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Subaru Outback Vs. Forester - One Has The Distinct Advantage And Is A Clear Winner

What do the 2023 Subaru Outback and 2023 Subaru Forester have in common? There are significant similarities but even more distinct differences. First, check out the comparison report here. Then, see which SUV is the clear winner.

What are the differences between the 2023 Subaru Outback and the 2023 Subaru Forester? Let’s start with the similarities between the two Subaru siblings. There are many family resemblances under the body sheet metal. The Outback and Forester both come standard with Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. In addition, both have 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

They also share the same X-Mode and dual-function X-Mode all-terrain technology, and both come in the more rugged Wilderness trim levels for outdoor enthusiasts. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine powers some trim levels of Outback and Forester. But the Outback has an optional 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that the Forester does not offer.

2023 Subaru Outback

The Outback and Forester come standard with Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist safety system and get the top safety crash scores. But that is where the similarities end.

Size and Shape

You can see the difference on the outside, sitting side by side. The Outback has a longer wheelbase (191.9 inches vs. 182.7 ) and a lower vehicle height (66.1 inches vs. 68.1 inches), resulting in a smoother and car-like ride. The taller Forester has better outward visibility.

2023 Subaru Forester

Subaru Boxer Engine and Towing Capacity

The Outback offers a 260-horsepower turbocharged engine option. In addition, the Outback can tow up to 3,500 lbs, while Forester can only tow 1,500 lbs on standard trims and 3,000 lbs on Forester Wilderness.

Fuel Mileage

The Forester gets slightly better gas mileage on the highway. Outback is 26/32 city/highway mpg. Forester gets 26/33 city/highway mpg with the 2.5-liter engines.

Rear Seats and Cargo Space

Both have two rows of seats and will seat five passengers, but the Outback offers more rear-seat legroom. The Outback provides more cargo space with 32.6 cubic ft. vs. 28.9 cu. ft. behind the rear seats and 75.6 vs. 74.2 max cargo with the seats folded flat.

2023 Subaru Forester

The Forester allows larger cargo loading with a 39.9-inch rear gate opening. The Outback comes with standard retractable roof rail crossbars, and with Forester, they are an accessory.

Comfort and Conveniences

Inside, with the Outback, you can get the more luxurious Nappa leather seats with a 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat and thigh support, and the Forester does not. Outback also offers ventilated front seats. A larger panoramic moonroof is offered on Forester but not the Outback.

The Outback offers a Smart rearview mirror and the larger 11.6-inch touchscreen vs. the 8-inch for Forester. In addition, Outback offers wireless connectivity and a few extra speakers for premium sound.

Interior Technology and Safety

On the Outback, customers can opt for a third EyeSight camera for a wider field of vision to enhance pedestrian and cyclist recognition.


The 2023 Outback comes in nine trim levels for U.S. customers; the base trim is priced from $29,620, Premium ($31,920), new Onyx Edition with a 2.5-liter engine ($34,720), Limited ($36,520), Touring ($41,070), Outback Wilderness ($39,670), Onyx Edition XT ($39,820), Limited XT ($40,920), and Touring XT ($43,520). In addition, pricing includes $1,225 destination and delivery fees.

The 2023 Forester comes in six trim levels; The Base Forester starts at $27,620, Premium ($30,620), Sport ($32,190), Limited ($34,300), Wilderness ($35,245), and Touring ($37,720). Pricing includes dealer fees ($1,225).

What do the 2023 Subaru Outback and 2023 Subaru Forester have in common? There are significant similarities but even more distinct differences. So which is the better SUV?

The 2023 Outback midsize comes out on top of the Forester because it offers the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine option. This would be enough of a reason, but the Outback also has more towing capacity, offers more technology inside, and more luxury options. So until the next-generation Forester arrives, the Outback is the clear winner over the Forester.

You Might Also Like: 10 New Upgrades On The 2023 Subaru Outback, 5 You Didn’t Know About

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report, where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Andrew (not verified)    February 27, 2023 - 6:44PM

Wow, didn't realize the wheelbase on the Outback was that long, I've got a 2012 Legacy and the wheelbase is only 108.3". What's the overall length of the new Outback?

Jim Walsh (not verified)    March 2, 2023 - 9:49PM

Your measuremnt of the Forester tail gate opening is way off. At the widesty point, the current generation Foresterhas an opening that is 49.9 inches. the widest opening of ANY Subaru. It even beats the Ascent.

Darleen Jones (not verified)    March 4, 2023 - 2:48AM

Hi, I am a previous owner of a1999 Subaru legacy outback, special edition, and I loved it but the party that had it before me obviously didn't bring it in for the recall because that's finally what did me in is the leaking seals so I had to get rid of it. I'm now saving for a reliable Subaru outback and I would like your advice on which year between 2014 and 20 16 have very best reliability and will last me for quite some time mileage under $100,000 preferably. I'm 77 years old and I'm looking for something that will last me until I can no longer drive which may be a while :-). Thank you for your attention to my issues and I look forward to getting an email from you.

PursuitofRandom (not verified)    August 12, 2023 - 12:14PM

Great review. Having owned the Wilderness Outback 2022 model for a year and now purchasing the Wilderness Forester 2023 model, I prefer the Forester. I just want to add why to this thread.
I agree that the cabin noise is quieter in the Outback. But, not by much as these are both Wilderness editions and those tires cause a little bit more road noise than I have in the 2022 Outback (my mother owns one in Touring). Turn on the new sound system in the 2023 model, you will not notice.
I little background. I am 240 pounds at 72 inches even. Fairly muscular build. I wear bifocals at 55 and my night vision is not poor but I prefer daytime driving for comfort.
I find I have more head room in the Forester and it is easier to get in and out of than the Outback. This is important for my knees. Too much heavy weight training and military duty. The cabin is missing some pockets or storage areas and the center counsel is more narrow than the Outback, but side to side, I find the Forester just as roomy if not a little better at shoulder height where I need it. The sunroof adds a lot of light for dusk and early morning driving. The hood size and shape affords me more visibility. This is also increased with the higher stance of the Forester. I like sitting up a little higher in the Forester than the Outback. Another plus for me that really sold me on the Forester. The smaller video display and reintroduction of knobs and buttons in my life. I know I can voice program some features, but I really disliked the large touch screen. Having to adjust everything for climate comfort by touch while driving at speed and in traffic, was very frustrating. Especially with my vision limitations, finding the right view angle to maneuver the screen and focus on the road and screen - just stressful. The front camera in the top center is great for me for pulling in the garage. Some bonuses, the wider rear storage was a nice surprise as well as the greater visibility all around from smaller frame supports between the doors and rear hatch. So, for me, some of these distinct differences that may mean a little less tech and size of car are actually pluses for me and my situation. Both great cars. If you are a bigger person, don't discount the Forester because it may be a little shorter in length. Thanks for reading.