Dog lovers, campers, off-road adventurers, and college professors who no longer can afford Volvos are rejoicing over the all-new 2020 Subaru Outback, the sixth-generation version of the lifted, two-row AWD station wagon for people who don’t like SUVs but which is marketed as an SUV anyway. It arrives in U.S. dealerships this fall.
The biggest news as far as we’re concerned is the return of the turbocharged boxer four-cylinder, which has been given a preliminary 260-hp rating. Subaru says Outbacks with the engine—the Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT, and Touring XT—can tow up to 3,500 pounds, while the 182-hp, 2.5-liter naturally aspirated models offer more than 600 miles of range. Other highlights include an 11.6-inch tablet-style central screen, nearly nine inches of ground clearance, 32 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row, and 75 cubic feet behind the first row.
All of that said, we zeroed in on a couple of XTs as two most intriguing variants, and we tapped Subaru car-line planning manager Peter Tenn to get more details on the 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT and Touring XT.
1) The Onyx Edition XT’s exclusive StarTex urethane upholstery is waterproof. They’re heated in front, and dog fur will clean off like it’s leather. There’s still a bit of leather trim, such as the steering-wheel cover, but Tenn says the Onyx XT may go all-vegan in future updates. StarTex seems the perfect seat material for (stereo-)typical Subaru customers.
2) The Onyx’s blacked-out trim looks great. The sideview mirrors and 18-inch wheels are among the black elements applied to the Onyx XT, and the trim gives the Outback a more serious off-road adventure look.
3) The Onyx XT gets Dual-Mode X-Mode. X-Mode is Subaru’s name for its off-road tech, and the regular version offer includes hill-descent control to allow the car to safely walk down steep inclines as it works the throttle, traction control, braking, and shifting itself. Dual-Mode X-Mode adds terrain settings to more precisely tailor the power delivery and other attributes to the situation.
4) Only the Onyx XT comes with a full-size spare tire on an aluminum wheel. It’s placed below the cargo floor, which eats up some of the storage available there but provides more peace-of-mind when driving off the beaten path.
5) The swing-out crossbars remain. All new Subaru Outbacks retain the handy swing-in-place roof crossbars, which fold into the side rails when not in use for increased aerodynamic efficiency.
6) All XTs come with a dual exhaust. The better for the world to hear your turbocharged song. In addition, XTs also have laminated side glass to keep unwanted noises out.
7) The XT models’ automatic liftgate is more trick than you’d think. Instead of dangling your foot under the rear bumper as in myriad other SUVs, here you simply tap your elbow—presuming your hands are full—on the big blue Subaru badge on the liftgate. As long as you’re carrying your keys, the hatch opens. Once open, you can then tap the cargo cover with your elbow to make it retract out of the way, so you can load that big, heavy box of awesome stuff from Costco.
8) The Onyx and Touring XTs come with a standard, 180-degree front-view camera. Because you don’t want to hit a groundhog when you’re out in the wilderness—or the back of your garage at home.
9) The top-spec Touring XT has buttery soft Nappa leather seats. They’re placed in a tasteful, premium-looking two-tone interior, and they’re also heated and ventilated in front and heated in the outboard positions in the back.
10) The Touring XT’s standard Driver Focus feature. It involves a camera located just above the center screen that focuses on the driver to monitor for sleepiness or distraction, and it also recognizes up to five drivers and can automatically set the seat and side mirrors. It’s optional on XT Limited.
11) There’s even more safety tech. Additional safety features on the XT Touring include advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering and stop-and-go traffic-jam functionality. Swiveling LED headlamps, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, and a head-up display are among the 2020 Outback’s options.