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Say Goodbye To The Subaru Outback 3.6R; Why Customers Won’t Miss It

The Subaru Outback is about to get a complete remodel and one trim is going away forever. If you want a 3.6R 6-cylinder, you better act quickly, but you might want to wait for the all-new 2020 model.

Customers who want an Outback 3.6R six-cylinder model need to move quickly to get one. The 2020 Outback is coming later this year and Subaru Corporation will completely redesign the popular SUV/Crossover and will likely drop the 3.6R trim forever. The 2019 Subaru Outback comes in 3.6 Limited and 3.6R Touring trims that offer the 3.6-liter Boxer engine with 256-hp and 247 lb-ft of torque.

Right now, Subaru is offering special deals on all 2019 Outback trims. Customers can get 0% APR Financing on all 2019 Outback models now through April 1, 2019. Subaru wants to move all remaining Outback SUVs off their dealer lots before the all-new 2020 models arrive later this year.

Why you might want to wait

Here’s why customers wanting an Outback might want to wait for the 2020 model year. When the new-generation Outback arrives this year, it will likely feature a new turbocharged 2.4-liter direct injection four-cylinder engine replacing the old six-cylinder Outback 3.6R. Like the Legacy, it will likely be called the Outback XT and use the same Ascent-sourced turbocharged 2.4-liter 260-hp 277 lb-ft of torque Boxer engine. This will outperform the outgoing the 3.6-liter Boxer engine in power and fuel mileage.

The Outback 3.6R gets an EPA estimated 20/27 city/highway mpg and 22 combined mpg. The Ascent 2.4-liter turbo has more horsepower and torque and achieves 21/27 city/highway and 23 combined mpg and it’s a bigger vehicle than the Outback. Look for a new 2020 Outback 2.4L to have better fuel mileage numbers.

New 2.4-liter turbo will outperform competition with a V6

The new 2020 Outback FA24 2.4-liter boxer turbocharged direct-injection boxer engine will achieve acceleration and power equal to or better than that of competing vehicles with 3.5-liter 6-cylinder engines. That is accomplished by adding torque over horsepower because torque is what gets a vehicle moving from a stop and helps in pulling the vehicle up a hill, or when towing.

The next-generation Subaru Outback will lose the 3.6R trim but gain a new XT 2.4-liter turbo model. Outback will keep its core values with safety being a strong point with EyeSight driver assist standard equipment, and the SUV will keep its “go-anywhere” attitude with 8.7-inches of ground clearance, all-wheel drive will remain standard on the Outback, and it will retain X-Mode for off-road adventures.

When the all-new 2020 Subaru Outback with the new Global Platform arrives late this summer, look for the new SUV to be even more popular with active consumers looking for an all-weather all-wheel-drive vehicle. If you want the 3.6R trim you need to act quickly, but if you can wait, the new turbocharged XT trim will be worth it.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


crankypaul (not verified)    March 13, 2019 - 8:21PM

I can hear the whiners complaining now. They believe that only the 3.6 is the way to go. Nothing will convince them otherwise. I'm happy with my 2.5 and the CVT. 100K since new in '11 and zero problems. Loving every minute of it with no plans on replacing it ever!

Stephen Crocker (not verified)    December 22, 2019 - 5:55PM

In reply to by crankypaul (not verified)

it's great to see you content with your purchase. For many of us the 3.6 is the only way to go and there are reasons.
No whining, no judging what you prefer, just "Viva la difference"!
Cheers to you crankypaul

Judy (not verified)    November 5, 2020 - 10:37PM

In reply to by Stephen Crocker (not verified)

I have a 2013 Outback with all the options 3.6R and I love it.. I can get on freeways super fast and climb any hill. Love my back up screen and the visibility is great for lane changes. I only have 70K miles on it so considering Subaru is good for up to 300K when taken care of it will probably last me as long as I will be driving. Thank you Subaru.

Johnson (not verified)    July 5, 2020 - 12:04AM

In reply to by crankypaul (not verified)

gee crankypaul, talk about getting in the put downs before the comments start ..... ! The truth is that the 2.5 is fine for getting around town or for plodding along rural back roads. Or for someone a bit old and crotchety.
But for people who travel, load up a car a little and aren't content to plod along behind a line of caravan haulers the 3.6 is the only way to go.
It can easily pass these mobile chicanes when an overtaking lane appears, or even if the path ahead looks clear while not offering an overtaking lane. Those conditions would see you killed in a 2.5.

Michael (not verified)    May 20, 2021 - 9:20AM

In reply to by crankypaul (not verified)

I love the smoothness, quietness, and responsiveness of my Subaru Outback 3.6 vehicle. I regret the lower mileage, but I do much less driving during my retirement years. The only temptation I foresee is an all electrically powered Outback in future.

