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New 2020 Subaru Outback And Forester Headlights Should Become The New Normal

The 2020 Subaru Outback, Forester, Crosstrek Hybrid and Legacy get the best headlights. Why don’t all models come with new LED projector lamps?

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Some Subaru models come with the best-LED projector headlights like the new 2020 Outback, Forester, Crosstrek Hybrid, and Legacy. They have helped these models get the highest Top Safety Pick+ score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) who just added extra headlight requirements for vehicles to earn the top rating.

According to the IIHS, only 23 vehicles received the Top Safety Pick+ award, down seven from 2019. IIHS President David Harkey told Automotive News that the decrease came from more-stringent criteria for headlights. IIHS now requires vehicles have "good" or "acceptable" headlights as standard equipment to qualify for the 2020 Top Safety Pick+ award. Subaru has four models that do, but why not all models in the all-wheel-drive lineup?

2020 Subaru Outback2020 Subaru Outback features the new LED projector headlights

Why doesn’t Subaru offer the best headlights on all models?

Of those 23 vehicles, only six offer top-rated headlights as standard equipment, the IIHS said: The Genesis G70, the Honda Insight, the Hyundai Nexo, the Lexus NX, the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid and the Tesla Model 3. The gas-powered 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Limited model is the only trim in the standard model that gets the best headlights.

Mazda recently added the "good" or "acceptable" headlights across its entire fleet and picked up the most top pick+ awards (five). Because all its vehicles score highest in crashworthiness, and crash avoidance, if Subaru offered the LED projector headlights as standard equipment on the 2020 Ascent, Crosstrek, Impreza, and WRX, they would have scored 8 top safety pick+ winners, more than any automaker in America.

2020 Subaru Forester2020 Subaru Forester also earns the top IIHS score for its headlights

Harkey says “People don’t use their high beams as often as they should, about half of all traffic fatalities occur between dusk and dawn.” Safer headlights provide “the best balance of visibility and lack of excessive glare for oncoming vehicles,” the IIHS said in a news release.

Should I buy an LED headlight kit and add them to my car?

Subaru owners unhappy with headlight performance can buy LED modification kits online, but safety experts advise against it. The aftermarket lamps are not made for your specific vehicle and its headlight housing could cast light so bright it blinds oncoming traffic. “There’s no reason consumers should have to resort to aftermarket products for headlights,” Harkey said.

Subaru Corporation now includes the top-rated LED projector headlights on the 2020 Outback, Forester, Legacy, and Crosstrek Hybrid models. The Japanese automaker should offer them for the rest of its models and it will become the new normal. It does add additional cost, but car shoppers would pay for the headlights if it means they are getting a safer vehicle.

Reader survey: If all other things are equal. would you choose a vehicle for its headlights if it provides the best visibility?

Watch this video report discussing the benefits of keeping your old Subaru Outback vs buying the 2020 model and click to subscribe to Torque News for daily automotive news analysis.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Subaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!

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Photo credit: Subaru USA

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Joe Boardman (not verified)    February 17, 2020 - 8:39PM

While they are at it get rid of the plastic lenses that invariably fog and make it all moot. I wonder how many people have died from fogged plastic lenses?

Douglas Twedt (not verified)    February 18, 2020 - 3:45AM

My next Outback will be a Limited trim so I can get the LED headlights. Won't buy another car without them. My old eyes need all the help I can get

Nikolay (not verified)    February 18, 2020 - 10:03AM

All you have to do is a bit of research and not buy the cheapest. Quality LEDs will set you back 50-100$ and will be just as good as the ones from the manufacturer. Also, dealers don't have some secret supply, when your light bulbs or LEDs burn out they order the cheapest them from the nearest auto parts store.

ANDY VIEIRA (not verified)    February 18, 2020 - 10:16AM

I work as a tech at Subaru. Had a vehicle come in yesterday with a headlight out. Owner was 3k miles out of warranty. The LED headlights are fixed beam. To replace it requires replacing the entire assembly. $1250 for the part and 3 hours labor to replace it.
If you're happy patting almost $1700 for a headlight, knock yourself out. Otherwise, halogen was, is, and will be for the foreseeable future, the best option.

Stevie (not verified)    February 18, 2020 - 11:06AM

I believe 2019 Foresters built after mid-January 2019 with LED headlights are the top-rated headlights. See IIHS website for details.

Mike (not verified)    February 18, 2020 - 12:15PM

Why did they increase the rating on the Outback from Top Pick tonTop Pick Plus? For models built after 11/1/19, they initially said that there headlights weren't good enough for their top rating. What changed???

Tom (not verified)    February 18, 2020 - 1:33PM

We have a 2019 Forester. Is there any possibility of upgrading to the new headlights through Subaru / dealerships?

e (not verified)    February 18, 2020 - 3:14PM

if you can afford it spring for the best headlights the manufacturer offers, I had HID with auto high beam in my last car (Subaru Legacy) but have adaptive LED headlights in my new Mazda3, and they are a huge improvement -- Adaptive means they swivel into curves, really neat, very effective, and in my car the auto high beam function is equally awesome.

As for aftermarket bulbs in reflector style halogen headlamps please don't do that. with projector styles they are equally not designed for HID or LED inserts, but at least the glare is not as bad.

Jon M Coolidge (not verified)    December 24, 2020 - 7:12PM

I just drove about 90 miles in light snow and had to stop 3 times because I couldn't see. The lenses quickly get covered in ice and become opaque. The lenses are cold to the touch.

While driving behind a white van I literally could not see the difference when I momentarily turned them off. My last stop was 10 miles from home, I had to stop because I live off a country road and had no headlights. By the time I got there I already had almost an eighth of an inch of dirty ice on them, no working headlights at all.

I will be looking for another option, something that produces enough heat to melt that ice.
I don't see how anyone could call these safe, they should be recalled

Isaac Nguyen (not verified)    July 17, 2021 - 4:32PM

I beg to differ on led headlights till they can actually get an led without blue light. 5000-6000k which usually LEDs fall under as far as color temp are not so great in inclement weather. However HIDs which fall usually in the 4300k range have a better time penetrating through snow, fog, and rain better. I have been hesitant buying a newer outback because of this and went with the 17 outback due to it having hid.