Unless you really need three rows of seats, the 2018 Subaru Outback is the sensible SUV alternative.
Draw a Venn diagram of new vehicles available today and you’ll find the 2018 Subaru Outback in the very center where SUVs, crossovers, and passenger cars intersect. It’s a low-compromise tall wagon that delivers more capability, more capacity, and more comfort than just about any of us will ever need.
The 2018 Outback’s 7.8 overall score is a reflection of its ability to tackle any task with aplomb—and some exceptionally well. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the Outback has revised styling outside, new wheel designs, an updated infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and myriad tweaks designed to reduce wind, road, and engine roar. It all adds up to a slight improvement of an already impressive vehicle.
Four Outback trims are available—base, Premium, Limited, and Touring. A 2.5-liter inline-4 is standard, while a smoother, more powerful, and thirstier 3.6-liter flat-6 is optional on Limited and Touring trims. All Outbacks come standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance. They’re not serious off-roaders, but these tall wagons can scrabble up more challenging obstacles than anything short of a Jeep Wrangler or a Toyota 4Runner.
Despite that capability, the Outback’s road manners are more akin to a luxury sedan. The base 4-cylinder that powers the vast majority of Outbacks can feel a little gruff, but it’s adequately powerful and returns 32 mpg on the highway. The optional 6-cylinder delivers better acceleration, especially with a full load of passengers and cargo, but it doesn’t transform the Outback into a rocket and its fuel-economy hit may be hard to justify for some shoppers. All versions boast crisp handling and a composed ride even when smooth pavement turns into a bumpy trail.
Base Outbacks are less basic this year in terms of standard equipment with the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the more popular Outback Premium comes with a power driver’s seat, an updated infotainment system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated front seats. The Limited piles on leather upholstery, blind-spot monitors, and Harman Kardon audio, while new range-topping Touring includes LED headlights, a heated steering wheel, and automatic emergency braking.
Every Outback includes eight airbags and all but the base trim level are available with the automaker’s EyeSight suite of safety equipment—automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and lane departure warnings. With EyeSight fitted, the Outback earns a commendable Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS.