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Where Subaru Failed With Forester, They Get It Right With New Outback

The new 2020 Subaru Outback model change brings a new trim level expected to broaden the appeal of the SUV to those with active lifestyles. Subaru got this one right.

Subaru Corporation knew they needed to tap a younger demographic who would love the new 2020 Subaru Outback if they could just broaden its appeal. So they designed a new outdoor-themed trim level called the Onyx Edition XT aimed at attracting younger, active customers to the new Outback. They did the same thing with the Forester remodel last year, but they went further and brought back a turbocharged engine in the Outback, something they failed to do with Forester Sport trim.

In a recent interview, Yoichi Hori, Outback project general manager, told Automotive News during the SUV's introduction in California, "There's a whole market out there of younger folks who would love the Outback," He said the company realized. Subaru got this one right.

2020 Subaru Outback2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT

The last Outback to get a turbo powerplant was the 2009 Outback 2.5XT model. But it’s back after an 11-year hiatus. Subaru of America goes back to the future by bringing the Outback Onyx Edition XT which doesn’t really let customers know what the new 2020 model change brings to outdoor enthusiasts. But Subaru Canada gets it right when they call the same new 2020 Outback trim, the Outdoor XT which is what the new model is about. Subaru will broaden the Outback’s appeal and this model will be just what the Japanese automaker needs to attract new customers to the brand who have active outdoor lifestyles.

Subaru gets it right

Subaru got it right with the new US-spec Onyx XT and Canadian Outdoor XT trim. The Outback has always had a “go-anywhere attitude, but the new Onyx/Outdoor XT gets extra goodies for the more adventurous customer wanting to get away from civilization. The new FA24 2.4-liter turbo Boxer engine will not only improve power and fuel efficiency, but the Outback Outdoor XT will have a higher towing capacity of 3500 lbs, up from the previous 2700 lb. limit.

2020 Subaru Outback2020 Subaru Outback X Mode

The previous Outback with a turbo engine was the 2009 model year with a 2.5-liter engine that was good for 243 hp and 241 lb-ft of torque. The new 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder Boxer powering the Outback Onyx/Outdoor XT produces 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. The 2009 2.5 XT Limited models came with either a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic.

The 2020 model change brings an 8-speed manual mode and a manual gearbox is not offered. The new 2020 Outback XT 2.4-liter turbo gets an EPA estimated 23/30 city/highway mpg and 26 combined mpg. The 2009 2.5 XT models could only muster 18 city/24 highway and 20 combined mpg.

2020 Subaru OutbackFeatures for outdoor adventures

Other new features for outdoor enthusiasts will be a two-tone interior with water-repellent seat material with green accent stitching and a full-size spare tire. For serious off-roading, the Outdoor XT gets an upgraded dual-function X-Mode system that offers Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes for even more extreme capability to go virtually wherever necessary. Outside it gets black 18-inch wheels, XT badging and front grille and door mirrors finished in black.

The U.S. Onyx Edition XT starts at $35,905, positioning itself between the non-turbo Outback Limited, which starts at $34,455, and the non-turbo Outback Touring, which starts at $38,355. Prices include destination and delivery. For those looking for a vehicle that will help further elevate their outdoor lifestyle, the new 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx/Outdoor XT trim answers the call.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


kayln (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 2:48PM

In reply to by Denis Flierl

They were losing interest because the "older community" liked the cars, but just didn't like the obnoxious hood scoop on top. They felt it was too "racecar" like. So, Subaru redesigned the newer XT's without a scoop and they just didn't take off like they thought they would. With newer platforms like the Crosstrek catching people's eye, my guess is that the model has started to fizzle out. Even though the newer OBXT's will have the 2.4L motor, nothing will compare to the earlier years with a Turbo EJ motor. Subaru's just aren't the same without the EJ!

Al Baker (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 7:15AM

In reply to by Denis Flierl

It’s no secret- lack of enthusiasm and poor sales. A company isn’t going to produce a car that doesn’t sell. The XT is QUICK but that’s where the appeal ends for enthusiasts. I own a 2016 XT ; I really like it but it’s still a grocery getting as far as style goes. The reason I like the car is that it catches a lot of “so called performance cars”” off guard and embarrasses them. Subaru, if you’re listening, put a manual in the XT and ad a few more ponies and sleeker body style and you’ll have a real winner on your hands.

vyoma (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 3:28PM

Subaru is very poor in understanding the horsepower market. Stupidity to take away XT from Forester.

Also, stupid not to retain manual tranny option.

John Stark (not verified)    July 28, 2019 - 5:42AM

In reply to by vyoma (not verified)

Most car manufacturers have stopped making vehicles with manual transmissions because they can't achieve 5 star safety ratings under the latest standards. Electronic safety systems (like adaptive cruise control and autonomous forward and reverse braking) don't work well with manuals. I had a 2009 6-speed manual diesel Forester and now a 2018 2.5L petrol Forester. The latter is smoother, quieter, cheaper to run, much easier to drive in slow-moving traffic, and the adaptive cruise control is great. Performance is more than adequate Interesting the the old XT never sold very well, and yet many comments concerning the new Forester bemoan the lack of a turbo. Maybe, the majority who were, and are, happy with non-turbo Foresters simply choose to remain silent..

neez (not verified)    August 21, 2019 - 8:38AM

In reply to by John Stark (not verified)

I don't know about your country, but in the U.S. the Honda Accord has a manual transmission with Honda sensing standard. You don't get automatic emergency braking, but you do get adaptive cruise control down to 45mph and lane keep centering. In the IIHS crash safety scores, it still rates the highest in crash prevention. The manual transmission isn't even factored into the ratings. I guess because it doesn't sell enough volume.

