30 Minutes With: The 2020 Subaru Outback

Front 3/4 view of 2020 Subaru Outback
The 2020 Subaru Outback.
Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Monterey, California.

Needless to say, these are quick drives and brief impressions that we hope to be able to flesh out with a full review of the vehicle at some point in the near future.

Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley over Laureles Grade and back or off-road on the acclaimed Land Rover Experience on the grounds of Quail Lodge.

My ninth drive of the day was the 2020 Subaru Outback on the off-road course.

Rear 3/4 view of 2020 Subaru Outback
2020 Subaru Outback.
We've driven Outbacks before here at TireKicker, but never off-road, so it was good to finally get a sense of what Subaru's long-running crossover can do.

All-wheel drive is part of Subaru's brand going back 40 years or more, and they are wildly popular in places where it snows anywhere from a little to a lot.  But they're a very capable machine for mild off-road adventuring as well.

Engine in 2020 Subaru Outback

Our test vehicle was an Outback XT and that bumps the engine down in size but up in power from a 2.5-liter BOXER four-cylinder to a turbocharged 2.4-liter four.  It's a big difference.   The 2.5 makes 182 horsepower.  The 2.4 turbo?  260.  

Remarkably, there is very little penalty in fuel economy---an EPA estimated 23 city/30 highway compared to the 2.4's 25/33.

Ours was also the Onyx Edition, which is only available on the Outback XT and adds unique interior and exterior features plus dual-mode X-MODE, a software program meant to increase traction and control under the most extreme conditions.  

Base price for the 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT is $34,895.

Being the more rugged and outdoorsy of the trim levels, the Onyx Edition eliminates the leather seating you'll find in other Outback XTs for a rugged and more easily cleaned vinyl. Driver's seat memory and a heated steering wheel are also deleted in the Onyx Edition. 

The standard moonroof becomes optional (which buys the driver and front passenger an extra 2.4 inches of headroom), the wheels are a black finish, the outside mirrors are crystal black silica-finish, the headlights are LED units, but not steering-responsive as in non-Onyx Edition units (off-road, you're turning the wheel to make minute adjustments---overall, you're better off seeing what's directly in front of you).

Navigation becomes optional, the Harman Kardon premium audio system is unavailable (there is a Rockford Fosgate upgrade optional, though) as is the Driver Focus distraction mitigation system (like the headlights, when off-roading, sometimes you need to look somewhere other than straight ahead) and reverse automatic braking becomes optional. 

There was a fact sheet instead of a window sticker in the test vehicle, but as near as I can tell, it had the optional sunroof, navigation and reverse automatic braking, which adds $1,845 to the price.  With $1,010 destination and delivery charge, that puts the bottom line at $37.750.  And that's a reasonable price for a machine that can be an economical family hauler during the week and a more capable than you might expect off-road adventurer on the weekend.