Skip to main content

Review: 2018 Subaru Outback; Strong In All Areas You Really Care About

The top-trim 2018 Subaru Outback Touring is strong in all the areas you'll really care about. What makes it a good choice for adventure enthusiasts?

It’s surprising that a wagon is Subaru of America’s best-selling model. It’s made in Indiana, and Americans are buying lots of the newly-upgraded Outback. It comes with a number of new improvements for consumers for the 2018 model year that should keep it the best-selling model in the lineup. It’s a multi-purpose vehicle that recreation enthusiasts are buying because of its utility, all-wheel-drive and higher ground clearance. This week we drive the top of the line 2018 Outback 3.6R Touring trim.

What’s new for 2018?

It’s not due for a complete remodel for 2 more years, so it doesn’t get the new Subaru Global Platform yet. But the 2018 Outback wagon, built in Lafayette, Indiana, does get significant improvements to interior comfort, driving dynamics, safety technology, and multimedia capability over the outgoing model.

The Outback for 2018 is now quieter inside and it also gets refreshed exterior styling. It gets new headlights, redesigned door mirrors with improved aerodynamics and reduced wind noise. All Outback trim levels now include a tire pressure monitoring system with individual wheel pressure display.

This year's Outback comes with the latest technology, too. All 2018 Outback trims now come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as part of its updated touchscreen display.

Refreshed exterior design language

For 2018, the SUV-alternative Outback features refreshed front styling and gets wider, lower grille openings and a new bumper. For owners who take the wagon off-road, Subaru redesigned the front cladding to provide extra protection from mud and stones when the vehicle is driven off pavement. The headlights have also been redesigned with “Konoji” daytime LED running lights.

Features and options

The 2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring ($38,690) comes standard with Symmetrical all-wheel drive, 8.7-in. of ground clearance, X-Mode, Hill Descent Control and Hill Holder, making it a capable all-weather hauler. It’s also a popular recreation-purposed vehicle enabling outdoor enthusiasts to take the vehicle to the back country, and even off-road on the weekend.

This Outback 3.6R Touring tester came with a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, a front bumper under guard, keyless ignition and entry, Java Brown leather upholstery, driver-seat memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat, rear air vents, heated steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, heated front and rear seats and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

Touring models also have different 18-inch wheels, dark exterior trim, fixed low-profile roof rails without crossbars, wood grain interior trim, power moonroof, fog lights and power rear gate.

This tester came with Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist safety system with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights and upgraded gauges. It also includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Outback Touring version includes navigation, reverse automatic braking for rear collisions and steering-responsive LED headlights. Total MSRP including destination: $39,605.

Interior highlights

Subaru interiors have come a long way and the Outback Touring gets the best materials. The Java Brown premium leather seats with ivory stitching added a touch of class and luxury to the top trim model along with unique woodgrain interior finish and piano-black switch panels accents to set it apart from lower trims.


The interior has plenty of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin on the dash, window sills and door inserts. The controls are all easy to find, are well laid out, and are driver focused. It’s easy to find the perfect driving position for any family member with the 10-way driver’s power seat. Front seats are comfortable and won’t leave you tired after a long trip behind the wheel.

You will find all the latest technology in this year’s Outback. All trims now feature Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as part of its updated 8-inch multi-media touchscreen display. You won’t have to take your eyes off the road with the steering wheel audio, Bluetooth and cruise control switches.

In the rear, there's decent headroom, good elbow room and knee room and larger adults won’t feel cramped if you are taking a long trip to the high country. There’s 35.5 cu. ft. of volume with the seats up and 73.3 cubic feet of interior cargo room with the rear seats folded flat for extra cargo carrying ability. We took the Outback to the big box store for supplies and my wife liked the power rear lift gate for easy loading.

Engine and fuel mileage specs

The Outback Touring comes with the larger 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine producing 256 horsepower and 247 lb. ft of torque. All Outback models come standard with Symmetrical AWD and Active Torque Vectoring for all-weather capability. The 3.6R comes mated with a newly-upgraded Lineartronic CVT automatic (continuously variable transmission) featuring a seven-speed manual mode and steering wheel paddle shifters.

EPA/DOT fuel mileage estimates come in at 20/27 city/highway mpg and 22 combined mpg using regular unleaded fuel. There’s a large 18.5 gal fuel tank so you won’t have to stop as often on your trips away from civilization.

Driving dynamics

The Outback is classified as a wagon, but it’s a blend of SUV and crossover which makes it an all-purpose vehicle. It’s why it’s the best selling “wagon” in America. When you get behind the wheel, it feels like you are driving in a tall-riding car.

Although it's lower to the ground than most typical SUVs, the height from the driver seat feels more SUV than wagon. My wife commented how easy it is to slide in and out of the Outback, where some SUVs you have to climb up to get in. It doesn’t feel too big and it’s easy to maneuver in the city.

We especially like the new rear-view camera that displays guidelines on the screen that move in sync with the steering to show the driver where the vehicle is positioned. It came in handy one dark foggy morning backing out of our mountain driveway. The graphics are clear and it helps you from hitting an object.

The side windows are large and there’s a big rear window making for minimal blind spots and overall good visibility, unlike some SUVs and crossovers with a raked roof. The side mirrors are large and we noticed the redesigned LED turn signals in the mirrors that are easier to see, and warn you of a vehicle in your blind spot. We aren’t too excited about the new automatic locking doors. It’s annoying when a passenger wants in after you’ve been underway, and you fumble to open the doors.

On the road, the Outback has a relaxed ride, isn’t too firm and we noticed the cabin is quieter than the outgoing model. For 2018, the wagon gets noise-reducing laminated front side glass and the side mirrors are more aerodynamic. The 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine has plenty of power for all driving situations. It’s the largest engine Subaru makes and it offers up plenty of power even at attitude heading into the mountains west of Denver. You won’t have any problem hauling gear and passengers for a trip to the ski slopes.


The top-trim 2018 Subaru Outback Touring is strong in all the areas you'll really care about. It offers up abundant interior volume, a near-luxury cabin, standard in-car technology, all-weather off-road capability, good fuel economy for a family hauler, and the latest safety features.

With its 73.3 cubic feet of interior cargo volume, 60/40-split fold-down rear seats, and low-profile roof rails, you'll be able to bring all your toys and outdoor supplies for your outdoor adventures. Outback is a capable multi-purposed crossover/SUV that's useful for just about any situation.

Photo credit: Subaru USA


Ed B (not verified)    April 12, 2018 - 9:27AM

The Outback's transition to the new global platform will be interesting. I really hope Subaru doesn't go with the "one engine fits all" mentality as they did with the 2019 Forester - that would be a mistake. We know they won't do much on the exterior changes. I'm willing to bet there are more than 5% of Outback owners with the 3.6R engine. Just use the new Ascent's 2.4 turbo engine - should be a no-brainer...