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New Subaru Outback XT 2.4L Turbo Vs. Discontinued 3.6L Engine

The Subaru Outback 3.6R is out and the new Outback 2.4-liter turbo XT is in. How do they compare?


When Subaru announced the six-cylinder 3.6-liter Boxer in the Outback was going away, many fans were disappointed. But turbo power is back for the SUV. Powering the 2020 Outback is a newly-available turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer. It’s sourced from the Ascent family hauler.

The all-new 2020 Outback 2.4 XT comes in Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT, and Touring XT models and they are powered by the brand’s all-new direct-injected turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer 4-cylinder that beats the current Outback 3.6R engine’s power specs. The 3.6R develops 256 horsepower and 247 lb. ft of torque. The new XT turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer produces 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque.

More power at lower RPMs

Subaru says the outgoing six-cylinder 3.6R Boxer powerplant sustains just 225 lb-ft of torque from 2,000-6,000 rpm. The new XT turbocharged Outback models benefit from a less broad torque curve, with its 277 lb-ft. of torque achieved from 2,000 rpm through 4,800 rpm. The new Outback XT’s available torque should make a big difference for those pulling a high mountain pass loaded with cargo and people, when pulling a trailer, or climbing a steep mountain trail.

What about fuel economy

The 2019 Outback naturally aspirated six-cylinder 3.6R engine gets an EPA estimated 20/27 city/highway mpg and 22 combined mpg. The new 2020 Outback FA24 2.4-liter engine manufacturer’s estimated fuel economy is 23/30 mpg city/highway with the turbo. Recent reports say the bigger Ascent with the same FA24 2.4-liter turbo isn’t quite getting its 21/27 city highway estimated mpg in the real world.

Why did Subaru ditch the 6-cylinder?

The 3.6R’s demise is no surprise because Subaru Corporation spelled it out in their “Prominence 2020" plan. The plan outlines every Subaru boxer engine will come with the latest Direct Injection technology. Iy also said customers would see smaller turbo engines developing more power and with greater fuel efficiency in the new-generation Subaru vehicles. So far they have produced that in the new Legacy and now Outback.

suvPulling power

When equipped with the turbocharged engine, the next-generation Outback is capable of towing 3,500 lbs. up from the 3.6R’s 2700 lb rating. This is a considerable jump due to all that extra available torque. More pulling power will be available from the 2.4-liter turbo with its peak torque at low rpms. If you are pulling a steep trail the 2.4XT will have plenty of low-rpm grunt to get the job done.

If there is a weak link in the Outback power train it’s the Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission. Subaru has made a commitment to the transmission for its fuel-saving characteristics. On the upside, it does feature an 8-speed manual mode function with steering wheel paddle shifters. Subaru keeps improving their CVT, so we’ll see how it performs with the new turbo engine.

2.5-liter is improved

For those who don’t need more power, Subaru still offers the 2.5-liter normally aspirated Boxer engine in the new Outback. It now features nearly 90 percent new parts, as well as direct injection and auto stop/start, and increased output and fuel efficiency. The new engine produces 182 horsepower and 176 lb.-ft. of torque compared with the outgoing model with 175-hp and 174 lb-ft. of torque. Manufacturer’s estimated fuel economy is 26/33 mpg city/highway for the 2.5-liter.

You May Also Like: How New Subaru 2.4L Turbo Engine Compares To Competition’s V6 Power

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Darrin De May (not verified)    April 22, 2019 - 11:28AM

So when does the Forester get its turbo back? Subaru said it killed The XT option because only 5% of buyers went for it. But now the Outback gets a turbo. What's up, Subaru?

Geoff Edwards (not verified)    April 22, 2019 - 7:09PM

In reply to by Darrin De May (not verified)

If it masks the shitty Cvt, as well as it does in the Levorg GT then it has real potential to be our next car, as long as the power stays the same. We seriously got close to buying Levorg GT but wanted higher clearance and easier entrance when getting in.

Henry Francis (not verified)    May 8, 2019 - 12:17AM

In reply to by Darrin De May (not verified)

I have never put 87 gasoline in my Subaru 3.6 Have never read or been told to put in 87. Also real quick , these small engines putting out these high hp numbers is definitely gonna take a toll on these motors early in it's life . No replacement for displacement.

Daniel (not verified)    May 8, 2019 - 8:00PM

In reply to by Henry Francis (not verified)

Of course, there's replacement for displacement. That is why a relative of mine has a Forester XT that reaches 60 mph in less than 6 seconds, and back then rivaled or beat many V8's on the road. It's also not necessarily true that it's hard on the engine. It depends on how well the engine is built. Also, keep in mind a V8 consumes a minimum amount of gas regardless of what it's doing. When the turbo car is at low rpm's the turbo is not spinning and therefore not putting additional air into the engine (such as at idle or deceleration). A small turbo engine has a huge advantage over a V8 in those situations. And most importantly, if you believe there's no replacement for displacement, why are you driving a V6 anyway?

