Crossover & Midsize

The 2021 Subaru Outback Refuses to Kneel to the 2021 Kia Telluride

The 2021 Kia Telluride is dominating sales, reviews, and everything else within the midsize SUV segment. With a 97/100 on Consumer Reports, it can be an intimidating model to step up to. However, there is a contender. The 2021 Subaru Outback has stepped up to the plate, and with the Subaru fan base and killer review, the Outback is ready for the challenge.

Why is the 2021 Kia Telluride so popular?

Consumer Reports positively gushes over the thing. A 97/100 is not only the best SUV score; it’s the best score of anything currently on CR. 

A silver 2021 Kia Telluride in the desert
2021 Kia Telluride | Kia

The Kia Telluride is fitted with a powerful and efficient V6 that offers plenty while still restraining enough to get 21 mpg combined. The Telluride is also sitting on a soft and subtle suspension that keeps the ride smooth and bumps at a minimum. However, CR also says that while the ride is smooth, it is not very agile. The three-row SUV suffers a bit from body roll in corners. But, the cabin is quiet and well-equipped. 

The 2021 Kia Telluride has a killer interior 

Like the Outback, the Telluride has plenty of room up front and a plethora of soft-touch surfaces throughout the interior. Everything about this SUV is designed for the ease of use and comfort of its passengers. There is also a pile of included safety features. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning with braking come standard on every Telluride trim.

The rear 3/4 view of a green 2020 Kia Telluride on a desert road
2020 Kia Telluride rear 3/4 | Kia

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Also, like the Outback, the Telluride has an optional AWD system. While Kia tries to market this as something to take into the dirt, it really isn’t for that. More importantly than all that is how much it costs to get all that. The Telluride starts at a modest $32,190 and tops out just under $45,000. 

The 2021 Subaru Outback is a really good SUV

Subaru scored an 86/100 on Consumer Reports. This is an excellent score. It’s not a 97, but then again, nothing is. However, the Outback is a strong competitor. 

2021 Subaru Outback in the wilderness
2021 Subaru Outback | Subaru

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Subaru has a vibe. It is a marque that carries with it more than just the car itself. Subaru signifies adventure and excitement. Although the Outback is pretty different from the Telluride, they do hang in the same segment. The Subaru has a much more aggressive stance, ready for adventure. It is essentially a beefy wagon on stilts. 

Consumer Reports loves the 2021 Subaru Outback

Consumer Reports didn’t find much to dislike here. The Outback has a lovely 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-four that comes as standard, but if you go for the cooler XT trim, you get a turbocharged 2.4-liter that makes an impressive 260 hp. For such a smaller yet roomy package, this power can go a long way. 

The Subaru Outback also comes with AWD as standard. That will run you a bit extra in the Kia. Not to mention, Subaru’s AWD system is the stuff of automotive legends. Even though the Outback is smaller than the three-row Kia, you get the bonus of better fuel economy at 24 mpg combined. The non-turbo version reaches up to 28 mpg. 

2021 Subaru Outback parked in the fog
2021 Subaru Outback | Subaru

CR calls the Outback’s transmission “one of the best-executed continuously variable transmissions (CVT). The faux shifts make it feel more like a traditional transmission. Combined with the torquey engine, it is largely free of the irksome trait of over-revving before acceleration takes place that is common with CVTs.” A bad transmission can ruin an otherwise great car. 

The Subaru Outback is nicer inside than you think

The Telluride has the Subaru beat on the interior, for sure. However, the Subaru is well-equipped will a substantial feeling interior with plenty of soft-touch elements that make the cabin a nice spot to hang. The suspension and ride all follow suit. This is surprising given the off-road nature of the tall wagon. 

There is also a slew of driver aids and safety features that come as standard, called the Eyesight system. It features forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. All of this starts at $26,795 and tops at just under $40,000. 

The Telluride might be better but it costs a lot more than the Outback

At the end of the day, the choice between the two is clear, depending on what you need it to do. The Kia has three rows and is a bit cushier but costs nearly $10k more. The Subaru is smaller but has a much more adaptable and sporty nature. It also comes with the bonus of joining a lifestyle brand ( if that’s your thing). Either way, the Subaru is hanging in there with a big dawg SUV and not letting go.