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New Subaru Forester Still Can’t Beat Outback In 2 Key Areas

The 2019 Subaru Outback is here and so is the all-new 2019 Forester. Outback still beats Forester in two key areas.


The 2019 Subaru Outback is making its dealer launch and arrives with a few changes for the 2019 model year. It’s been leading the Forester in sales all year until last month when Subaru of America sold more Foresters (13,453 units) than Outbacks (12,895). Outback still leads year-to-date, but Forester could overtake Outback as the all-new fifth-generation models arrive this month. Outback still beats the new Forester in two key areas.

3.6R vs 2.5i

Even though the new 2019 Forester gets upgrades in safety, interior room and improved driving dynamics, the popular Outback SUV/Crossover still beats the small SUV in power. The Outback is offered with two engines, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine with 175-hp and the 3.6-liter six-cylinder Boxer producing 256-hp. Forester only offers one engine for 2019.

All fifth-generation Foresters only come with one engine option. The new Forester 2.5-liter powerplant comes with direct injection, higher compression, along with active valve control system (AVCS). The engine produces 182-hp and 176 lb-ft of torque, versus 170-hp and 174 lb-ft in the previous-generation Forester. If you need more power, customers will need to buy the Outback 3.6R Limited or Touring models which offer the bigger six-cylinder Boxer engine.

1,200 more lbs.

The Subaru Outback has a 2,700 lb. tow rating with the optional 3.6-liter engine, but Forester’s powertrain only allows up to 1,500-lb. towing capacity. Many owners are looking for an all-wheel-drive vehicle that will tow a small camper, sailboat or multi-purpose trailer. A Forester SUV can tow a small utility trailer, but for anything bigger, you'll need the Outback. 

Customers who want the larger 3.6-liter 6-cylinder Boxer engine in the Subaru Outback will need to buy a 2019 model because it’s likely going away after this year. The new-generation models, when they arrive sometime next year, will likely be powered by new twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine similar to the new 2019 Ascent. So if you still want the larger displacement 2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R, you have one more year before they are a thing of the past.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Tom B (not verified)    October 20, 2018 - 10:04PM

The Outback Touring model with 3.6R is an amazing it has all the styling of a fine luxury car and all the power of a superb touring car. The at gets great gas mileage I hope they reconsider doing away with 3.6 motor!!

Ed B (not verified)    October 26, 2018 - 8:09AM

In reply to by Tom B (not verified)

Tom B. Sorry, the H6 will be history based on all indications. As long as they replace with the new turbo (housed in the Ascent) there should be no problems transitioning to the 2020 model. The added bonus is regular gas.

Mark O Weiner (not verified)    October 20, 2018 - 10:36PM

Unless Subaru Outback changed something...the 2.5 FOUR has a tow rating of 2,700 pounds and the 3.6 H6...has a tow rating of 3,000 pounds.

J G (not verified)    October 21, 2018 - 8:44AM

Get better at research, seeing how it is your job. The 2019 outback can tow 2700 lbs regardless of the equipped engine. I repeat, you do not get extra towing capacity with the 3.6L engine. The CVT and suspension/frame are the limiting factors here. Just because you have an English degree doesn't mean you'll succeed when writing about topics you know very little about.

Sam (not verified)    October 21, 2018 - 9:28AM

Any chance Subaru will bring back a manual transmission for the Outback? Used to be that Subaru and Sticks were synonymous. I wish that was still the case...

Pssst3 (not verified)    October 21, 2018 - 10:37AM

These are two different class vehicles - a compact and a midsize. The physically larger one has a more powerful engine and more load capacity.

Basing a comparison on these well known and thus totally predictable differences, as if it were a competition, says more about the writer and editor than the vehicles.

Ed B (not verified)    October 22, 2018 - 9:54AM

I'm not sure what the point is here. As noted by Pssst3, we're talking two different vehicles and classes - why compare apples and oranges? I've always been an advocate for power and my dissappointment for the one size fits all engine approach on the 2019 Forester is well known on this site. It's hard to believe that some engineer at Subaru didn't note that adding weight and dimension would impact towing capacity and make for a slower vehicle, even with the a slight bump in torque. We can only hope Subaru doesn't take the one size fits all engine approach to the 2020 Outback. Surely, more than 5% of their sales can be attributed to the H6 engine. If you want one engine, simply put the new 260HP (Ascent engine) in the new Outback. A cut in power will probably put a dent in Outback sales.

Les Price (not verified)    October 26, 2018 - 4:50PM

Surprised that this article doesn't mention that the 2019 Forester has the dreaded auto start stop system - yes you can turn it off, but it comes back on the next time you start the car. The delay-jerk is very annoying and certainly put stress on the starter and battery which will reduce long term reliability. That was a deal breaker for me. Fortunately the Outback doesn't have it (yet). Bad corporate decision by Subaru, especially since the real gain in mileage is insignificant.