Midsize crossover SUVs are plentiful these days, and to the untrained eye, it can be hard to separate one from the next. These models all have a similar mission, after all: They’re designed to provide comfortable, family-friendly transportation for you and your loved ones as you navigate city streets and suburban roadways.
One model that stands apart from this sea of similar alternatives is the Subaru Outback. It brings a slightly different agenda to the table: The Outback has a ruggedness that makes it well suited for rough weather and light off-roading. At the same time, the Outback comes with the features and amenities that are top priorities for the typical crossover shopper.
For the 2018 model year, the Subaru Outback gets some tweaks and adjustments. Its sheet metal and lighting are enhanced, and there’s a new infotainment system on board that provides standard Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration and quicker performance. The crossover’s center console has been redesigned, and premium materials are more generously used throughout the cabin. The Outback also benefits from tuning upgrades designed to provide a smoother and quieter ride.
Base models are powered by a 2.5-liter flat-four engine that provides 175 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque. There’s also an optional 3.4-liter flat-six engine that generates 256 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. All models come with a continuously variable transmission. If there’s a boat or trailer in you life, know that the Outback can tow up to 2,700 pounds.
Overall, the Outback presents a uniquely attractive proposition, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of weaknesses.
Take a look below to see eight great traits of the 2018 Subaru Outback… along with one shortcoming that’s worth keeping in mind when you’re deciding whether to welcome an Outback into your driveway.
Rain or snow can turn even a short commute into a potentially perilous endeavor. It’s more difficult for tires to maintain their grip on wet or snowy roads, and this can easily set the stage for an accident.
All-wheel drive (AWD) can help by boosting traction in rough weather, and the 2018 Outback is equipped with a sophisticated AWD system that provides secure handling on slick roads. This system distributes torque to each wheel based on factors such as current acceleration and the amount of traction available.
If conditions are especially challenging, you can make handling even more secure by putting the Outback in X-Mode. With X-Mode, the Outback’s AWD engagement is boosted to improve wheel grip.
Decent ground clearance is a must if you plan to take your crossover off-road. If your vehicle comes up short in this area, you run a high risk of damaging its undercarriage with the protruding rocks that are commonly found on fire roads and mountain paths.
Subaru’s Outback stands tall when it comes to ground clearance, offering a healthy 8.7 inches in this area. If you’re looking for a crossover with the mettle to tackle a weekend adventure that veers off the paved path, you’ll like what the Outback has to offer.
Many people choose crossover SUVs for the utility they provide. These haulers are often generously endowed when it comes to cargo capacity, and this makes them excellent choices for those who don’t travel light.
There’s a relatively generous amount of cargo capacity on board the 2018 Outback. With the rear seats in place, you’ll have 35.5 cubic feet on tap to accommodate your belongings, and this figure expands to 73.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
What’s more, all this is executed in a superb way. The Outback’s load floor is almost completely flat, and the cargo area is shaped to maximize utility.
There are also lots of useful utility-related upgrades available, such as a cargo compartment separator that creates a barrier for pets or luggage.
When you’re on the road in your car, you’re sharing space with dozens or hundreds of vehicles, and it isn’t always possible to maintain a clear and complete perspective of what’s around you. This is where driver-assistive technology comes in, serving as an extra pair of eyes whether you’re traveling down a sprawling highway or a congested urban route.
Subaru’s Outback offers a lineup of driver-assistive technology that can guide and protect you on the road. A rearview camera is standard, and the list of available features includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking.
Headlights aren’t necessarily something that most drivers think about when evaluating a vehicle. But if you expect to hit the road at night, capable headlights can help foster safer travels.
New for 2018, the Subaru Outback is available with adaptive LED headlights. LED headlights offer brighter illumination than their halogen counterparts, and adaptive headlights respond to steering inputs to follow the course of the car and brighten the path ahead. If you’re navigating a turn, for example, adaptive headlights will cast illumination that follows the bend.
This Subaru’s optional adaptive LED headlights have the technology to efficiently brighten your path when you’re traveling after dark.
Not all vehicles readily support an outdoor lifestyle. If you like to spend your weekends mountain biking or paddle boarding, it’s a good idea to choose a model that is up for the task of toting the gear you’ll need to indulge in these adventures.
The Outback comes armed to assist you during those times when you want to escape the city and connect with nature. All models are equipped with roof rails that will handily accommodate your gear. Step-side doorsills are also standard, and these allow you to maintain a stable stance when securing items like kayaks and mountain bikes to the Outback’s crossbars.
Driving is often a means to an end. But some models offer the kind of engaging handling that can transform this mundane chore into something more sublime.
The Outback certainly has the goods to elevate your experience behind the wheel. Its suspension is firm enough to keep wallow at bay, yet forgiving enough to prevent cabin occupants from being jarred by potholes and road harshness. The Outback also delivers pleasing rewards with its braking and steering.
Overall, it’s a great pick if you’re looking for a crossover that’s fun to pilot.
Handsome design is great, but sometimes it can negatively affect function. The trend toward higher belt lines and smaller greenhouses has left many vehicles with outward visibility that’s less than ideal.
This Subaru sails into the fray with a tall greenhouse that offers superb sight lines. If you can see it, you can avoid it, so the Outback’s strong outward visibility works to help keep you safe behind the wheel.
Many family haulers these days offer a feature that empowers parents with the ability to set certain parameters when their teens are driving solo.
In some cases, this feature can also be used to generate reports that monitor how teen drivers behave on the road. Parents can use the information provided by these reports to furnish the youngest drivers in their household with useful coaching and guidance.
This teen-driver feature is standard on crossover SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse, but it’s not available on the Outback. This is certainly something to keep in mind if you have a young driver under your roof.
Today’s crossover SUVs are usually built to exist solely within an urban or suburban universe. This can quickly dampen any plans you might have for occasionally trekking into the wild to explore new trails.
The Outback has the refinement you need for travels around town, and it’s also up for the task of venturing off-road. If rain or snow cross your path, the Outback’s standard AWD is ready and waiting to help give you the stable traction you need.
Versatile and capable, this hard-working Subaru shines in a wide range of circumstances.