Crossover & Midsize

Not Much Separates the 2020 Subaru Outback and Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 was redesigned for the 2019 model year, and the Subaru Outback is new for 2020. Shoppers looking for a midsize SUV will likely consider both the Outback and the RAV4. Since they are similar vehicles, what are the differences? Here’s a comparison of the 2020 Subaru Outback and 2020 Toyota RAV4.

The exterior of the Subaru Outback and the Toyota RAV4

The two do have slightly different shapes since they aren’t actually both SUVs. Based on the Legacy sedan, the Subaru Outback is a raised wagon. The Toyota RAV4 is a compact crossover SUV, and it’s also the best-selling non-truck in the U.S. Both are built on car platforms.

The Outback looks pretty similar across its trim levels except for different wheels. The RAV4 has two trims that differ: the RAV4 Adventure and TRD Off-Road models that have a more aggressive appearance, borrowing their grille and bumper designs from the larger Toyota trucks and SUVs. The TRD Off-Road trim is new for 2020. According to Autotrader, these two RAV4 trims most closely resemble the Outback.

The Outback is longer than the RAV4 at 191 inches compared to 181 inches. The RAV4 is a bit taller, though, at 67 to 69 inches (depending on the trim) compared to the Outback’s 66 inches. Both are 73 inches wide. The Outback has a ground clearance of 8.7 inches. The RAV4 Adventure and TRD Off-Road models have a ground clearance of 8.6 inches, while the other trim levels have 8.4-inch ground clearance.

Their powertrains

The Subaru Outback and Toyota RAV4 both have two powertrain options, but only the RAV4 includes a hybrid. The Outback’s first engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. The second is a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque.

Both have a continuously variable transmission and come standard with all-wheel drive. The first engine gets 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, or a combined 29 mpg. The second Outback engine gets 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, combining for 26 mpg.

The RAV4 offers either a hybrid option or a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, generating 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It has front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The gas-powered RAV4 is rated for 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, getting 29 mpg combined.

The all-wheel-drive versions are worse by one-to-three mpg, depending on the trim. The RAV4 Hybrid has an electric motor plus a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, generating a combined 219 hp. The hybrid comes standard with all-wheel drive. It gets 41 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, or 40 mpg combined.

Comparing the interiors

Autotrader describes the Toyota RAV4’s interior as a bit more “rugged and innovative” in design than the Subaru Outback’s, which is “more car-like.” The Outback and RAV4 have multiple trim levels, but the Outback focuses more on luxury design and the RAV4 trends more toward a sporty design.

They have pretty similar cargo spaces. The Outback’s cargo volume is 32.5 cubic feet, and with the rear seats folded down, the storage space increases to 75.7 cubic feet. The RAV4 starts with 37.5 cubic feet, which increases to 69.8 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. There is slightly more rear-seat legroom in the Outback where riders have 39.5 inches compared to 37.8 inches in the RAV4. 

Technology and safety

Although the tech designs may be different, both the Subaru Outback and the Toyota RAV4 offer similar capabilities. Base models for both vehicles have a 7-inch touchscreen. For higher trims, the Outback has an 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system, while the RAV4 has an available 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Their screen placements are different, with the Outback’s integrated into the center console and the RAV4’s on top of the dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims.

Both the Outback and the RAV4 have plenty of safety technology. Autotrader points to automatic emergency braking, lane centering, radar cruise control, and automatic high beams. In addition, both have earned top crash test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Is the Subaru Outback or Toyota RAV4 more expensive?

The Outback and RAV4 have pretty comparable prices. Autotrader points out that with the destination fee included, the 2020 Outback starts at $27,655 and goes up to $41,000 when fully loaded. The 2020 RAV4 starts at slightly less than $27,000 or at about $28,400 with all-wheel drive. When fully loaded, the RAV4 is a bit more than $41,000.

Is there a winner?

A Subaru Outback is seen during the Vienna Car Show press preview at Messe Wien, as part of Vienna Holiday Fair
The 2020 Subaru Outback | Manfred Schmid/Getty Images

Both the Subaru Outback and Toyota RAV4 are great options that have been redesigned recently and offer buyers many of the same features. They provide a mix of rugged appearance and luxury features along with several powertrain options. The Outback offers more legroom in the rear seat and more cargo space with the seat down, while the RAV4 has more cargo room with the seat up.

The Outback’s second engine offers more power than the RAV4’s options, but the RAV4 Hybrid has the best fuel economy. With several special trims, Autotrader says the RAV4 is as good as the Outback for off-road driving, if not better. And both have top safety ratings along with lots of modern active safety features and similar technology. They also have similar prices as well. Which one is right for you?