The Subaru Outback Dominates the Competition Because It Doesn’t Have Any

There’s a quiet revolution going on in the automotive world. While it’s been clear for a few years now that car buyers have embraced SUVs and pickup trucks instead of sedans, some buyers are opting for station wagons. These vehicles are an excellent compromise for those buyers who just can’t decide between a hatchback and an SUV. At the top of the station wagon class is the Subaru Outback.

It also happens to be one of Subaru’s best-selling models. We’ll take a look at the Outback to learn why it has outclassed its competitions.

A popular choice for both station wagon buyers and reviewers

As of late 2019, 17 out of 20 station wagons purchased in the U.S. were Subaru Outbacks, according to Road & Track. In sales units, that statistic adds up to over 180,000 vehicles. We know that Subaru owners have the strongest brand loyalty among all car owners. But specifically, what makes the Outback so popular?

Many buyers like the built-in ruggedness of this Subaru. Its standard all-wheel drive is a definite plus. And with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Outback can go off-pavement to places that an ordinary station wagon wouldn’t be able to navigate.

Reviewers have also taken a shine to the Subaru Outback. For example, Consumer Reports testers ranked it as number one out of the five all-wheel-drive wagons reviewed. It scored 87 out of 100 points overall and received a remarkable 91 out of 100 for CR’s road test. 

Consumer Reports calls the 2020 Subaru Outback “a comfortable, functional vehicle that’s well suited for everyday commutes and weekend adventures.” It scored four out of five for predicted reliability as well as for predicted owner satisfaction.

Reviewers at Car and Driver loved the Outback. They gave the 2020 model year a 9/10 rating and the Editors’ Choice award for Best Station Wagon. C&D’s reviewers were pleased with the station wagon’s off-road capability, its spacious backseat, and available options such as a power liftgate and blind-spot monitoring.

The perfect blend of SUV and station wagon

The secret of the appeal of the Subaru Outback is that it balances nicely between an SUV and a station wagon. As a lifted wagon, it shares the exact same amount of ground clearance as the sturdy Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, one of the sturdier SUVs on the market. This means that the Outback has similar moderate offroading capabilities as some SUVs.

At 2,700 pounds for the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the Outback has more than adequate towing capacity for either a wagon or an SUV. An upgrade to the turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four engine ups the ante to a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. By comparison, its sibling the Subaru Forester can only tow up to 1,500 pounds.

A raised wagon such as the Outback also has the advantage of being positioned slightly higher than a sedan, improving visibility for the driver. Although the Outback isn’t quite as tall as the Forester, it does have an extremely adjustable driver’s position as well as good all-around visibility through its windows. These features make driver visibility similar to that of an SUV.

Having plenty of flexible cargo space is a key reason buyers find SUVs ao attractive. But a comparison of the Outback’s specs with the Forester’s shows that the former has nearly as much space as the latter.  The Outback’s cargo area measures 32.5 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 75.7 cubic feet with it down, as compared to the Forester’s 31.1 cubic feet and 76.7 cubic feet respectively.

But like a hatchback or a station wagon, the Subaru Outback has a relatively low point of entry, making it easy for passenger access and for loading cargo. This characteristic gives it an edge over certain taller SUVs, since smaller passengers may trouble climbing into them. Similarly, moving awkward or heavy cargo into the back of a station wagon is easier. The task is easier because a person doesn’t have to lift the items up an extra few inches onto the liftgate of an SUV.

Nothing rivals the Subaru Outback


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As if having the best of an SUV and a station wagon wasn’t enough of an endorsement for the 2020 Subaru Outback, Consumer Reports also says that it’s one of the top three SUVs to buy this year. According to CR, the Outback can compete either as a raised wagon or as an SUV. Its capability, space, advanced technology, and safety features all give it an edge over the competition in either category. 

With this kind of praise from both Consumer Reports and Car and Driver, it’s easy to understand why the 2020 Subaru Outback is in fact in a class of its own. Until other car manufacturers figure out how to match its special combination of station wagon and SUV, the Subaru Outback will stand apart from its competition. Its starting price is $27,655.