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2021 Subaru Outback Vs An SUV - What It Isn’t And How It Matches Up

How does the 2021 Subaru Outback compare with an SUV? See why the Outback might be a better fit than a bigger SUV.

The 2021 Subaru Outback is a rare breed of the automobile that doesn't fit nicely in any vehicle segment. Is the Outback a sport utility vehicle, crossover, or a wagon? The lines have become blurred as the compact SUV and mid-size SUV category exploded in the last few years. According to recent sales reports, nine out of 20 vehicles sold in North America last year were SUVs or crossovers. Where does the Outback fit in with the others?

According to BuyaCar, another vehicle category may fit the Outback better than SUV. Another term in the U.S. for the popular family hauler is the Sport Utility "Sport-Ute." This category describes what the Outback is and does for consumers. Sport Utes come with four-wheel drive, can be taken off-road, and offer an SUV utility.

2021 Subaru Outback, features, specs

Sport-Ute goes beyond what an SUV can do. It means that the multi-purpose vehicle can get things done off-pavement and has a quality made for the outdoors, such as scaling different terrains. Sport-Ute describes the Outback to a "T."

The 2021 Subaru Outback is a handful of models that come standard with a full-time all-wheel-drive system, and customers won't pay extra to get it. It also comes with 8.-7 inches of ground clearance, more than many SUVs.

2021 Subaru Outback, features, specs

The Outback also offers the utility and versatility of an SUV with 32.5 cubic feet of cargo-carrying space with the rear seats up. And 75.7 cubes with the seats folded flat. It's not as much as many larger SUVs, but it offers a car's driving dynamics.

How does the Outback compare to SUVs in power and fuel economy? Please read our full report here.

The Outback rides on the new Subaru Global Platform that smoothes out the bumps and offers superior handling. If you don't need a large SUV, the Outback is more nimble in the city and will carve the mountain curves with ease.

Arguably the most significant reason consumers would choose the Outback over an SUV is the outdoor-ready model outperforms most larger SUVs off-road. It's a go-to choice for those with active lifestyles who will use the vehicle for more than a grocery hauler and commuter.

Subaru now offers the Outback Onyx Edition XT trim, offering a dual-function X-Mode feature for deep snow and deep mud settings. You can take the Outback places the average SUV will get stuck and leave you stranded. Please read our review of the new Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT below.

The 2021 Subaru Outback is a Sport Ute offering the right mix of cargo-carrying ability, superior driving dynamics, interior comfort, and off-pavement abilities.

You Might Also Like: 7 Cool Features You’ll Find On The New Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT - And One It's Missing

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 and the founder of 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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Photo credit: Subaru USA, Competition Subaru


Joe W (not verified)    September 13, 2020 - 6:20PM

I don't see how a "sport utility" or "sport ute" is different from an SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle)

ASC (not verified)    September 14, 2020 - 6:31AM

Most SUVs are "mommy's highchair" for carline and shopping use. Available equipment and finishes reinforce that. Their drive systems check off boxes related to traction credibility for the winter or off road function but are not in the top of the builders' or buyers' concerns, their function when specifically tests and compare them proves such.

ASC (not verified)    September 14, 2020 - 9:29AM

Series II Land Rover 109" Station Wagon= Utility Vehicle
Ladder frame, off road drive focus

Toyota 4Runner= Sport Utility Vehicle
Ladder frame, HVAC, quality seating for passengers

Nissan Rogue= Crossover
unibody, platform share from family of vehicles.

Griz (not verified)    January 16, 2022 - 2:09PM

SUVs are practical, have good visibility, and are easier to get into and out of than sedans or coupes, And they're not just for women. I've been driving sport utes continuously since before they even started calling them sport utes, starting with a 1966 Ford Bronco I bought in 1967.