2018 Subaru Outback: Release date, prices, features, and specs

2018 Outback crossover retains title as Subaru's best-selling model

With the release of the 2018 edition, the Subaru Outback continues to be the brand’s best-selling model in the U.S. Originally introduced at the 2017 New York Auto Show, the 2018 model is part of the Outback’s fifth-generation, which was first unveiled in 2015. Changes for 2018 include refreshed front and rear styling and a short list of trim and feature tweaks.

The Outback is Subaru’s largest crossover, a head-of-the-family role it will cede in summer 2018 with the introduction of the significantly larger 2019 Subaru Ascent., which boasts three rows of seating for up to seven or eight passengers. The Outback, the largest of Subaru’s three crossovers, has been the sales leader in recent years, followed by the Forester compact crossover, and then the subcompact Crosstrek. It will be interesting to see if the significantly larger 2019 Ascent steals sales from the Outback or if it brings new buyers to the brand.

Unibody crossovers have taken over the U.S. buying market, attracting people who formerly bought sedans or body-on-frame SUVs.

What’s new for 2018 Subaru Outbacks

In addition to newly designed front and rear fascias, bumpers, and front grille, the 2018 Outback has new C-shaped headlights with LED daytime running lights. A new Steering Responsive Headlight feature that lets the headlights project light in the direction of turns is either standard or optional on the top two trim levels. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard with Subaru Starlink infotainment systems,and the highest-level system with GPS navigation includes TomTom navigation with three years of map updates.

2018 Subaru Outback engines

Outbacks have one of two boxer-style engines. Four 2.5i trims – the 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, and 2.5i Touring — have a 2.5-liter flat-four, which produces 175 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 174 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings for the engine are 25 mpg for city driving, 32 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined.

Outback 3.6R Limited and 3.6R Touring trims have a more powerful and thirsty 6-cylinder 3.6L engine. The flat-six produces 256 hp at 6,000 rpm and 247 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm. EPA ratings for the 3.6L engine are 20 mpg city, 27 highway, and 22 combined.

Both engines pair with a Subaru Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. There’s no manual shift transmission offered, but when you prefer to manage the gear changes, the CVT’s paddle shift support uses preselected ratios.

2018 Subaru Outback tech

Outback handling tech

Along with the boxer engine’s low center of gravity, Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel drive provides the basis for smoother, more car-like handling than many AWD systems with equal-length half-axles. The Outback piles on stability and traction-handling technology with a combination of traction control with vehicle dynamics control, active torque vectoring, and X-Mode, all of which are standard with all Outback trims.

Active torque vectoring applies the brake to the inner front wheel during turns for smoother, sharper cornering and X-Mode, selected using a dashboard button, optimizes multiple powertrain systems including engine output, transmission ratio, and AWD engagement for improved traction on slippery surfaces.

All Outbacks also have hill descent control, brake assist for added force in hard braking, and brake override, which detects when a driver accidentally presses both the brake and accelerator pedals. The Outback’s SUV-like 8.7-inch ground clearance increases the odds of traversing most road conditions.

Outback safety tech

Subaru offers a moderate selection of passive and active safety and driver-assist tech, but you’ll have to buy one of the highest trims or deck out the vehicle with options to get all or most of the offerings.

All Outback trims have a standard rearview camera, plus a revamped tire pressure monitoring system that now includes individual tire alerts. If you choose the base trim Outback 2.5i, the discussion ends here because other safety features are unavailable, even as options. Outback Premium trims and above have access to more feature as options or standard equipment. If you want an Outback with all current Outback safety and assist goodies, you have to opt for the highest trims, the 2.5i Touring or 3.6R Touring, which differ only in the engine.

Blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package are optional on the 2.5i Premium. The 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited get blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert features standard, but the EyeSight tech package is optional. The Eyesight package, standard on the two Touring trims, includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, and lane-keep assist.

As mentioned above, LED steering-responsive headlights that turn as the driver steers are optional on the 2.5i Limited, and standard equipment with the 3.6R Limited and both Touring trims. Two features are standard for the Touring trims only, and optional with Limited models: automatic high-beam headlight control and reverse automatic braking that will apply the brakes if it detects an obstacle while backing up. Auto high beams are also optional with the 2.5i Premium.

Keeping track of which safety and assist features come with which trim is a challenge, so we built the table below, with standard features in bold to clarify which features are standard, optional, or not available with different trims.

