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2020 Subaru Outback long-term introduction: Long live the longroof

This versatile station wagon joins the Roadshow fleet for a year of testing. Will we still appreciate its wholesome goodness after 12 months?

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
5 min read
2020 Subaru Outback
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2020 Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback is versatile and capable.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

There are scores of car-based utility vehicles on the market today. If you want something with an elevated ride height, all-wheel drive and ample cargo space, there is no shortage of options to choose from.

Even though the Subaru Outback is more station wagon than SUV, it's still rugged looking and checks all the right boxes for drivers in need of a versatile vehicle. Or does it? Answering this query, an Onyx Edition XT model has joined the Roadshow long-term fleet. Join us for the next 12 months as we put this machine to the test. 

How we spec'd it

For 2020, this is available in seven grades. There's the base Outback, Premium, Limited and Touring models. From there, you can also get the Onyx Edition XT model, which is what we've got, or step up to the Limited XT and Touring XT variants. We chose the Onyx Edition XT because it's right in the middle of the lineup, but offers a surprising amount of kit.

Mainstream versions of this longroof hauler feature a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated boxer four-cylinder. This engine delivers a respectable, if unremarkable, 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. XT models pack appreciably more heat than that, courtesy of a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine. Also of the horizontally opposed configuration, this unit is good for 260 hp and 277 lb-ft. No matter which engine you get in your Outback, both happily run on 87-octane, regular-grade gasoline and are paired with a continuously variable transmission. Of course, all-wheel drive is standard, too, a Subaru hallmark.

That turbocharged engine delivers more-than-adequate performance, taking the drama out of stoplight showdowns and freeway onramps, however, I do wish it had a little more low-end oomph. This powerplant doesn't really wake up until the tachometer registers about 3,500 rpm, which can make it feel a little pokey off the line. 


Here's the Outback's 2.4-liter turbo engine. It gets the job done.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

At least this drivetrain is efficient. According to the EPA, our Outback should return 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. Combined, it's rated at a respectable 26 mpg.

As for pricing, if you sidestep every option or extra you can drive home from your local Subaru store in a new Outback for less than $28,000. At that price the vehicle still offers plenty of standard equipment including power windows and door locks, 17-inch alloy wheels, an electrically operated parking brake, paddle shifters and even an infotainment system with a 7-inch screen plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Buttering the bread even more, Subaru's EyeSight suite of driver aids is also bundled at no extra cost. This includes useful kit like adaptive cruise control with lane centering, precollision braking and lane-departure warning.

Upping the ante, our Onyx Edition XT model has plenty of additional goodies, features that, fortunately, don't come with an absurd price increase. It's fitted with in-vehicle Wi-Fi, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, StarTex seating surfaces and a large, 11.6-inch portrait-style infotainment screen, to name a few.

So, what does our tester cost? Well, here's the pricing breakdown. Just two extras pad the sticker. At $1,845, the municipal-sounding "Option Package: 22" puts that 11.6-inch display on the dashboard. It also includes a power moonroof and reverse automatic braking. Beyond that, a wireless charging pad adds a mere $245 to the final tally. With a destination charge of $1,010, our Outback rolled off the line with a sticker price of $37,995, a fair sum for a fine vehicle.

An honest workhorse

Almost immediately after receiving this long-termer we put it to work. With 32.5 cubic feet of luggage space behind the second-row seat and 75.7 with that backrest folded down, there's room to spare in this Subaru. 


Rear seats up or folded down, there's plenty of space inside the Outback.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

That spacious cargo hold makes the Outback a perfect video-production vehicle. It has no problem swallowing cameras and Pelican cases, tripods, sliders and rollaboard bags, too. In the Detroit area, it's our go-to workhorse on shoots now that our long-term BMW 330i is serving duty with editor-in-chief Tim Stevens in Upstate New York. That Bimmer proved to be surprisingly versatile for a sedan, but this Subaru is, not surprisingly, far more useful when it comes to schlepping bulky things. In this regard, it compares favorably to the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and Subaru Ascent utility vehicle we had as long-term testers in the recent past.

Roadshow video producer Nick Miotke can't say enough good things about this vehicle. "The Outback, for production purposes, has so far been one of the best vehicles we have had in the fleet." He also praised the large, elevated cargo area, which he said makes a great workbench when setting up gear. 

Not only is the Outback adept at hauling, it also makes an excellent camera rig. When shooting car-to-car footage, those beautiful rolling shots used liberally throughout our video reviews, we employ an elaborate rig that suction mounts to the rear of a chase vehicle. With a large back window and just enough flat surfaces on the aft fenders and liftgate, our car-to-car rig easily attaches to the Outback. Miotke said the relatively soft suspension tuning helps deliver creamy-smooth shots. For this reason, and others, he added, "to date, it has already become one of my favorite production vehicles."

Comfortable front bucket seats and a generously portioned rear bench mean this vehicle has no trouble hauling passengers as well as it does cargo. Thanks to a ride height that's elevated but not jacked up to the rafters, it's easy to get into and out of this Subaru. Miotke said the Outback is a great family vehicle, too, with more than enough room for his 8-year-old son and two buddies in the back seat, plus a load of hockey gear stashed in the cargo hold.

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We look forward to racking up many more miles in this oh-so-practical Subaru.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Stay tuned… 

Going forward, we'll report on how this Subaru drives, what kind of real-world fuel economy it delivers and, of course, whether or not we still like it as the miles accrue. 

Keep a browser tab open to the Roadshow website for regular updates about our latest long-term Subaru and a whole lot more. If there's anything else you'd like to know about this vehicle, or if you'd just like to sound off, make sure to leave a comment or five down below.

Meet Roadshow's 2020 Subaru Outback long-term tester

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