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New 2020 Subaru Outback's Top Safety Streak Ends, Legacy Continues

The all-new 2020 Subaru Outback and Legacy earn safety awards from IIHS. See why Legacy scores highest and the new Outback’s top safety streak ends.

Most new cars, and especially Subaru vehicles, get better safety ratings when the redesigned model comes out not worse scores. But that is what happened with the new 2020 Outback. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has just announced the newly-redesigned 2020 Subaru Outback earns a Top Safety Pick award, and its stablemate Legacy earns the highest Top Safety Pick + award.

The Subaru Outback has an exceptional safety rating and has been a Top Safety Pick+ winner for the last six years (2013-2019) but gets downgraded for the new 2020 model redesign. Automakers work hard at getting the highest rating and it’s a major event to go backward in safety scores.

Why did Legacy sedan outscore the Outback SUV/Crossover model?

2020 Subaru Outback rear view and IIHS safety award2020 Subaru Outback

According to the IIHS, the Outback’s impressive top safety pick plus streak ends because of its headlights. Their explanation is a bit confusing but the IIHS says new Outback’s Top Safety Pick “rating applies to its base headlights as well as its available curve-adaptive LEDs on models built after October 2019. The curve-adaptive lights on earlier models rate marginal.”

For 2013-2019 Model Year Outback models, ratings were given for 3 different headlight variations available on the vehicle with an overall rating of “Good” earning the Outback a Top Safety Pick+ award.

2020 Subaru Outback side view2020 Subaru Legacy

2019 versus 2020 Outback headlights

For the 2020 model Outback, the IIHS ratings were also given for 3 different headlight variations available on the vehicle with an overall rating of “Acceptable” downgrading the Outback to a Top Safety Pick award. The difference between 2020 models versus 2019 vehicles is the IIHS notes low beams created “Some Glare” on the new 2020 Outback, and says “low beams never exceeded glare limits” on 2019 models.

Should customers be concerned the 2020 Outback has been downgraded from earning a Top Safety Pick+ award to a Top Safety Pick winner? In all other IIHS crashworthiness tests, Like the 2019 models, the 2020 Subaru Outback earned a rating of Good, and its front crash prevention vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian systems earned a Superior rating.

2020 Subaru Outback headlight

To sum it up, the 2020 Subaru Outback’s six-year Top Safety Pick+ award streak ends because of “some glare” from the SUVs headlights. Customers will be as safe in 2020 models as the previous-generation models.

You Might Also Like: Subaru Created Amazing Success With The New Outback No Automaker Will Ever Duplicate

Denis Flierl has invested nearly 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on FacebookTwitterInstagramSubaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates!

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Michaela (not verified)    November 24, 2019 - 10:00AM

I have the new 2020 Outback and I have lost 2 MPG difference in gas from my 2016! Not happy about that! 29.8 to 27.7 , how does this happen? Same engine power.

John Hollabaugh (not verified)    November 24, 2019 - 2:18PM

IIHS should be testing how well a person in the car withstands the effects of an accident. Making headlight performance the difference between Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus just let's manufacturers pick the easy route. Instead of redesigning the car to fit better working lights, just put LED headlights in. Sounds great, except you just raised the cost of a headlight from a $25 bulb to a nonserviceable LED at $1500 each. Huge increase to car costs and no evidence that brighter headlights prevent accidents, actually might blind oncoming drivers and cause accidents. I do not see how increasing the cost of headlights for most cars is offset by any increase in safety. IIHS should be studying how to protect me from the distracted driver's out to kill me everyday. Reward technology that limits distraction and not create a greater accident risk from blinded drivers.

Kary (not verified)    November 25, 2019 - 5:54PM

My truck came with the regular old fashioned headlights, and so gets dinged in the safety scores. Last night I was driving it on a dark country road for the first time. The low beams were more than adequate. High beams on the other hand didn't seem to have the same power as other high beams.

Anyway, I don't even really pay attention to headlight ratings because so much of my driving is urban where it doesn't really matter--the lights allow you to be seen more than see.

JMSoob (not verified)    November 29, 2019 - 6:19PM

Can you explain to me the differences between the
2020 steering responsive headlights for touring / limited vs. the OYNX edition which has no SRH feature. None of these are base.

Can you help me understand how they scored? IIHS site was terrible,