Subaru shoppers have more questions about the 2021 Subaru Forester and the 2021 Outback than any other models. They are close in size, and customers want to know which model is best for them and their particular needs. Here is a complete breakdown of the two most popular Subaru models.
What is the difference between the Subaru Forester and the Outback?
The new-generation 2021 Subaru Outback is a "midsize crossover/wagon, "where the fifth-generation Forester is a "compact SUV." Outback looks and feels more like a wagon and drives like a car, where the Forester looks and feels more like a small sport utility vehicle.
Comparably equipped, the Outback is about $2,000 more but offers a new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine option. Some customers prefer Forester's higher sitting position and outward visibility, and other drivers prefer the Outback's smoother ride and European handling.
Because the Outback has a longer wheelbase (four inches longer than the Forester), the wagon offers a smoother ride because the vehicle's corners cover a larger area. Therefore, bumps are less noticeable.
Both Outback and Forester ride on the new Subaru Global Platform, giving both cars superior handling and crash absorption abilities. All 2021 Forester and Outback trims come standard with Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive, 8.7-inches of ground clearance, and both offer a "dual-function" version of X-Mode that can be driver-selected to different terrains for off-pavement adventures.
How big is the 2021 Subaru Outback?
The Subaru Outback is almost two inches wider and eight inches longer, while Forester is two inches taller. Both have excellent outward visibility, with Forester being the best with larger greenhouse windows. The Outback has 32.5 cubic feet of cargo-carrying ability with the seats up; Forester has 35.4 cubes. With the seats down, Outback offers 75.7 cubic feet; Forester has a bit more with 76.1 cubic feet.
Outback has slightly more space for people with 109 cubic feet and Forester 107.8 cubes. Rear legroom is very similar, with Outback scoring 39.5 inches and Forester 39.4 inches of rear legroom.
What is the difference in engine power?
Standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engines in both cars produce 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque and run on regular unleaded gasoline. Both come with a Lineartronic CVT automatic (Continually Variable Transmission). Both get an EPA estimated 26/33 city/highway mpg. They both come with a three-year/36,000-mile comprehensive warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The significant advantage with the Outback is it comes with an optional 2.4-liter turbocharged engine producing 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. It gets an estimated 23/30 city/highway mpg. If you need more power to carry extra cargo and passengers up a high mountain pass, the Outback XT turbo is the better choice for you. You can read our full test of the 2.4-liter vs. 2.5-liter engine here.
What if I want to tow a small trailer or camper?
If you need to tow a small trailer Outback has 2700 lbs of towing capacity with the standard 2.5-liter engine and 3,500 lbs with the optional 2.4-liter turbocharged engine. Forester has a maximum towing capacity of 1,500 lbs.
How safe is the Forester vs. Outback?
In the latest IIHS crash tests, Forester and Outback earn the highest "Top Safety Pick+" rating. Both models come standard with Subaru's EyeSight driver-assist safety technology, including the new DriverFocus anti-distraction and convenience system.
What is the price of the 2021 Subaru Forester?
The 2021 Forester comes in five trim levels, and the base trim has an MSRP of $25,845, Premium ($28,845), Sport ($30,445), Limited ($32,445), and Touring ($35,945). Pricing includes $1,050 destination.
What is the price of the 2021 Subaru Outback?
The 2021 Outback comes in seven trim levels, base $27,845, Premium ($30,095), Limited ($34,645), Onyx Edition XT ($36,195), Limited XT ($38,545), Touring ($39,045), and Touring XT ($40,995). Pricing includes $1,050 destination.
We give the nod to the 2021 Subaru Outback over the 2021 Subaru Forester for three reasons. The Outback offers a car-like ride but has the utility of an SUV. The Outback provides the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine with the added power for active customers, and three, the Outback has more towing capacity. We think there is a clear winner.
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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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