The Difference Between the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester SUV Means You Got Tricked

  • The Subaru Outback may not look like a wagon, but it is
  • Subaru has made the Outback more like an SUV to help sales
  • The Outback offers a more powerful engine than the Forester with few downsides

You’ve been deceived, duped, bamboozled, and tricked. Thankfully, it’s not really anyone’s fault. The reason for the deception is simply an evolution of cars, and Subarus, as we know them. Subie would have you believe that the Subaru Outback is a crossover SUV, like the Subaru Forester and Crosstrek. It isn’t, and we can prove it. Subaru has been tricking you into buying station wagons all along.

Is the Subaru Outback a wagon?

A pair of Subaru Outback wagons shot at their launch in Chicago
The Subaru Outback may now be more SUV than wagon | Raymond Boyd via Getty Images

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MotorTrend says the Subaru Outback and Forester are both crossovers. We beg to differ. In our minds, the Outback is still a wagon, it’s just put on a few pounds. The Outback is certainly more SUV than it has ever been, but the long-roof design and layout are still present, especially if you compare it to used Outback models that are more traditionally station wagons.

The difference between the Outback wagon and Forester SUV certainly isn’t in ground clearance. The Subaru Outback has always been a lifted wagon, and now it shares the same 8.7-inch ground clearance with the Forester. No, the critical difference here is length, and it’s what makes a wagon a wagon. The Subaru Outback is still a wagon, coming in at a full 9.2 inches longer than the Subaru Forester. However, despite the longer roof, the Outback has 109 cu-ft. of cargo space to the Forester’s 111. Not a huge difference, but the line between wagon and SUV is thin here.

What’s the difference between the Outback and Subaru Forester?

A white Subaru Forester SUV at the LA Auto Show
The Subaru Forester SUV at the LA Auto Show | Frederic J. Brown via Getty Images

And that’s exactly the trick that Subaru uses to get Americans to buy in their most-hated segment: long-roof sedans, also called station wagons. Over the years, the brand has blurred the line between the Subaru Forester and Outback. Now, you’ve got to break out the measuring tape to tell the difference.

However, there are a number of other things that set apart the two. For one, there’s price. A 2022 Outback starts at $26,945 and the Forester starts at $25,195. We imagine the difference is simply to make up for the extra length of the Outback. Then there are the engines. The Outback is a little more sporty, sharing an engine with the WRX. In a top-tier Outback, the wagon boasts more power, with a turbocharged 2.4L boxer making 260 hp and 277 lb-ft compared to the Forester’s 182 hp and 176 lb-ft.

Are wagons better than SUVs?

A rear 3/4 shot of a 2021 Subaru Outback wagon
The 2021 Subaru Outback… out back | Nick Pryde via Unsplash

Really, the winner in the wagon and SUV battle comes down to preference. We’d take the sportier handling of a lowered (or even lifted) wagon every day. But some need the taller roof of an SUV for kids and luggage. As for the Outback and the Forester? We’re taking the Outback and its more powerful engine all day long. Long live the long roofs.

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