Michel (not verified)    August 16, 2022 - 10:21PM

In reply to by Michael (not verified)

I am one of those old crotchety retirees. But I simply love my 6 cyl.3.6L. It has all the advantages and a long useful live.
I am a Subaru fan since 40 years = skying being my primary hobby. Actually I drive the LAST model Tribeca before it was shut out. What a wonderful experience every single day.
I am cautious, to be sure not to harm the deers and boars, BUT I go whereever I WANT.

Rasmaxwell (not verified)    March 13, 2019 - 9:37PM

I own a 3.6R, and this engine is a marvel of smoothness and quiet, capable performance. Having driven the 2.4T in the Ascent, I can say that this engine still has the harsh, signature boxer engine sound. Secondarily, when you summon up the power of the turbo 4, your gas mileage will not be good. Thirdly, the turbo 4 gets no better than the mpg of the 3.6R because the turbo 4 has to work harder than a 6 at all times Lastly, the turbo 4 is considerably cheaper to manufacture than the flat six.

Matthew Meyer (not verified)    March 22, 2019 - 9:34PM

In reply to by Rasmaxwell (not verified)

Not denying that the 3.6R is an elegant beast of a machine, but I don't think your point about the 2.4T not actually being more efficient is valid. Yes, it has to generate more torque per volume/stroke, but that's not really what determines MPGs. A smaller engine means less moving parts and less parasitic losses from friction, less weight to drag around, less coolant and oil to pump, etc. No matter what engine you're running, if you push it harder than necessary your MPGs will drop like a rock, that's not unique to turbo-4s. The 3.6R will always be less efficient than the 2.4, because only a certain amount of the power from each cylinder stroke can be harnessed, and the 3.6 is simply not able to harness quite as much as the new and improved model. You can't argue with physics, and the engineers have done their job with this new model.

In my mind, a lighter, smaller, more powerful, cheaper engine is pretty clearly the way to go.

Alex (not verified)    May 11, 2020 - 11:26AM

In reply to by Mike (not verified)

General rule of thumb is any time you get a turbo charger you are burning more air which means your engine is running hotter and parts fail sooner. Main reason I won't get a turbocharged engine again.

Sam S (not verified)    June 18, 2023 - 5:23PM

In reply to by Mike (not verified)

It is widely regarded that the best engine/powertrain that Subaru has ever built is the EZ36 engine (3.6L H6) and the five speed transmission. The CVT in about 30% of the cars built by Subaru has what is called the Throttle body (solinoid) failure at about 80,000 miles. First you feel slipping on hills, then slipping all the time until it is replaced for about $1000. Then the transmission goes at about 150,000 for $9000 on the majority of CVTs (not all). With the EZ36 and five speed transmission you can expect close to 200,000 miles with minor problems like the timing belt tensioner failing which is less than $1000 to fix (usually $400 to $800). That is it regarding that powertrain.

Matthew (not verified)    July 6, 2019 - 6:53AM

In reply to by Rasmaxwell (not verified)

Also, the turbo motors usually require premium fuel to run without pinging or knocking. This further eats into the savings on mpg’s. Another reason to keep the larger NA motor.

BobS (not verified)    July 8, 2019 - 9:49AM

In reply to by Matthew (not verified)

Also, my concern is the actual turbo. Too many have had issues through time, though not necessarily those used by Subaru. Maybe those days are behind us, and turbos are as reliable and trouble free as you could hope. I do know the world is going to smaller turbocharged motors. All for better gas mileage. But hey, I’m still bummed that Subaru has all but eliminated manual transmissions (says the guy with a 2017 manual Forester).

Dale Nicol (not verified)    March 13, 2019 - 9:54PM

I have only owned 6 cylinder Outback’s since 2001, 2007 and now my 2012. They are quite, reliable have the extra power on tap when needed. I would guess that the new turbo 4 pot will not match the quietness or smoothness of the 6 cylinder.

David Wilner (not verified)    March 14, 2019 - 6:01AM

My 2018 Outback is the first car I have owned that the frame is not pre punched for a trailer hitch. The Subaru line markets to the outdoor enthusiast yet the trailering set up is weak. I tow a 750 lb kayak trailer with an 800 lb. load. I had to drill the frame and practically disassemble the rear of the car to install a wiring harness.

Russell (not verified)    March 14, 2019 - 10:44AM

In reply to by David Wilner (not verified)

Simply incorrect David. Yes you need to take the rear facia off, but that's easy and no you don't need to drill a single hole! The wiring harness is a plug in and easy to access as well. I think you purchased the wrong hitch and wiring harness, there are a few available in the aftermarket and mine is almost completely hidden, strong, and easily bolted in. I regularly tow a small trailer to pick up building supplies, make trips to the dump, and for camping trips.

Raul Martinez (not verified)    December 31, 2019 - 12:21AM

In reply to by Russell (not verified)

I was told by U-Haul they will need to drill holes to the frame to drop the the bolts in order to install a hitch on my 2013 Outback. I declined and did it myself by removing the rear bumper No drilling.

The harness was simple to attach to a hidden connector on the left side.

subybob (not verified)    March 6, 2020 - 1:40PM

In reply to by Russell (not verified)

his deal knows the deal they just wanted to screw him over and charge him for a whole lotta extra work. I'd bet you if you actually look at his hitch, is is exactly the same as yours. Yes there are subaru dealers who are just as unethical as GM dealers. He just got taken.

Fred (not verified)    June 27, 2019 - 9:46AM

In reply to by David Wilner (not verified)

I purchased a hitch specifically for the vehicle and the wiring was simple, there is a connector in the back under the carpet. I had the hitch installed by Uhaul. I did the wiring.

Fred (not verified)    June 28, 2019 - 3:47PM

In reply to by David Wilner (not verified)

I purchased a hitch specifically for the vehicle and the wiring was simple, there is a connector in the back under the carpet. I had the hitch installed by Uhaul. I did the wiring.

Tom Brown (not verified)    March 14, 2019 - 10:52AM

Not from Missouri, but you'll have to show me. For 13 years I drove a '05 Honda Pilot which was a great car but the best mileage I could get on the Interstates out of the 245 HP V-6 was 22 MPG. Bought a '18 3.6, 256 HP Outback, drove it from the W. Coast to Houston and back, 80 MPH on the TX, NM, AZ, CA Interstates and got 26, one tank 25 MPG, 20 around town. Smooth as silk, What's not to like?

Robert Weider (not verified)    March 14, 2019 - 10:56AM

I have owned two 3.6's and an XT the six is much smoother, but the turbos of course are faster. Both have their places it is sad that Subaru has terminated the XT line of Forester. The 3.6 is a wonderful engine and arguing that you get better fuel economy with the turbo is flawed logic.

John schneider (not verified)    March 14, 2019 - 2:13PM

they have bigger design issues. Like having to change a head light through the wheel well. Also the plastic bumper should not reach half way up the head lights. On a vehicle you market as a SUV. I hit a Raccoon and it is $1500 to fix. because half the bumper needs paint matched.

Jeff Gordon (not verified)    March 16, 2019 - 4:17PM

The 3.6R is a beautiful engine in every respect, which is why it has been around for so long. I love the subdued, low rumble as I drive through the neighborhood in the morning at an idle. I love being able to merge onto the highway going uphill at 70 MPH and not needing to break 2,000 RPM.

My wife's Forester XT (which I drive frequently) makes a heck of a racket and provides a strange, sporadic acceleration profile doing the same highway merge -- whether trying to be gentle or aggressive. I think that's why the XT going away isn't that big a deal. I'll gladly purchase the electrified performance version, which hopefully will make it's way to the US shores before the lease is up. I'm tired of cleaning the constant coating of black soot from all over the back of her XT and who knows what the intake valves look like or what damage is being done by low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI). I also won't miss choking on the exhaust gasses in the morning from the overly rich, unburnt fuel as the car warms up and I'm cleaning off the windows.

Conversely, my Outback with the 3.6R has the exhaust smell of a beautifully tuned muscle car (if you remember what those were and got to build and play with them as I did), and with the changes made to the 2018 Outback, the low speed drivability (over my 2016 that went like a bat out of hell no matter how you drove it) is much, much better (though they really screwed up the suspension, but adding a 19mm rear swaybar and $1,000 worth of decent tires helps a whole lot). Having had a few high performance cars that would generally get around 10-15 MPG, I am still amazed that I can drive in a fairly aggressive manner at 70-80 MPH and still get over 20 MPG.

So to say customers won't miss the 3.6R is a misnomer. The performance option is there with the 2.4, and from the few times I've driven an Ascent the acceleration profile and drivability will be much better than that provided by the Forester XT (if you want to make that comparison). New buyers won't know the difference, but those that WILL miss the 3.6R will be the previous owners that won't have a similar option in a new Outback, years from now -- but by that time an electrified version that outperforms the 2.4 will probably be the performance option and we'll be having a whole new ICE versus PHEV versus BEV versus FCEV versus [maybe something new] argument.