Subaru Outback ›› 2018 ›› 2018 Subaru Outback

2018 Subaru Outback

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Overview (Final Score: A)

Few vehicles are as immediately recognizable as the Subaru Outback. The Outback has a loyal fan base that has, not surprisingly, been expanding as the popularity of smaller crossovers grows. Smart marketing, a well-deserved reputation for reliability, and excellent capability and versatility are selling points for any Subaru vehicle, including the Outback.

For the 2018 model year, the Subaru Outback sees a few updates, including a new front fascia, more aerodynamic side mirrors, new infotainment and a new center console design. The 2018 Outback otherwise remains the same as last year's family-friendly midsize crossover.

The five-passenger wagon-styled 2018 Subaru Outback is available in six trim levels, two of which include the larger six-cylinder engine. All Outback models come with all-wheel drive and an automated transmission as standard.

What We Love About the 2018 Subaru Outback:

  • Interior experience is excellent with plenty of room for everyone

  • Fuel economy is good and translates well into the real world

  • Capable and confident performance in all weather conditions and most light off-road excursions


What We Don't Love About the 2018 Subaru Outback:

  • Drive quality is not as fun as some competitors

  • Smaller configurable cargo space than most true crossovers

  • Engine power delivery is more deliberate and slow than most competitors'



Exterior View (9/10)

The 2018 Subaru Outback carries the Outback model's unique appeal, with station-wagon styling and crossover underpinnings. Larger than most wagons in or near the segment, the Outback has more ground clearance and a bigger cargo space than many similar cars. Changes for the 2018 model year add more crossover-SUV looks than it had before.

The most notable exterior changes are to the front fascia. The grille and bumper cover are more aggressive than before, with added highlights below to accentuate the approach angle of the Outback. The headlamps are a bit narrower, with integrated LED running lights. On the sides, the 2018 Outback has slightly narrower-appearing mirrors to reduce road noise and improve aerodynamics. Visibility through those mirrors is unchanged and remains very good.

At the rear of the 2018 Outback, the hatch and bumper are a bit flatter and more aggressive to match the front fascia's new look. The upper spoiler above the rear window glass is a little less accented as well, aiding that look.

As in Outbacks of the past, the upper-level Touring trim adds exterior elements and details not found on other trims. These include exclusive alloy wheel options and darker trim offsets.


Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (10/10)

The 2018 Subaru Outback's interior elements are similar to those in the Legacy model. This is a step away from the usual Impreza-based interiors in Subaru's other models. The Legacy and Outback are more upscale in feel and accouterments, which befits their intended buyers.

Upgrades to this Outback generation add more rear seat legroom, more shoulder room throughout the cabin and a bit more usable cargo space. More soft-touch materials and higher-quality workmanship continue the Outback's move upward in comfort.

Five adults can sit comfortably in the 2018 Outback. Something that can't be said of similar-sized rivals. Legroom improvements mean that even the big and tall will be just fine in the back seat. Cargo space is also excellent in the, at 73.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The low loading floor and wide opening make it easier to access and the seats fold truly flat. The roof rails on the Outback can be used to carry cargo and have integrated crossbars that can be deployed and stowed as needed.

The overall ambiance and appeal of the 2018 Subaru Outback's interior is good. We like the layout and feel for the driver. One sore point includes the bad placement of the steering wheel heat toggle.

During our week with the Outback, we managed to fit two adults, three children and camping gear for a night in the mountains. That's pretty impressive.

Technology (10/10)

The 2018 Subaru Outback has an improved infotainment system this model year. The base model retains the 6.2-inch touchscreen interface and a larger 7-inch screen is the upgrade option, but standard in some trim points.

For 2018, additions to infotainment include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which were not available before - solving our chief complaint about earlier model years. The new console design accommodates the infotainment screen nicely and reduces glare compared to the previous look. Another bonus.


Fuel Economy (9/10)

There are two powertrain options for the 2018 Outback: a four-cylinder and a six-cylinder. The EPA rates the four-cylinder engine at 28 mpg combined, with 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway. Our time in that model last year proved those numbers to be close to accurate in the real world.

The six-cylinder model is EPA-rated at 22 mpg combined, with 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway. This year we received numbers close to that in our test of this model, at 21 mp combined.

Both of these ratings are good for the segment when AWD is included in the comparison, and both are likely to pan out for owners in the real world.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (10/10)

There are no reliability ratings for 2018 model year vehicles, as of this writing, but the 2018 Subaru Outback is virtually mechanically identical to the 2017 and 2016 model years. In both those model years, the Outback received excellent scores from the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study. The Subaru brand has high reliability expectations as well.

