Subaru, as well all know, sure has its share of enthusiastic loyalists, and in certain parts of North America it has been explosively successful. Case in point is the northeastern part of the U.S. where the realities of winter can pose a challenge for motorists and their vehicles.
Subaru’s choice of the New York Auto Show to present the next-generation of its top-selling model is therefore no surprise. As per Subaru’s usual MO, the changes made to the new 2020 Outback are subdued. Tradition and continuity are the watchwords here, clearly.
In a sense this is pretty understandable. The formula has been successful, so why mess with it? The Outback is versatile and able to take on virtually any challenge, and it offers pretty unbeatable value.
The esthetic changes are subtle enough that it takes a sharp eye to discern them at first glance. What that body sits on, though, is all-new. According to Subaru, the new platform the Outback sits on makes for increased stiffness of between 70% and 100%, this in regards to torsion, or lateral movements of the front, or simply to the rigidity of the sub-chassis in back. That engineer’s jargon translates into a more-solid and engaging driving experience.
Subaru says the structure is also 40% more absorbent during front and side impacts.
The big news here is that Subaru has dropped the 3.6L 4-cylinder engine in favour of a 2.4L 4-cylinder. This was predictable given that the company had already made the same switch with the Legacy. The new mill generates up to 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. In terms of raw power that seems largely sufficient, but the risk is that some flexibility may be sacrificed. As for reliability, that’s obviously a question for down the road when this new generation has been on the road for a while.
Towing capacity for the 2020 Outback is listed at 3,500 lb.
The base models of the Outback will get not the new engine but the returning 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder. Subaru swears that this “old” mill is maed of 90% new components. Output climbs to 182 hp (from 175), and torque is slightly up from 174 to 176 lb-ft.
Lastly, the suspension system has been updated for the new-generation Outback, and according to Subaru it’s lighter and nimbler than before. Ground clearance s unchanged at 8.7 inches, more by the way than several models that take themselves for utility models.
Here the changes are more substantial. On all trims above the base model, the cabin is centered around an 11.6-inch screen. The presentation has been upgraded starting with the materials used. Our short first encounter with the model left us with a strong impression overall. Subaru also promises improved sound insulation, something we’ll be able to confirm when we get a first drive in the vehicle.
The offer is comprehensive in terms of safety and connectivity tech. In a nod to the typical consumers who will be making use of the vehicle, American versions of the Outback will come with the Chimani app, which offers info on the 417 national parks in the U.S..
Of those American versions, there will be seven in all. We await confirmation on whether the product offering will be the same in Canada. That should come fairly soon, along with pricing information for our market.
The 2020 Subaru Outback is expected at North American Subaru dealers by the fall of 2019.