Sometimes the best changes are minor

On April 17, in a sleepy corner of New York, the redesigned and revamped 2020 Subaru Outback was unveiled in front of the crowd gathering in front of a nature inspired setting. Faux wood and rocks accompanied a beautiful backdrop of redwood trees that served as the stage for the newer (and bigger) version of the Japanese wagon that swept through the American market just 23 years ago.

Though, when people hear “redesigned” or “all-new design” in regards to a car that’s all but redefined what it means for a car to be a crossover, they don’t expect the aesthetic changes to be as minor as what Subaru presented at the New York Auto Show. If the 2020 Outback is propped next to the 2018 model, they look so strikingly similar that at first glance, they’d appear to be the same car. It requires a careful eye to catch the differences.

What’s different are minor tweaks to an already handsome design. The headlights, which sported the boomerang shaped LED lights along the outer edges of the headlights are still there, but they’re a little higher up on the front bumper than on the previous model. They also look as though they’ve been shrunken vertically by just a tad – giving the car a squinted and more luxurious look. The plastic bumper up front is also a smidgen larger and more rugged looking in comparison to the more subtle and refined look of the previous model, and the round traditional looking fog lights were replaced by a vertical, crescent shaped strip of LED bulbs.

The only other dramatic change in appearance is the rear tail lights, which take on a more rounded and futuristic look with black accents in the corners, making it look more flush against the curvy rear end.

A surprising upgrade takes the enthusiast under the hood. For a long while, Subaru’s answer for the lack of turbo was to offer a powerful six-cylinder horizontally opposed (or, ‘boxer’) engine. Though it was untraditional for the independent manufacturer, it was surprisingly popular.

For the 2020 Outback, however, the H6 option was axed, and now comes in only two options: a 2.5 liter four cylinder naturally aspirated engine with 182 horsepower, or the 2.4 liter turbocharged boxer engine making 266 horsepower seen in last year’s Ascent. A turbo was something that Subaru enthusiasts pined after following the removal of the beloved turbo from the Outback XT and Legacy GTs. Which is especially surprising after the remark Tom Doll, the CEO of Subaru of America made about not needing turbos due to the sales on the slow, sluggish models making more than ends meet.

For the followers of the manual transmission, it’s with a heavy heart to report that the only transmission available for all trim packages is the continuously variable transmission (CVT). For those who were savvy to the proneness of the CVT to crack (quite literally) under the pressure of turbochargers, this one comes with a promise that it’s built to handle the boost.

The interior stays true to Subaru’s tradition of high visibility and comfortable, open seating. In terms of design, there aren’t any noticeable changes to interior besides the monstrous 11 inch, Tesla-esque screen replacing the previous model’s 8 inch touch screen infotainment center. In regards to technology, all trim levels of the Outback will come with Subaru’s award-winning Eyesight system, which will aid with lane departure, provide adaptive cruise control, and emergency braking to prevent front-end collisions.


  1. Kristen so glad that you kept up with your writing. You have a down to earth writing skill that makes a pleasure to read your thoughts on Subaru’s and the outdoors in general.

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