Safety (10/10)

For several years, Subaru vehicles have received top or nearly top scores for safety across the board. The 2018 Outback received a 5-Star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with five stars each for frontal and side crash results, and four stars for rollover. That's about as good as it gets in the crossover segments.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Outback high marks for crash safety. The 2018 Subaru Outback received top scores of "Good" on all crash tests and historically has been a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ recipient. We expect that to continue this year when those ratings are announced.


Performance (8/10)

There are two engine options for the 2018 Outback, starting with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 175 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. This engine, found on all 2.5i models, is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in standard all-wheel drive. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard.

The 2.5, which we drove last year, is a respectable little powerplant that outputs enough power to give the Outback confidence in most driving situations. It is not a speedster nor a hill climber, and can grumble and complain when the load is heavy or the going gets rough. It's a good powerplant, though. Most shoppers will find it satisfactory for the majority of their driving needs.

The 3.6R models are powered by a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine that outputs 256 hp into a similar CVT. AWD is, again, standard. This engine is more robust and offers a lot more confidence. It also adds towing as a possibility in the Outback, with up to 2,700 pounds of capacity.

We liked the 3.6 and enjoyed the boxer-style engine's smooth power delivery and easy confidence. Fuel economy was still good for the class, and the Outback had no struggle when fully loaded with people and cargo.

Our chief complaint with the 2018 Outback is the same as it's been in the past. The engines may be strong and the car may be well made, but it's lackluster on the road, at best. The Outback is not a sports car, nor does it pretend to be. But with little input from the road and not much in terms of fun dynamics in turns and climbs, it's a bit boring.

Most Subaru Outback owners probably won't mind this, of course. We feel that a little fun factor never hurt anyone and with so many offerings in the segment now adding a bit of turbo or harrumph to their drives, we'd like to see Subaru do the same.

Pricing and Value (9/10)

At its base level, the 2018 Subaru Outback is more expensive than most of its competitors. Yet AWD is included for that extra money. The Outback is on par with competitors when apples are compared in the bushel. Most Outback buyers are likely to jump up a couple of trims to get more content. We wouldn't blame them.

The Premium-level trim is an excellent choice for its added accouterments and better technology. The Limited is also a good choice, especially if the six-cylinder engine is desired. We'd shy away from the Touring trim unless every gadget on the list is a must-have. We highly recommend Subaru's EyeSight system no matter the trim, for its added safety and excellence in driver convenience delivery.

Value for the Outback is also bolstered by Subaru's historically high resale values, which are the best in the business.


Total Score and Competitive Comparison (75/80, 94%)

As in previous years, the 2018 Subaru Outback is our highest-rated vehicle in the segment. There are few options similar to the Outback in style and capability, though some try to come close.

The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack and its Audi A4 Allroad sibling are similar, but both have less ground clearance and smaller interiors. Price-wise, the Alltrack is a bit cheaper than the Outback, but the Allroad is much more expensive. Buick's new Regal TourX is priced similarly to higher-trim Outback models, but has none of the capability.

Larger crossover competitors such as the Kia Sorento and Ford Edge are equals to the Outback in terms of capability and price, but have a more conventional SUV style compared to the Subaru's wagon. Buyers looking for more cargo might consider the Subaru Forester as an option against these larger rivals.

The 2018 Subaru Outback is a unique specimen in the marketplace. It's a top choice for solid reasons and definitely well worth the money spent. Growing sales figures attest to that, as do the glowing reviews here and throughout the automotive sphere.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
2.5i 4 Cylinder AWD 25895
Premium 2.5i Premium 4 Cylinder AWD 27995
Limited 2.5i Limited 4 Cylinder AWD 32695
Limited 3.6R Limited 6 Cylinder AWD 35395
Touring 2.5i Touring 4 Cylinder AWD 36490
Touring 3.6R Touring 6 Cylinder AWD 38690

Comparison of 2018 Subaru Outback with Similar Cars

2018 Subaru Outback MSRP Invoice
2018 Subaru Outback $25,895 $24,360
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2018 Nissan Rogue $24,800 $23,478 Subaru Outback VS Nissan Rogue
2018 Honda CR-V $24,250 $22,775 Subaru Outback VS Honda CR-V
2018 Toyota RAV4 $24,660 $23,057 Subaru Outback VS Toyota RAV4
2018 Jeep Cherokee $24,395 $24,240 Subaru Outback VS Jeep Cherokee
2018 Kia Sorento $25,900 $24,903 Subaru Outback VS Kia Sorento

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2018 Subaru Outback ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2018 Subaru Outback rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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