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Subaru Outback Has A New Fuel-Saving Feature But You Don’t Like it

The 2020 Subaru Outback and other models get a new turbocharged engine and a fuel-saving Auto Stop-Start feature, but many customers don’t like it.

Automakers are improving fuel mileage on new vehicles and customers like the upgrades they make to the engines that make cars more fuel-efficient.

Subaru is bringing smaller turbocharged engines to its lineup of all-wheel-drive cars, and the 2020 Outback wagon now has the FA24 2.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged Boxer engine that replaces the 3.6-liter naturally-aspirated six-cylinder powerplant. You can read the full comparison here.

But the newly-redesigned 2020 Outback also features a new Auto Stop-Start system that also comes on all-new Subaru Forester, Legacy, and Crosstrek models. It’s one of the most controversial gas-saving features of the newest Subaru vehicles. Many automakers are using the system that automatically stops the engine when you come to a complete stop for more than a few seconds. It’s designed to save a little fuel every time the car stops at a light, or wait at a stop sign.

2020 Subaru Outback2020 Subaru Outback uses Auto Stop-Start

The frequent starting and stopping of the engine become tiresome to some drivers who live in urban areas and especially if you drive in heavy stop-and-go traffic every day. Some drivers say they don’t like the car stopping and starting because they fear the system could fail and the engine won’t restart and leave them stranded. They also consider the extra wear on the starter.

Automakers use the system to bump up gas mileage numbers but do they really save enough fuel to be worthwhile? According to a study conducted by the Society of American Engineers, it is beneficial to turn your car’s engine off if it is going to be idling for at least seven seconds.

2020 Subaru Outback2020 Subaru Forester also comes with the fuel-saving system

Within that range of time, enough fuel is saved to restart the car. So any time the engine is shut off over seven seconds, fuel will be saved. I know of one stoplight on my commute where I can sit as long as two minutes. After a period of time, the fuel savings add up.

Can I disable my Auto Stop-Start?

The Auto Stop-Start can be disabled on your new 2020 Subaru Outback, Forester, Legacy, and Crosstrek. It’s different for each model, and the problem is, on some models like Forester, you cannot permanently disable it. The system will always default to an on position once you turn the car off. So every time you get back in your car, you have to manually disable the system again.

The new Outback and Legacy, does have a feature on its new 11.6-inch touchscreen menu and you can disable the system. When you are on the home screen, push the car icon button to change the settings and then click on “Others” allowing you to turn off the Auto Stop-Start system. The Auto Stop-Start on the new 2020 Subaru Outback, Legacy, Forester, and Crosstrek can be annoying but it will save fuel if you live in an urban area.

You Might Also Like: Subaru’s 5-10 Year Cost Of Ownership Is Higher Than All But One Other Mainstream Brand

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Subaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!

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Photo credit: Subaru


Jim Zavist (not verified)    April 10, 2020 - 2:42PM

I agree, it's annoying and will likely lead to higher maintenance costs. Knowing that the Forester resets, and can't be disabled, would be a major deal breaker, for me.

joe blow (not verified)    October 14, 2020 - 11:21PM

In reply to by Jim Zavist (not verified)

If you are handy with a soldering iron, a simple switch can be added to disable it until you flip the switch or you could simply omit the switch and just have it permanently disabled.

Laurel (not verified)    December 13, 2020 - 10:26PM

In reply to by Galen Chamberlain (not verified)

We recently bought a 2020 Forester and hate this feature. However I’ve found a quick way to disable it. There is an on/off button for this feature on a set of buttons to the left of the steering wheel, sort of underneath it. There are several such buttons, but the one for this feature has an “A” with an arrow curving over it. If you press it, it turns the feature off. Unfortunately we have to do this every single time we drive the car, but it’s better than nothing. I found the instructions in the”quick guide,” page 31, of you have that to refer to.

An (not verified)    April 6, 2021 - 5:58AM

In reply to by Jim Zavist (not verified)

Agree. I’ve saved to buy my dream Subaru but have postponed purchase because of this start/stop feature. Kudos for car companies attempting to save fuel (would be faster if gas guzzlers were off the market or force only them to carry the start stop feature) but to add this feature and not give OWNER/DRIVER option to select to use this feature has deterred me. If it could be disabled until I decide to turn it back on would be acceptable but I definitely not going to disable this feature every time I start the car.

Vyom (not verified)    April 10, 2020 - 7:13PM

Subaru must focus on quality rather these features. My 2010 Outback has failed in struts l leaks, suspensions, exhaust system and windshields. This is too expensive to maintain.

I'm done with Subarus. I bought two and that's the end of it. Bye-bye Subaru

Bob Martin (not verified)    April 11, 2020 - 9:33AM

In reply to by Vyom (not verified)

Car is ten years old! How long do you expect it to last? What kind of driving do you do? I'm on my eleventh Subaru since 1983 - much of the time have had two at a time. Have had very few problems and none very serious. Drove one sedan for almost 300k miles. Many long trips and country roads. Subaru has had some problems in 2015 - 2017 but has corrected them. hard to beat a Subaru.

Liza Knepper (not verified)    April 11, 2020 - 7:23PM

In reply to by Vyom (not verified)

My husband and I have owned five Subarus I Presley now own a 2016 Subaru outback I have been looking at the new ascent 2021 but I'm done with the Subaru also I will not buy another one bye-bye Subaru too..

