2020 Subaru Outback XT Test Drive: 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender
This long-roof deserves your love.
Automobile's All-Stars awards are back, and this year we have one of the best fields of cars we've ever evaluated. In total, we invited 21 of our favorite new or significantly revised cars to find out which are the very best of the best. We've split them into Contenders and Winners, but let us make it clear: every car invited to our All-Stars event is one of the most special cars on sale for 2020. Each day between March 8th and March 10th, we'll bring you a new batch of Contenders, and on Wednesday, March 11, we'll announce our 2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners.
At the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, Subaru's exhibit was unmistakable: Rocks, big trees, what looks like a snowmelt (it isn't), a rustic forest floor of peat moss and leaves and pebbles that is actually—and we're not sure where you order this from—carpet, comfortable benches that lack only your whittling Grandpa, and during the press conference, puppies!
There was on-the-nose music, a stentorian voice calling you to come look, and when you did, there was a 2020 Subaru Outback, literally rising from the mist!
Does this company know its market, or what?
Our Outback, an Onyx Edition XT with a base price of $34,895, or $37,750 out the door as ours was configured, was a legit All-Stars contender for our more nature-loving staffers, perhaps less so for big-city dwellers who prefer to continue dwelling.
"The Outback's loyal following is understandable, and this newest iteration furthers that sentiment with its excellent dynamics and isolating ride. But for the true enthusiasts out there (and anyone who detests behind-the-times multimedia systems), the latest Outback, sadly, falls short," said contributor and racing driver Andy Pilgrim after extensive test drives.
A more charitable Rory Jurnecka, our features editor, observed: "Good power from this engine, and the manual shift paddles really help going up over the hills. The interior quality is a little better than before. The vertical display works nicely and includes analog dials for radio tuning and volume, plus hard buttons for climate control. There's a massive second row and cavernous cargo space behind it, with smart storage for the cargo cover! Why hasn't anyone else thought of that?"
The vertical center stack-an 11.6-inch touchscreen named Starlink that, stunningly, might remind customers of an iPad, is reasonably user-friendly, and you should be able to find NPR and your favorite podcasters quickly. Front seats are wrapped in vegan-friendly Star-Tex water-repellant upholstery, but they will have to tolerate the Onyx's leather-covered steering wheel and shifter handle.
That shifter handle connects to the "high-torque Lineartronic" CVT transmission, which will not win over CVT haters, but does, at least, have those manual shift paddles, as Jurnecka pointed out. The CVT is connected to a new 2.4-liter turbocharged DOHC four-cylinder boxer engine, rated at 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds, and the EPA suggests you'll get 23 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway. There is no rating for "in the woods" or "climbing mountains."
Other Outback models get the mostly-carryover 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 182 horsepower, but are rated at 26 mpg city, 33 highway. Like all Subarus, the Outback is all-wheel-drive, and ground clearance is a healthy 8.7 inches.
The Outback Onyx XT, a name so pleasantly alliterative that we'd never get tired of telling people we drive one, is absolutely archery-aimed at a target market so specific that we'd suggest no other mainstream vehicle, with the possible exception of the Jeep Wrangler and its spawn, serves its buyers better.
Adding to that, the Outback has a rather wide model lineup, starting with the $26,645 standard model (not including $1,010 for shipping), to the Touring XT where, if you click most of the option boxes, you can get to over $43,000.
So why did the Kia Telluride beat out the Outback as an All-Star? Most of us are still not enamored by a CVT transmission, "Lineartronic" or not, and we liked the Telluride's eight-speed automatic. Also there's more horsepower than even the Onyx model (31 hp more), it tows 1,500 pounds more, and has available eight-passenger seating.
But Subaru knows its people, and most are not likely to do much cross-shopping, except with other Subaru models, perhaps. We salute those people, and Subaru, for finding each other.
|2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT Specifications|
|PRICE||$35,905 (base)/$37,750 (as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.4L turbo DOHC 16-valve H-4/260 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 277 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||191.3 x 73.0 x 66.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec (est)|
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