Aaron (not verified)    May 31, 2019 - 5:19PM

In reply to by Daniel (not verified)

That’s not true. The 2.4L turbo specs don’t even beat the normal passenger car engine specs like Fords 390 and even their 289. Plus late 60s muscle cars. Clocked low 5s in 0-60 time, the only reason why the forester even comes close is because of how many gears. Most muscle cars had 2-4 gears TOTAL, now these modern Subaru’s have 6-8, put a 5 or 6 speed transmission up to those V8s and any Subaru even with a turbo would be by far left in the dust

JeremyK (not verified)    July 31, 2019 - 8:07AM

In reply to by Daniel (not verified)

To add, the turbo engine will significantly outperform a normally aspirated (higher displacement) engine, while running at high altitudes. As stated, a properly designed and validated turbo engine can be very reliable and last well over 150k miles.

stephen (not verified)    March 30, 2020 - 4:37AM

In reply to by Daniel (not verified)

they must have been all out of Outback V8s.
And it's a horizontally opposed Boxer 6 ..... 180 degrees isn't a V configuration no matter how you construe it

Scott Henry (not verified)    December 31, 2020 - 11:03AM

In reply to by Henry Francis (not verified)

I agree 100%. I don't think the longevity of these engines are going to last too long I foresee seeing these engines last at maybe $130,000 miles if you're lucky Subaru you need to quit trying to put big power in small engines with turbos you just can't handle it bring back the old 2.2 EJ series engines bulletproof my car still running strong at $450,000 miles plus only thing I've done to it was head gaskets so whose decision was to get rid of a good engines just so we can buy new cars more often

Melvin Nunez (not verified)    February 12, 2021 - 11:57AM

In reply to by Darrin De May (not verified)

Why discourage drivers adding power is HANDLING PERFORMANCE OF EVERYTHING TO LOVE HIS DRIVES. Why buy Jaguars or Explorer Sports, Audi, etc with twin turbo V6. These people they rather buy the same twin turbos with beneficial BOX ENGINES!! It is just why buy regular cab pickup truck while you can buy 4 door for their comfort!!!

Santa (not verified)    April 22, 2019 - 11:51AM

You completely forgot to mention the 3.6r takes regular gas while the 2.4 turbo XL needs premium gas.

Tom (not verified)    May 16, 2020 - 1:45AM

In reply to by JeremyK (not verified)

I'd have to agree and disagree with you to some extent. Being and owner of a turbo engine vehicle which is a 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.0 AWD. Sure i can drive it around with 87 octane just fine. But you better believe i take a hit on torque using that low grade fuel on the highway and when i need to merge. And the same would apply for most any turbo engine. They are capable of taking regular gas but if you bought a turbo engine and want ALL of it's available torque then you should be using premium or at the very least mid grade fuel. Now you can compensate for this by using low grade fuel and adding in an octane booster additive into your gas tank. But your still not going to see the same numbers as using premium fuel. Therefore, the 3.6r Subaru engines using regular fuel are going to out perform these new turbo engines Subaru has decided to go with in the 2020 models. When i test drove a 2.5 vs 3.6r 2017 outback limited model the difference was quite literally night and day. Not to mention even though Subaru sold more 2.4 engines then 3.6r engines. The 4cyl had FAR FAR more engine problems and oil leak issues opposed to the 6cyl which is pretty much bullet proof. So if i were in the market for an Outback or Legacy i would DEFINITELY go with an older model 3.6r no doubt about it just for the sake of long-term reliability.

Proud Subaru owner (not verified)    July 18, 2020 - 10:40PM

In reply to by Tom (not verified)

Octane dont get you tork, it slow the detonation of the spark plusgs. No gain i. Hp either. Read about it, before aferming something you clearly dont know about.

steve (not verified)    March 30, 2020 - 4:41AM

In reply to by Gman (not verified)

here's another then ... Mazda Signature 2.5 turbo.
As a rule the Japanese seem to be able to do this and their cars can be used anywhere with poor octane fuel - whereas the Germans want top octane for their power producing turbo engines.
Any possible mpg advantages are null and void when total cost of premium fuel is factored in

Mikey (not verified)    June 19, 2019 - 5:27PM

In reply to by Santa (not verified)

Not sure about the new 2.4 turbo, but I've had two turbos (older one 2.5L; the more recent a 2.0L) and both "recommend" premium but grades of at least 87 octane will work. Caveat is that with lower octane, the power/torque is less plus I've found fuel economy drops with regular. I speak from experience. Premium is worth it if you want power with reasonable fuel economy. #Pay4Power.

Patrick (not verified)    November 26, 2020 - 7:12PM

In reply to by Santa (not verified)

Santa is completely wrong on this. I own a 2020 Outback Limited XT. The 2.4 XT turbo engine is designed to operate with regular gasoline. That is what the owners manual recommends and all I have ever pumped into my XT. It still runs great and will reach 60 mph in 6.1 seconds.

Mark Wynn (not verified)    August 6, 2019 - 11:37PM

In reply to by Ray Kent (not verified)

The 3.6 flat six mated with the CVT provides seamless power in my wife's 2017 Outback Touring. It's fast and very smooth. The flat 4 did not perform as smoothly with the CVT. This corresponds with CU's testing on the 2017 Outback models. I'm suspect of the longevity of a Surbaru turbo flat four. I had a fast Volvo turbo wagon, stick, in the 1990s, but Volvo overbuilt their strong engines and it was still going strong at 120,000 miles.