Diana (not verified)    September 2, 2020 - 10:00PM

In reply to by Dave (not verified)

I just bought a 2020 outback touring and have figured out how to disable the auto start stop feature; not permanently but my way is easier than going through the screens to turn it off. You only have to push a button after you start your car. First, go to your car settings and scroll down until you see the defogger. It will more than likely be set to 15 min intervals. Change the setting to run continuously. After you change the setting look to the right of the screen and there is an actual button that looks like 2 windows with arrows pointing to the center of these windows. It is the defroster/defogger button. It should be above the red arrow that controls your a/c. When you turn your car on, all you have to do is push the defroster/defogger button. You do not have to change the setting for the defroster since you already changed it. I spoke with the dealership and they said it would not damage the car. You don't even have to have the a/c on or the heater; it still works. If I had known about the auto start stop feature and that you could not disable it permanently, I would not have bought the Subaru. There should be a button to shut if off instead of going through several screens and then scrolling down each time you get in the car! Other than that, it is a great wagon!

Don Levin (not verified)    April 10, 2020 - 9:41PM

Auto SS reverts back on after the engine is turned off on All Subarus that have it, Not just Forester. Worse, on previous Foresters SS turned back on when brake was applied hard! The mileage rating on vehicles the years Before SS came was the same as the next year when SS was introduced. You failed to discuss the need for heavy duty batteries that are much more expensive to replace, or that car makers receive funds from EPA for having SS and more for making it impossible to permanently disable. Congress never voted for SS, Obama’s EPA just did it. Trump has tried to decrease the onerously high mileage requirement but it takes Years to do.

MLColorado (not verified)    April 10, 2020 - 11:25PM

Test drove 2020 XT Wagon, and 2019 3.6R Wagon.
Start/Stop on 2020 XT was really dangerous when pulling into traffic from a full stop. Turbo engine has horrible power lag from auto start/stop. Now own 2019 3.6R wagon.

Hudson Henry (not verified)    April 10, 2020 - 11:54PM

I LOVE that feature on my 2020 Outback XT. It's start up is super quick. You barely notice it and it's already saved a gallon of burned gas.

Joel (not verified)    April 11, 2020 - 1:23PM

In reply to by Hudson Henry (not verified)

I had a '93 Legacy turbo wagon.It was a great car sold it at 220k never had the head done .The owners manual said to not let it idle for long periods so maybe autoshutoff might not be a bad idea although newer turbos might not have that problem

Bill (not verified)    June 23, 2020 - 8:01PM

In reply to by Hudson Henry (not verified)

But would you love it if you had to make four touch screen selections every time you start your car to turn it on? Then two more to get to navigation screen. Then two more to change the orientation.
My XT saved 1/4 gallon in a full tank.

Patricia Martin (not verified)    April 11, 2020 - 12:28AM

I love the auto stop start feature on my 2020 Outback. I drove another vehicle with this feature and it takes a minute to get comfortable with the reliabilty aspect. Once you realize it works reliably there's no reason not to love it.

Matt (not verified)    December 12, 2020 - 10:22AM

In reply to by Patricia Martin (not verified)

When the vehicle shuts off via this feature, so does the air conditioner. In hot temperature states such as Arizona, in traffic @ lights, this is not acceptable. THAT is a reason NOT to love it.

Common Cents (not verified)    January 2, 2021 - 1:03PM

In reply to by Matt (not verified)

This is the result of chicken-little EPA and CAFE 'climate change' Nazis. It's the law of diminishing returns. How many solenoids/starters will burn out prematurely because the engine is being started 10 or 20 times more than necessary?

I'm glad I discovered this before buying a vehicle... no thanks Subaru, get a clue!

JGinNJ (not verified)    February 17, 2021 - 10:41AM

In reply to by Matt (not verified)

As far as I know Stop Start in many vehicles is disabled when the airconditioning is on. Some third party defeat strategies take advantage of that by tricking the vehicle into thinking the airconditioning is on.

David Schuetz (not verified)    March 7, 2021 - 12:52PM

In reply to by Matt (not verified)

I live in Palm Springs area and I was worried about the same thing Fortunately, II the AC is currently cooling the car the auto start stop function will not turn on when you stop the car. So no worries there.

Charles Emmett… (not verified)    April 11, 2020 - 12:50AM

A shortcut to turn off this feature - turn on the rear window heater. It's a one click action (again, every time you start the car). Because it uses some battery power, it will not allow the engine to turn off at stopping.

Stan (not verified)    April 11, 2020 - 3:43AM

My 2020 Outback XT's start-stop is horrible, perhaps the worse in the industry. Bad enough that it's always on by default but every time it restarts it feels like I've just thrown a cat in my garbage disposal. To add insult to injury, under many conditions it restarts automatically after only 20 seconds or so, presumably to maintain cabin temperature. After more than four months of ownership, I've haven't saved enough in fuel to buy a cup of 7-11 coffee and I certainly haven't made a dent in global warming! Give me a break.As a comparison, I own a 2019 MINI Cooper S convertible. Auto start/stop on the MINI is optional. I flip a switch and it's forever off but the (in comparison) buttery smooth auto start encourages me to leave the feature on all of the time. Subaru, it's a big MISS on your auto start/stop. You should do better than this and OBTW, please make your windshields a bit less crack/shatter prone and, oh yeah, how about making that massive 11.6 inch infotainment screen a little more productive.

Elaine Gorman (not verified)    April 11, 2020 - 5:21AM

I have that feature on my 2019 Forester . It is a real headache I have to turn it off each time I start the car And my case the car is hard to restart and seems to add extra stress on the engine
The car maker really dropped the ball on this one