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New-Generation Subaru Outback Vs Forester, Which Model Is Best For You

Many customers ask, what is the difference between the 2020 Subaru Outback and the 2020 Forester? Here is the complete comparison.

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Subaru shoppers have more questions about the new 2020 Outback and Subaru Forester 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 2020 Subaru Outback and the 2020 Subaru Forester? The new-generation Subaru Outback is a "midsize crossover/wagon“ where the 2020 Forester is a "compact SUV.” Outback looks and feels more like a wagon, Forester looks and feels more like a small sport utility vehicle

2020 Subaru Forester

Comparably equipped, the Outback is about $2,000 more, but now offers a new turbocharged engine option. Some customers prefer Forester’s higher sitting position, 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 and 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 2020 Forester and Outback trims come standard with Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive, 8.7-inches of ground clearance, and both offer a "multi-mode" version of X-Mode, that can be driver-selected to different terrains for off-pavement adventures. 

2020 Subaru Outback

How big is the all-new 2020 Subaru Outback?

The 2020 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 all the seats down Outback offers 75.7 cubic feet, Forester has a bit more with 76.1 cubic feet.

Outback has a bit 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 3 year/36,000 mile comprehensive warranty and a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty.

The big advantage with the 2020 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 earns the highest "Top Safety Pick+" rating. The new 2020 Outback just missed it because of its headlight illumination (glare). Both models come standard with Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist safety technology including the new DriverFocus anti-distraction and convenience system.

Outback vs Forester price

The 2020 Subaru Forester has a starting MSRP of $24,495*. The 2020 Subaru Outback starts at $26,645* (*not including destination and delivery $1,010). Go here to see the various trims to get a better idea of the features and option packages.

You Might Also Like: New Subaru Forester Scores Best Over Mazda CX-5 And Nissan Rogue If You Like To Play In The Dirt

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: Planet Subaru, Subaru USA

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Dona Mow (not verified)    December 16, 2019 - 9:35PM

Would not have the new CVT transmission. Big problems...i will not buy a Subaru without a regular transmission. I now have a 2012 Subaru Forester. Never a problem with tranny, Engine oil usage on the other hand is very bad!

BD (not verified)    December 19, 2019 - 12:01PM

In reply to by Dona Mow (not verified)

Yep, that getting better mileage and instant response for better and smoother power application is horrible.

Gotta love all the naysayers that have no experience with what they are criticizing.