 Ascent5,000
2019 Forester1,500

Outback versus the competition

Compared to some key competitors, the new Outback sits in the middle. But keep in mind, this is more of wagon-type SUV with 2-rows so a direct comparison may not be totally just.

The all-new Honda Passport (reviewed here) sits up top with 5,000 pound towing capacity, but again, that’s more inline with the Subaru Ascent and perhaps not the Outback.

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is on par with the Outback’s 3,500 pounds, while the new mid-size 2020 Nissan Murano only pulls 1,500 pounds – a bit of surprise but Nissan knows Murano buyers are typically empty nesters who won’t be towing large RVs and such.

Perhaps the best competitor for the Outback is the 2019 Volvo V60, both sharing the low ride height in wagon form. This Swede offers an impressive 4,409 pounds of towing capacity, well above the 2020 Outback.

For what it’s worth, smaller mid-size trucks like the new Jeep Gladiator can pull an average of 7,500 pounds


Subaru fans looking for a larger SUV with 5,000 pound towing capacity now have the 8-passenger Ascent on the wish list. But for those who love the Outback’s wagon look, SUV capability, all-wheel drive and car-like handling and still looking to pull those big toys on the weekend will appreciate the new 3,500 pound offering, up from the insufficient 2,700 pounds we got with the 2019 model.

The Subaru Outback has always been a top choice for adventure-seekers and small families hitting the mountains. The only performance attribute missing was better towing abilities. Well, Subaru finally came through with the redesigned 2020 model.

Check out our Outback page here for more past reviews and news.

Head here for our latest SUV & Crossover Reviews.

2020 Subaru Outback Photos:

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