The Forester XT really does need to be the like the how WRX is to the Impreza sedan. Sedans are out and CUV's are in. So they need to dress up the XT with a better exterior, be it a new hood with a hood scoop and flared fenders, or just some cosmetic bits. But it definitely needs a manual transmission. The manual trans take rate is pretty high for the WRX. It's an enthusiast's car after all. If they do that, the Forester XT would sell alot.

Jmk (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 3:56PM

Except for missing structural welds and defective engines, they're great. They need the quality control from ww2 when they built the planes that bombed Pearl harbor. True story. Be a patriot, punt Subaru, "built in zero landfill manufacturing plants". What a joke!

JB (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 12:17PM

In reply to by Jmk (not verified)

Fuji Heavy Industries was not formed until 1953 see below FHI traces its "roots"

Fuji Heavy Industries traces its roots to the Nakajima Aircraft Company, a leading supplier of airplanes to the Japanese government during World War II. At the end of World War II, Nakajima was broken up by the Allied Occupation government under keiretsu legislation, and by 1950 part of the separated operation was already known as Fuji Heavy Industries.

FHI was incorporated on July 15, 1953, when five Japanese companies, known as Fuji Kogyo, Fuji Jidosha Kogyo, Omiya Fuji Kogyo, Utsunomiya Sharyo and Tokyo Fuji Sangyo, joined to form one of Japan's largest manufacturers of transportation equipment.

Mike Barker (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 4:32PM

I bought a new Forester Premium. I really like it. It is very comfortable and handles very well. I relied on Consumers Reports who rank it the best small SUV. It has more than enough power with the standard engine. I drive 92 miles daily to work and back and I get over 41 mpg. I generally drive most of the way with cruise control on and really have never had any hesitation going up hills or keeping up with traffic or passing slower drivers when I need to. The owner's manual says to press the accelerator pedal to the floor to pass another car. It has adequate acceleration in my opinion and I think a turbo would be a waste of money for the very few times it might be useful to have. Plus I don't want to pay for premium gas at these prices which will probably get worse as the war with Iran gets closer to reality.

Tony J Dangerfield (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 5:23PM

With that approach angle this vehicle will be great for maintained fire roads and trips up to the ski chalet (which is prob all where 90% of it's customers need). Great mpg but at that price you can get a much more capable vehicle.

Byron Wooldridge (not verified)    July 23, 2019 - 8:22PM

Only driven one Outback that was a loaner while my BRZ was in for routine maintenance but my wife and I own a 2015 XV Crosstrek. That little sucker is a great car. Could use a little more umph for passing but will run forever at let's call it above highway speed. Comfortable, stable, good gas mileage averaging about 28MPG at those forementioned speeds for two 2400 mile round-trips in two weeks. Offered to buy my wife a new one and she refused it. Have about 75,000 miles with nothing more than routine maintenance, tires, and brakes. I put on aftermarket brakes with armored brake lines--stops so quick I get nosebleed.

Bryan (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 2:57AM

Yeah, but it's still a Subaru. Crappy engineering, bad engines and the fitand finish you get with duct tape, cardboard and a 7 year old. Not worth it

RdLowe (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 6:55AM

I have a 2018 Outback Touring, and I love it ! Subaru like all cars have some issues, but they are still more reliable and won't leave you stuck on the road like many others out there. Hyundai has a major problem with engine fires, Honda has plenty of issues as well with oil dilution, and on that note, I drove a new Passport to see what that's all about, and I can say I would take my Outback any day over that. People like to say Subaru looks cheap inside, but they haven't visited Subaru recently. All of their cars have and continue to improve the interior quality in recent years, and the new Outback interior looks sharp.....that of more expensive luxury cars. A friend bought a new Crosstrek, and it is by far the most improved yet with upscale interior, and a great, quiet ride. I was amazed at the difference. This new XT line up will be a big hit for Subaru, just must have a very important quality control which is lacking due to popularity.

steve (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 9:45AM

we are on our third Sube wagon, now called just Outback. it's a 2018, 22K+ miles. we love this car. very roomy, plenty of zip, nice turning radius. yes, we are of retirement age, so what. might well buy another in a few years.

Lufusol (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 11:38AM

If Subaru's press team didn't pay the author to be a shill, then the fanboy cheated himself. It might as well be an official brochure the Outback Onyx XT edition. So much for journalistic integrity.

Alan (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 11:42AM

This story does not mention electronics, which is important to many of us, especially the younger market. The electronics in my 2017 Outback is terrible. No Apple CarPlay or Android equivalent. Built in navigation is terrible, so one must use their phone directly. The screen is too low, so it takes your eyes off the road. These issues have been solved in other brands 2 years ago. Has Subaru made any improvements?

Danny j (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 12:34PM

One correction to this article... The outback xt (as well as the legacy gt) had 5 speed manual, or optional 5 speed automatic. It was the forester xt that had the 4 speed automatic

Myron Carter (not verified)    July 24, 2019 - 12:49PM

The Forester really needs the 2.4 '15,
170 hp is very under powered. It's dangerous to pass another car at highway speed on a 2 lane road.

jg (not verified)    July 26, 2019 - 8:29PM

So Forester “failed” because there’s no turbo engine? That must mean they can’t sell any of them, right? What a ridiculous statement. Subaru has already stated that they aren’t going to add any performance option until sales slow, and that electrification is the path forward, not pumping more fuel through an existing engine. Niro is going to start getting more and more press until other manufacturers start catching up in the non-luxury EV segments.

Mike (not verified)    August 1, 2019 - 1:09AM

We have a 2014 forester and 2018 legacy and ordering a 2020 outback
Few people need a turbo, they use up too much gas
We have gotten along fine with the standard engine