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Why IIHS Says You Will Now Be Less Safe In The New Subaru Outback

The IIHS says you will now be less safe in the new 2020 Subaru Outback than the 2020 Legacy sedan. See why it’s all in the headlights.

Torque News reported in November, the new 2020 Subaru Outback’s top safety streak ended because of glare in the new wagon’s headlights. The new 2020 Legacy sedan which is built on the same platform as Outback, did get the highest Top Safety Pick + award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Outback had earned the Top Safety Pick+ award for the last six years (2013-2019) but has been downgraded for the new 2020 model redesign.

Thanks to a detailed report from Gear Patrol, they found the specific reason why the newly-redesigned Outback was downgraded. It’s strange because the wagon shares the same headlights with its sibling Legacy sedan.

2020 Subaru Outback safety rating has been downgraded by the IIHS2020 Subaru Outback

For the 2020 model Outback, the IIHS explanation says the difference between 2020 models versus 2019 vehicles is low beams on the new-generation Outback created “Some Glare”, and says “low beams never exceeded glare limits” on 2019 models.

Gear Patrol reached out to the IIHS via Twitter and when asked why Outback and Legacy received different ratings for their headlights when they have what seems to be the exact same headlights. The IIHS responded, “The headlights on the Outback are mounted about 4 inches higher than they are on the Legacy, which makes it harder to achieve visibility and reduce glare. In this case, the headlights on the Outback produced more glare than those of the Legacy.”

2020 Subaru Outback safety rating has been downgraded because of its headlights2020 Subaru Outback

When the IIHS was asked to explain “Glare” in their ratings, IIHS said, “Glare is measured at 3 feet, 7 inches off the ground. Vehicles that exceed glare thresholds are assigned demerits.” In the case of the Outback's curve-adaptive lights, they cause more glare not for the driver of the Outback, but for approaching vehicles.

So the 2020 Outback gets dinged by the IIHS not because the vehicle’s headlights aren’t rated “good” like Legacy, but because there is “Some Glare” for other drivers. This seems like a poor way to rate a vehicle. Outback should be rated for the safety of a vehicle, not how other drivers might experience a little glare.

Outback buyers shouldn’t be concerned the new model change has been downgraded from earning a Top Safety Pick+ award to a Top Safety Pick winner. In all other IIHS crashworthiness tests, Like the 2019 models, the 2020 Subaru Outback earned a rating of Good, and its front crash prevention vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian systems earned a Superior rating.

You Might Also Like: See Why The 2020 Subaru Outback and Legacy Are The Safest Yet

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

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


digitaldoc (not verified)    December 20, 2019 - 12:02PM

We may not agree with the methodology of the IHSS, but it is what they do. Headlights are pretty important, not only for visibility, but for how they can affect other drivers. Subaru would be smart to redesign them pronto, and not wait for a new model year to pass for the changes. Consumers need to look at more than just the TSP or TSP+ designation, and drill down to the exact data to be aware of what they are purchasing- and the limitations and deficiencies identified in the testing from IHSS and other organizations, such as NHTSA and Consumer Reports.

jg (not verified)    December 20, 2019 - 12:05PM

IIHS must also think the road surface of the entire country is flat and level. All the hills around my area of the country have drivers looking at the full force of headlights as cars crest hills, and with LED headlights being more prevalent it’s like driving into the sun. So dinging the insurance rates of drivers with great headlights seems a bit backasswards.

Joe (not verified)    December 20, 2019 - 12:11PM

Why shouldn't a car manufacturer have a responsibility to keep others safe, not just their owners? How safe is a car if its lights increase the likelihood that an incoming car will crash into it head on due to headlight glare?

Colin MacFetters (not verified)    December 20, 2019 - 1:39PM

The 2020 Outback needs a recall to fix glare from headlights . Constant other drivers flashing their lights at me at night. DO NOT BUY 2020 OUTBACK.

Tanya Johnson (not verified)    December 20, 2019 - 3:59PM

Just bought my first Subaru(Outback)had a Mazda CX7 for 9yrs. Never had any problems with the Mazda. Hopefully I made a good choice.

Collin Lovas (not verified)    December 20, 2019 - 8:06PM

The author of this article is using convoluted logic. A car that creates glare for oncoming drivers is not only jeopardizing the safety of the other drivers but of the driver of the car creating the glare. The act of blinding oncoming traffic can create head-on collisions or offset crashes.

ExFlyGuy (not verified)    December 21, 2019 - 9:38AM

The Outback didn't only have headlight issues ...

Small overlap front: passenger-side
Passenger restraints and dummy kinematics
The dummy’s head contacted the right side of the frontal airbag but began to move into the gap between the frontal and side curtain airbags, leaving the head vulnerable to contact with forward structure. The inflated side curtain airbag has sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.

Fernando Sartori (not verified)    December 22, 2019 - 5:43AM

Where I live there is a predominance of pick-up trucks and it is not fun being blinded by their low-bean headlights as the trucks are much taller than my Subaru. Do all pick-ups get low marks for that? What about drivers that change their stock lights for off market glaring/blinding lights?
And lets not forget that not all vehicles are created equal (7 inches high off the ground)
It sounds like non-sense to me.

Benjamin Fajardo (not verified)    December 23, 2019 - 12:48AM

There is a problem here.. because when you put some weight in the trunk the front would raise a bit and cause the glare to look like your brights are on.

Rickifumi (not verified)    December 25, 2019 - 12:59PM

When the driver of an oncoming vehicle responds to my car's headlight glare by switching on their highbeams then both of us have a problem, and the resulting reduction of night vision continues for some period afterwards.

MICHAEL MARK (not verified)    December 26, 2019 - 11:02PM

My friend and I were driving her new CrossTrek in rural Colorado. Half the oncoming cars flashed us as if we had the brights on. We didn't. Same problem as with the Outback.

jg (not verified)    January 2, 2020 - 3:41PM

What's "wrong" is that all manufacturers figured out that LED headlights are far superior to previous technology. One of the main reasons I traded in my 2016 Outback with HID headlights for a 2018 was to get the LED headlights. After driving with them in my wife's 2017 Forester it was like night and day (pun intended).

It's possible the headlight-aiming standards need to change to accommodate the retina-burning intensity of LEDs, but there was similar criticism (starting with HID lights) for these overly-bright lights not illuminating far enough down the road not too long ago. So there really is no pleasing anyone, and if you've still got yellow headlights (as many of the oncoming drivers cited in the previous comments probably do) then individual drivers will need to learn how to deal with bright oncoming lights to preserve their vision at night -- like looking at the right shoulder instead of at the oncoming lights to avoid temporarily incapacitating your fovea (your central point of vision).