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Subaru Outback 2020 review: 2.5i Premium

The Outback is a spacious five-seater wagon with excellent head and legroom in the second row.
EXPERT RATING
8.1
The Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium could be the best SUV for those that don't want an SUV.

When the Subaru Outback first arrived in the mid-1990s it was an all-wheel drive station wagon with extra ground clearance for the occasional adventure… and it still is.

That the Outback never morphed into a fully-fledged SUV makes it a rare species in a world that’s fallen under the spell of big, tall, boxy machines.

Being a bit different isn’t the only reason for buying an Outback, however, and the 2.5i Premium I tested could be the pick of the model line-up.  

During my week with the car I drove hundreds of kilometres, did the daily commute and the preschool drop off, had some dirt road fun and even intentionally locked myself out of it.

The result is this: everything you need to know about the Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium.

Subaru Outback 2020: 2.5i Premium
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$43,940

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

Is the Subaru Outback a wagon or an SUV? Well, it’s sort of a cross between them and it could be the perfect vehicle for people who don’t want an SUV but still want the elevated ride height, extra ground clearance and practicality of a sports utility vehicle.

The Outback is sort of a cross between a wagon and SUV. The Outback is sort of a cross between a wagon and SUV.

The Outback shares much of the Subaru Liberty sedan’s underpinnings and this is good for its ride comfort and handling, but more on that in the driving section below.

I’m a fan of the Outback’s tough plastic wheel guards and chunky side skirts, oversized fog lights and hardcore looking roof racks. The seriously dark privacy glass to the rear and back windows looks great and so does the roof top spoiler.

What are the Outback’s dimensions? The Outback is large at 4820mm long, 1840mm wide and 1675mm. Ground clearance is 213mm. Regular cars normally have around 170mm and the Toyota RAV4’s is 195mm.

'Crystal White Pearl' was the colour of my test car, but there are 10 hues to choose from including 'Crimson Red', 'Wilderness Green', 'Dark Blue' and 'Crystal Black.'

The Outback is 4820mm long, 1840mm wide and 1675mm. The Outback is 4820mm long, 1840mm wide and 1675mm.

The 2.5i Premium’s cabin feels sumptuous with soft-touch, high-quality feeling materials and an excellent fit and finish.

There are hints that the cockpit is starting to age from a styling perspective and the new generation Outback coming by 2021 will surely see the interior move to a more modern look.

To those new to Subaru it can be a bit confusing working out where the Outback fits into the brand’s SUV range, which can look a bit samey. So, what you need to know is that the XV is the small SUV, the Forester is the mid-sized one and the Outback is the large SUV-ish station wagon.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

The Outback is a spacious five-seater wagon with excellent head and legroom in the second row. I’m 191cm tall and could sit behind my driving position with about 40mm to spare. Space up front is good, too, with plenty of elbow and shoulder room.

Cabin storage is great, with four cupholders (two up front and two in the second row), large door pockets, a deep centre console storage bin, map pockets in the seat backs, and a covered area in front of the shifter which houses two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet.

There are two USB charging ports in the second row and directional air vents. Another 12-volt outlet is located in the boot.

The cargo capacity of the boot is 512 litres with the second row in place. The cargo capacity of the boot is 512 litres with the second row in place.

The cargo capacity of the boot is 512 litres with the second row in place, and 1801 litres with the rear seats folded down.

Large, tall and wide opening doors along with the raised ride height makes getting in and out a breeze, and also means putting little kids into their seats is easy on the back.

The wide doors make putting little kids into their seats easier on the back. The wide doors make putting little kids into their seats easier on the back.

The roof racks are standard on all Outbacks and their toughness (I’ve danced on them – see the video) and design means they’re more than just for show.

Take a look at the front and rear door sills, too . They’ve been widened for you to stand on while loading your kayaks/mountain bikes/queen-sized mattress onto the roof.

The front and rear door sills have been widened for you to stand on while you load up the roof racks. The front and rear door sills have been widened for you to stand on while you load up the roof racks.

Under the boot floor is a full-sized spare alloy wheel, and this pleases me big time. Many SUVs seem to promise adventure but only come with a space saver spare which will limit you to 80km/h and a few hundred kilometres at the most.

Under the boot floor is a full-sized spare alloy wheel. Under the boot floor is a full-sized spare alloy wheel.

Finally, here’s something that not many people know about the Outback – you can lock and unlock it without a key, using a PIN number. To find out how watch my video above. You’ll also see me lock myself out of the car while the keys are on the dashboard.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   9/10

The 2.5i Premium sits in the middle of Subaru’s Outback range with its list price of $43,940. The standard features list is extensive and includes an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, digital radio, six-speaker stereo, CD player and Bluetooth connectivity.

Also standard are leather seats in 'Ivory' or as in our test car black, power adjustable and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, paddle shifters, privacy glass, adaptive LED headlights, roof rails, an electric sunroof, 18-inch alloys wheels with a full-sized spare.