Passive Safety/Driver Assist Features 2018 Outback 2.5i 2018 Outback 2.5i Premium 2018 Outback 2.5i Limited
Rearview camera with backup assist gridlines Standard Standard Standard
Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert Not available Optional Standard
Adaptive cruise control  Not available Optional Optional
Lane departure and sway warning, lane-keep assist Not available Optional Optional
Pre-collision braking Not available Optional Optional
LED steering responsive headlights Not available Not available Optional
Auto high-beam headlamp Not available Optional Optional
Reverse automatic braking Not available Not available Optional
Passive Safety/Driver Assist Features 2018 Outback 2.5i Touring 2018 Outback 3.6R Limited 2018 Outback 3.6R Touring
Rearview camera with backup assist gridlines Standard Standard Standard
Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert Standard Standard Standard
Adaptive cruise control  Standard Optional Standard
Lane departure and sway warning, lane-keep assist Standard Optional Standard
Pre-collision braking Standard Optional Standard
LED steering responsive headlights Standard Standard Standard
Auto high-beam headlamp Standard Optional Standard
Reverse automatic braking Standard Optional Standard

How to choose a 2018 Subaru Outback

The 2018 Outback 2.5i, starting price $25,895, is the least expensive model with few options or upgrade packages. The 2.5i has single-zone air conditioning, raised roof rails with integrated cross bars, a 6.5-inch infotainment display, and 17-inch alloy wheels

For 2018, the Outback 2.5i Premium, $27,995 to start, includes the features of the base 2.5i plus Subaru Starlink Safety and Security services, an 8-inch infotainment display, fog lights, dual-zone climate control, dual front seat and dual rear seat USB ports, an all-weather package with heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icer, and a power adjustable driver’s seat. The Premium trim can be upgraded with blind-spot detection/rear cross-traffic alert and Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package.

Starting at $32,695, the Outback 2.5i Limited adds leather-trimmed seats, a 576-watt-equivalent 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system, 18-inch alloy wheels, power adjustable heated front passenger seat, heated rear seats, keyless access with push-button start, and a power rear liftgate. The Limited trim also includes a power moonroof and an auto-dimming rear mirror with HomeLink universal garage door opener.

Trim 2018 Outback 2.5i 2018 Outback 2.5i Premium 2018 Outback 2.5i Limited
Base price $25,895 $27,995 $32,695
Drive wheels AWD AWD AWD
Base engine  2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder
 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder
 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder
Base horsepower 175 hp @ 5,800 rpm 175 hp @ 5,800 rpm 175 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Base torque 174 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 174 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 174 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission CVT CVT CVT
Fuel Regular gas Regular gas Regular gas
Fuel capacity  18.5 gallons 18.5 gallons 18.5 gallons
Fuel economy 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway/28 mpg combined 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway/28 mpg combined 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway/28 mpg combined
Base wheels  17-inch  17-inch 18-inch
Body style 4-door SUV 4-door SUV 4-door SUV
Passengers 5 5 5
Storage behind 2nd-row seats 35.5 cubic feet 35.5 cubic feet 35.5 cubic feet
Storage behind 1st-row seats 73.3 cubic feet 73.3 cubic feet 73.3 cubic feet
Max Towing capacity 2,700 pounds 2,700 pounds 2,700 pounds
Seat upholstery  Cloth Cloth Leather

The poshest of the 2018 2.5L Outbacks, the 2018 2.5i Touring, starts at $36,490. In addition to the 2.5i Limited upgrades, the Touring trim ads the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package, lower-profile roof rails, a heated steering wheel, integrated GPS navigation, LED steering responsive headlights, and Touring-trim-only Java Brown leather-trimmed upholstery.

Moving up to the 3.6L Boxer 6-cylinder engine, the 2018 Outback 3.6R Limited starts at $35,395.  Other than the larger engine, the 3.6R Limited adds LED steering responsive headlights but otherwise has the same equipment at the 2.5i Limited.

The top-of-the-line Outback trim, and for 2018 the largest and fanciest Subaru crossover, the 3.6R Touring trim has the exclusive Java Brown leather seats, heated steering wheel, low-profile roof rails, GPS nav system, and the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package.

Trim 2018 Outback 2.5i Touring 2018 Outback 3.6R Limited 2018 Outback 3.6R Trouing
Base price $36,490 $35,395 $38,690
Drive wheels AWD AWD AWD
Base engine  2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder  3.6-liter Boxer 6-cylinder  3.6-liter Boxer 6-cylinder
Base horsepower 175 hp @ 5,800 RPM 256 hp @ 6,000 RPM 256 hp @ 6,000 RPM
Base torque 174 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM 247 ft-lb @ 4,400 RPM 247 ft-lb @ 4,400 RPM
Transmission CVT CVT CVT
Fuel Regular gas Regular gas Regular gas
Fuel capacity  18.5 gallons 18.5 gallons 18.5 gallons
Fuel economy 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway/28 mpg combined 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/22 mpg combined 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/22 mpg combined
Base wheels  18-inch  18-inch  18-inch
Body style 4-door SUV 4-door SUV 4-door SUV
Passengers 5 5 5
Storage behind 2nd-row seats 35.5 cubic feet 35.5 cubic feet 35.5 cubic feet
Storage behind 1st-row seats 73.3 cubic feet 73.3 cubic feet 73.3 cubic feet
Max Towing capacity 2,700 pounds 2,700 pounds 2,700 pounds
Seat upholstery  Leather Leather Leather

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