If we’re being honest with ourselves, sometimes the reason things just seem to work out in terms of products and sales is a sincere mystery. Someone thought to put peanut butter in ice cream, and although it’s not really marketed well by any one company, that flavor is a fan favorite in just about any demographic. Pickle-back shots constitute taking a shot of whiskey and immediately chasing it with a shot of pickle juice. While that may sound disgusting at first thought, the narrative is that the pickle juice nullifies the burn of the whiskey, making it easier to drink. Somehow, it works. Someone else somewhere decided to cross breed their labrador retriever with a poodle. Not the first thought someone might have when deciding on a pet, at least not a decade ago, but now, you can’t go five blocks in a city without coming across at least one Labradoodle.
Cars are the same way, sometimes, an odd combination of features and design philosophies just works. If we were to ask you to guess which model is the best selling Subaru, what would you think? If you’re like us, the sporty, driver-centric, excited-at-the-thought-of-a-slalom type, then you’d probably say the WRX — and you’d be wrong. Nope, the best selling Subaru is actually the Outback. Yup, that quirky, unusual station wagon-esq setup with the higher-than-normal stance. Over the last decade, the Outback’s sales have nearly doubled since 2010, peaking at almost 180,000 examples nationwide in 2018. So, for 2020, Subaru decided to revitalize its golden goose, without ruffling too many of its feathers.
The visual item changes consist of vertical lined fog lamps (versus horizontal), the wheel arches get a little more pronounced thanks to some extra plastic cladding, while the belt line of the car rises up a little higher than before, which shrinks the rear windows slightly. Finally, the rear trunk spoiler gets a little more notoriety thanks to the (for lack of a better word) ‘wings’ that hold it up and essentially extend the spoiler motif outback (no pun intended) of the car.
The all-wheel drive setup remains mostly the same, as Subaru likes to make sure its perennial calling card is always the front and center feature. But the suspension on the sixth-gen Outback gets some upgrades in the form of new aluminum lower control arms as well as new internal rebound springs in the struts. The Global Platform itself that the Outback now shares with the Impreza, Forester, and Ascent is much stiffer and can absorb 40 percent more energy at both the front and side impact areas in the event of a crash. The suspension adjustments also allow interior cargo room to jump two cubic feet.
The other big news is under the hood. After more than a decade’s absence from the Outback, there will finally be the return of a turbocharger to the option list. The XT trim will allow for a new 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine that pumps out a serious 260-horsepower and equally impressive 277 lb-ft of torque. That power gets routed through a still less than exciting CVT transmission and out to all four corners. For comparison’s sake, the new turbo outguns its predecessor’s 3.6-liter NA V6 by only 4 horsepower, but 30 lb-ft of torque and yet gets 3 mpg better fuel economy both city and highway — which posts at 23/30 city/highway for the new model with the turbo.
If you opt out of the XT, there is also an available 2.5-liter direct-injected flat-four cylinder engine that makes 182-horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque — which is also up 7 ponies and 3 lb-ft from last years model, which still attaining an impressive 26/33 city/highway mpg.
Inside the new Outback, there is a large 11.6-inch infotainment and hvac touchscreen, while other driver goodies like heads-up display make it easier to keep your eyes on the road. But if you can’t, there is also automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, blind-spot detention, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert — all of which you would expect from a company that prides itself on safety. Not bad for a car with a base price of $26,465.
So for a car that isn’t quite a station wagon, isn’t quiet an SUV, isn’t quite a crossover, the 2020 Subaru Outback is living proof that just like the first person to try and put salt and vinegar on potato chips, while it may seem strange at first, it has a cult-like following that cannot be denied. We’re not sure why the Outback works as well as it does, but there’s no arguing with success.