The 2.5i Premium has an extensive list of standard features including an electric sunroof and 18-inch alloys wheels. The 2.5i Premium has an extensive list of standard features including an electric sunroof and 18-inch alloys wheels.

For less than a $40K list price that’s excellent value and I haven’t even mentioned the impressive array of safety equipment. Well, I have now, but you can read more about that below.

Rivals to the Outback include all-wheel drive wagons such as the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, but also regular SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser and, wait for it, the Subaru Forester 2.5i-S.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The Outback 2.5i Premium has, you guessed it, a 2.5-litre petrol boxer engine making 129kW of power and 235Nm of torque. Personally, I prefer the much more powerful and torquey 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine in the Outback range, but you’ll have to step up to the pricier 3.6R grade to unlock that beastie.

Boxer engines are different from traditional ones in that the pistons move horizontally like a boxer punching rather than up and down. One of the benefits of this is a lower centre of mass which improves handling.

The Outback 2.5i Premium has a 2.5-litre petrol boxer engine. The Outback 2.5i Premium has a 2.5-litre petrol boxer engine.

All Outbacks are all-wheel drive and have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which isn’t my first choice when it comes to automatics as they seem to take the torque and just turn it into a droning noise.

That said, if I had to live with a CVT for the rest of my life I’d choose a Subaru CVT as they seem to get the drive to the wheels better than those made by other brands.      

The Outback 2.5i Premium has a braked towing capacity of 1500kg.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Subaru says the 2.5-litre engine with the CVT should use 7.3L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads.

I drove 213km in my test car doing urban commutes into the city, as well as forays onto dirt trails and country roads, and used 26.6L measured at the fuel pump, which works out to be 12.5L/100km.

There weren’t many motorway kilometres in there and I should point out there were only 646km on the odometer when I started the test, which may account for the high fuel usage.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The Subaru Outback feels like a car to drive but has the ground clearance to go where a regular car can’t. And when I say 'like a car to drive' I mean the Outback doesn’t feel tall and wobbly like an SUV.

The Outback’s boxer engine combined with a relatively low overall height gives the car gives a low centre of mass. This, and sharing the Liberty sedan’s platform means it handles better than almost every SUV in this segment, and feels planted with only modest body roll in the corners.

The ride is also composed and comfortable, the steering is accurate and well weighted, and pedal feel is excellent, too.

Driving the Outback is composed and the steering is accurate and well weighted. Driving the Outback is composed and the steering is accurate and well weighted.

While the Outback isn’t a traditional four-wheel drive (with transfer case, diff locks, etc) and wouldn't be the ideal choice for serious off-roading, its 213mm ground clearance and full-time all-wheel drive system make it impressively capable on dirt and gravel roads.

The Outback has what’s called 'X-Mode' which is activated by pressing a button and manages the engine, transmission and all-wheel drive system to maintain optimum traction on loose surfaces.

There’s also 'SI Mode' which allows the driver to switch between a sports mode or a more fuel-efficient setting.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Subaru Outback was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015.

Coming standard is an extensive list of advanced safety equipment including AEB with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, lane sway warning and adaptive cruise control.

The 2.5i Premium grade adds more safety tech such as blind spot warning, lane change assistant and rear cross traffic alert. Joining the rear-view camera are side and front view cameras.

For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts.  

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The Outback is covered by Subaru’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and Subaru recommends servicing the Outback 2.5i Premium every six months or 12,500kms.

A five-year/125,000km capped price servicing plan covers the Outback and you can expect to pay $316.38 for the six-month service, then $316.38 for the 12-month visit, $404.64 for the 18-month service, $549.74 for the two-year check-up, and so on.

Over five years the total routine service bill should come to no more than $4560.49, according to Subaru.

The Outback also comes with 12 months of roadside assistance.

Verdict

The Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium is exceptionally good in terms of value, practicality, its design and build quality, safety and in the way it drives. Many might overlook it as just a station wagon and go for a tall SUV instead, not realising that the Outback is exactly what they need.

Comment call to action: Is the Subaru Outback the perfect anti-SUV SUV? Tells us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing guides

$43,940
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$37,440
Highest Price
$50,440

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0D 2.0L, Diesel, CVT AUTO $40,040 2020 Subaru Outback 2020 2.0D Pricing and Specs
2.0D AWD 2.0L, Diesel, CVT AUTO $40,040 2020 Subaru Outback 2020 2.0D AWD Pricing and Specs
2.0D Premium 2.0L, Diesel, CVT AUTO $46,940 2020 Subaru Outback 2020 2.0D Premium Pricing and Specs
2.0D PREMIUM AWD 2.0L, Diesel, CVT AUTO $46,940 2020 Subaru Outback 2020 2.0D PREMIUM AWD Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.1
Design9
Practicality9
Price and features9
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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