2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT
2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT in Crystal White Pearl

2015 Audi Q52020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition

Class: Midsize Car

Miles driven: 208

Fuel used: 8.8 gallons

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB+
Power and PerformanceB-
Fit and FinishB
Fuel EconomyB
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyA-
Tall GuyA
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Engine Specs260-hp 2.4L
Engine TypeTurbo 4-cylinder
Transmission CVT automatic
Drive WheelsAWD

Real-world fuel economy: 23.6 mpg

Driving mix: 65% city, 35% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 23/30/26 (city, highway, combined)

Fuel type: Regular gas

Base price: $34,895 (not including $1010 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: Option Package 22 ($1845; includes power sunroof, STARLINK 11.6-inch navigation/infotainment system, and reverse automatic braking), wireless phone charger ($245)

Price as tested: $37,995


Quick Hits

The great: Roomy cabin, promise of Subaru off-road/foul-weather prowess

The good: Ample power from turbocharged engine, wagon utility

The not so good: Mediocre observed fuel economy

Why the Subaru Outback is a Consumer Guide Best Buy


John Biel

History has shown that Subaru was ahead of the car-with-some-SUV-attributes curve when it added the Outback wagon in 1995. It hasn’t looked back in regret since.

Subaru’s best-selling nameplate is affixed to an all-new sixth-generation vehicle for 2020. Its configuration is unique in the subpremium midsize class, though there are multiple choices of raised-ride-height, all-wheel-drive wagons at higher price levels. For a lot of shoppers for this kind of car, then, Outback will be the only name on their list.

2020 Subaru Outback Oynx Edition
Per Subaru, the Outback boasts 3 inches more ground clearance than does the mechanically similar Subaru Legacy.

Not only did Consumer Guide editors test the redone Outback, they drove a new trim variation, the Onyx Edition XT. While it is priced a little ahead of the roughly mid-pack Limited model, the Onyx trades out the Limited’s leather upholstery, Harman Kardon 12-speaker sound system, and bright exterior highlights for water-repellent seat coverings, an enhanced terrain-management system, black-finish wheels and trim, and a substantially more powerful new engine. This turns the Onyx Edition XT into a kind of “adventuring” special.

The new Outback is hewn from the Subaru Global Platform architecture. It boasts increased passenger and cargo volume, a turbocharged 4-cylinder “boxer” engine in place of the veteran 3.6-liter opposed-six, and a raft of new features.

First Spin: 2020 Subaru Legacy

2020 Subaru Outback Oynx Edition
Outback offers ample adult space in both seating rows. Generous door openings allow for easy entry and exits.

Onyx Editions advertise their presence with black-finish 18-inch alloy wheels, grille, headlight bezels, power-mirror caps, and badges. Interior identifiers are a two-tone-gray interior with water-resistant StarTex seat covering, Onyx-logo front floor mats, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter handle. Other comforts and conveniences bundled into the $35,905 base price (including delivery) are a 180-degree front-view monitor, full-size spare tire, hands-free tailgate, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, windshield-wiper deicer, dark-tint privacy glass, illuminated inner door handles, LED fog lights, and a rear cargo cover. Infotainment issues from STARLINK Multimedia Plus with a new tabletlike 11.6-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone linkage, apps, Bluetooth phone and audio-streaming connectivity, and satellite and HD radio.

Naturally, all-wheel drive is standard on Outbacks, but the Onyx is the only one that gets a dual-function version of X-Mode, the marque’s terrain-taming system. It adds a “Deep Snow / Mud” setting to the base X-Mode’s “Snow,” “Dirt,“ and “Mud” calibrations, plus hill-descent control.

First Spin: 2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Outback Cargo Area
There’s 33 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats; folding the seats down expands the cargo hold to 76 feet.

As an XT model (there are three among the seven available 2020 Outbacks), the Onyx Edition comes with the new 2.4-liter turbo engine and a version of the brand’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) designed to tolerate a higher torque load. The 2.4 generates 260 horsepower at  5600 rpm—a good 78 more ponies than the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Subaru four makes—to go with 277 lb-ft of torque that lives between 2000 and 4800 revs. Brisk starts can fall prey to turbo lag, but for the most part there is nice, responsive power to be wrung from the XT powerteam. The turbo engine is EPA-rated at 23 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg in highway operation. When this driver put 121.7 miles on the test car, with 66 percent city-type conditions, it returned 23.88 mpg. It has a fairly unobtrusive stop/start function to squeeze out some fuel savings.

CG’s tester rode very well without much suspension stiffness or impact harshness. Active torque vectoring that enhances handling is standard in all Outbacks. Steering is responsive and weighted just right, and braking is sharp.

The Outback comes with a number of technological driving aids and safety monitors. Among them is EyeSight Driver Assist with adaptive cruise control, lane centering, precollision braking, lane-departure and sway warning, and lane-keep assist. The cruise control and lane centering, activated by steering-wheel buttons, work together to deliver low-level autonomous-driving capability, though drivers do have to maintain some hand contact with the wheel to make it work.

Test Drive: 2019 Subaru Forester Touring

Outback Turbo Engine
The Onyx Edition XT is the least-expensive Outback to come equipped with the available turbocharged engine. The Onyx is also the only Outback available with black-finish wheels.

Subaru’s lane centering doesn’t have quite the “ping-pong” effect of some competitors’ systems, and the car doesn’t seem to wander in the lane during straight-line driving. In congested central-city traffic it sometimes kicked out of lane guidance in close proximity to other traffic, so diligence is always the best policy. The cruise control will slow the car to a full stop, and then resume speed when the vehicle ahead moves. However, if the pause is too long, stop/start activates, after which the car will not automatically follow when the vehicle ahead moves—a tap of the accelerator is required first, but then in a moment or two cruise and lane-centering functions resume, provided surface markings can be “read” by the system’s sensors.

As for some of the other tech in the car, the new vertically oriented touchscreen is somewhat “busy” visually—there’s a lot to see there—but it wasn’t too hard to select and save radio settings, thanks to separate power and tuning knobs. Touch points for the automatic climate control are at the lower part of the panel. Temperature settings are made via repetitive-press arrow buttons. The test car was outfitted with an option package that added navigation, reverse automatic braking, and a power moonroof.

Room for legs and heads is plentiful in both rows. Entry and exit are easy through all four doors, and drivers enjoy good sightlines in practically any direction. Seats are comfortable, and soft-touch materials are conspicuous on the instrument panel, console, and all doors. Cabin storage consists of a large glove box, covered console box with internal power point and built-in small-item tray that attaches to the inside of the lid when you want to use the full box area, exposed console cup holders, and door pockets with bottle holders. Rear-seat occupants are presented with pouches on the backs of the front seats, door pockets, and cup holders in a pull-down armrest.

There’s 32.5 cubic feet of flat-surfaced cargo space. A pouch on the right side of the cargo bay can hold incidentals, and grocery-bag hooks and tie-down loops are provided. Release levers remotely retract the rear 60/40 seats, which fold flat to expand cargo space to 75.7 cubic feet.

Subaru hasn’t had to regret the Outback in its first 25 years. We don’t think it will have to start now.

Test Drive: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure

2020 Subaru Outback OnyX Edition XT
Refreshingly, none of the colors options available for the 2020 Outback are extra cost. An available CD player, located in the center-console bin, adds $399 to the bottom line.

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