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Subaru Outback vs. Forester: Which Car is Right For Me?

May 6, 2020

The Subaru Outback is a station wagon. The Subaru Forester is a two-row SUV. Both are sturdy all-wheel-drive vehicles from the Japanese automaker Subaru. But with so many similarities, how do you know which model suits your needs best?  We’ve outlined key features below to help you choose between the Subaru Outback and the Subaru Forester.


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About the Subaru Outback

Currently, in its fifth generation, the Subaru Outback has proven its staying power even as rival station wagons pulled out of the market. The five-passenger station wagon comes with class-leading cargo space and an array of safety and technology features. It will enter its sixth generation for the 2020 model year.  For 2019, Subaru loaded the wagon with more standard features including its EyeSight advanced safety suite, dual USB ports, and an upgraded driver information display. The Outback comes in four trims: base, Premium, Limited, and Touring.

About the Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester is a compact SUV fully redesigned for the 2019 model year. The Forester boasts composed handling, class-leading cargo space, and an easy-to-use infotainment system. For its fifth generation, Subaru equipped the nameplate with more passenger room, higher-end interior trim, and standard features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 2019 Subaru Forester SUV comes in five trims: Forester, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring. Read more about the 2019 Subaru Forester on the Details and Specs page at AutoGravity.

The Subaru Outback versus the Subaru Forester: What has Better Interior, Space, and Comfort?

The Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester each earn high marks for their comfortable seats and class-leading cargo space. Both models feature plenty of head- and legroom for tall adults.

Both cabins come trimmed in high-quality materials. Cloth upholstery is standard. Buyers can upgrade to leather and add heated front and rear seats, and a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Top-level trims get luxury-grade trim such as woodgrain inlays, silver metallic accents, and perforated leather seats with contrast stitching. Power-adjustable front seats are available. The Outback and the Forester each feature above-average trunk space. The Outback gets 35.5 cubic feet behind the back seats and 73.3 cubic feet when the back seats are folded down. The Forester gets 35.4 cubic feet of space – nearly as much as the Outback – behind its rear seats and 76.1 cubic feet with the seats folded down. A 60/40 split-folding rear seat is standard.

The Subaru Outback versus the Subaru Forester:  What has Better Safety Equipment and Ratings?

Subaru has equipped all 2019 models with its EyeSight advanced driver safety system. The Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester offer a long list of standard safety features. Both models consistently receive high safety ratings. Both the 2019 Subaru Outback and 2019 Subaru Forester received high ratings in crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a five-star rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Outback was rated a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, while the Forester was rated only a Top Safety Pick. Both cars earned five out of five stars in NHTSA’s front and side crash tests and four stars in rollover tests. All Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester models include:

Optional safety equipment in the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester includes:

The Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester come with identical safety equipment. However, the IIHS gave the Forester’s headlights a rating of Acceptable, falling short of Good.

The Subaru Outback versus the Subaru Forester: What has Better Technology?

The Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester offer nearly identical technology features. The brand’s Starlink infotainment system is intuitive, comes loaded with entertainment apps, and features crisp graphics controlled by a touchscreen or physical knob. Standard equipment in the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester includes:

Optional equipment in the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester includes:

Both Subaru models offer technology features once found only in luxury vehicles. The list of standard equipment is impressive for vehicles with starting prices in the mid-$20,000s.

The Subaru Outback versus the Subaru Forester: Which is Better to Drive?

 The Subaru Outback comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 175 horsepower. The two top trims can be outfitted with a 256-horsepower 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine. Either engine comes paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission. The station wagon features car-like handling, all-wheel drive, 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and a suspension system that absorbs pavement imperfections. Its all-wheel-drive system offers plenty of grip. However, drivers won’t get peppy acceleration. The Subaru Forester runs on a 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission. It does not offer the choice of upgrading to a more powerful engine. Subaru discontinued a turbocharged option for the 2019 model year. Similar to its station wagon sibling, all-wheel drive is standard. The Forester provides a comfortable, composed ride over most surfaces, as well as 8.7 inches of ground clearance. As with the Outback, the Forester’s engine is adequate for daily driving but can feel sluggish when accelerating.

The Subaru Outback versus the Subaru Forester: Which Car is Priced Better?

The Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester are priced competitively vis a vis rival station wagons and compact SUVs. The Outback costs about $2,000 more than the Forester. The Subaru Outback starts at $26,345. The Premium and Limited trims begin at $28,445 and $32,845, respectively. The top-of-the-line Touring trim starts at $36,795. Limited models with the larger engine start at $34,995. Touring models with the six-cylinder engine start at $38,995. That’s about $2,000 extra for the more powerful engine. The Subaru Forester starts at $24,295. The Premium and Sport trims begin at $26,695 and $28,795, respectively. The SUV’s Limited trim begins at $30,795, and the top-of-the-line Touring model starts at $34,295. Both models come with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

The Subaru Outback versus the Subaru Forester: Which Should I Buy?

Deciding between the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester requires an evaluation of your needs: station wagon or SUV? Both cars offer all-wheel drive, the brand’s EyeSight suite of standard safety features, plenty of cargo space, comfortable seats, and well-appointed interiors. The real differentiating factors may be ride height, body style, and price. Though adequate for driving around town, the base engines in each car can feel lackluster. Only the Outback provides the option for a more powerful engine that packs more punch. The Outback also earned slightly higher safety scores from the IIHS due to its headlights. No matter which model you choose, you are guaranteed the capability and robustness of a Subaru and a ride that will keep your passengers in comfort.