In freshening the 2018 Outback, Subaru didn’t mess with its 20 years of success, and made small styling, infotainment, and technical updates.
Chief among those is the upgraded interior. Subaru says the Outback is even quieter inside the cabin—it wasn’t really a problem with the last model, but we’ll take it. To do this, Subaru reshaped the exterior mirrors, added sound-insulating glass and thicker rear wheel-well aprons, and, on four-cylinder models, modified the continuously variable transmission. Other changes inside include a redesigned center console and more upscale stitching detail on higher-trim models.
One long-overdue improvement is the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities to the infotainment system choices.
The automaker said that this new Outback gets a retuned suspension with dampers meant to produce a smoother ride. Subaru also claims that the upgraded steering and brake systems deliver “a more direct feel and a more enjoyable driving experience.”
All-wheel drive remains standard, and the engine choices are unchanged: 175-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder, and 256-hp, 3.6-liter six-cylinder.
Exterior changes include a few new styling cues, such as wider, lower grille openings and a new bumper. LED daytime running lights are standard. Also new for 2018 are available adaptive headlights, which pivot when the steering wheel is turned to provide better illumination around corners and curves. In addition, Touring and Limited trims equipped with the EyeSight safety system get automatic high-beam assist: In order to avoid blinding oncoming drivers, the car will automatically shift from high- to low-beam mode if it senses a vehicle may be approaching.
One of our criticisms of the current model was that hardcore roof-rack users needed a workaround for the integrated system: The current model’s standard roof rack didn’t work well with a variety of aftermarket carriers, especially if you wanted to carry several kayaks or bikes.
Subaru says that it has improved on this. All 2018 Outback models now have standard roof rails with integrated retractable crossbars, which may help. The up-level Touring model gets low-profile roof rails with available detachable crossbars. Step-style doorsills are also designed to help you stand securely when attaching your stuff to the crossbars.
Subaru was also listening when we noted the car’s erratic climate control system and small clock in our road test. The 2018 models get a revised air conditioning system that supposedly cools the cabin more quickly, and the new Outback gets a redesigned clock that’s apparently larger and easier to read.
The 2018 Outback 2.5i will be available in standard, Premium, Limited, and top-shelf Touring trim lines. The 3.6R will offered in Limited and Touring versions—the latter gets standard EyeSight safety technology, which includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. While the company did not disclose which trim lines were going to be available with EyeSight, Subaru has been offering it on a wide range of models.
Overall, we’ve long been impressed with the Outback. Its combination of decent fuel economy, usually good reliability, and high owner satisfaction shows that this raised wagon/small SUV remains a desirable package that does many things well.
The 2018 Outback arrives this summer. Pricing has not been announced.
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2017 Consumer Reports, Inc.