The 2018 model has two engine options, both of which are mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and delivers power to all four wheels. The base 2.5 liter flat-4 engine produces 175 horsepower and 174 lb. ft. of torque while the 3.6 liter flat-6 engine produces 256 horsepower and 247 lb. ft. of torque. The performance of the base engine is serviceable when driving in a reasonable pace, but the engine doesn’t deliver a huge surge of power when pressing down the gas pedal. The Outback reaches 60 mph in 9.5 seconds, a figure below average in the crossover SUV segment. The upgrade to the bigger 3.6 liter engine is necessary if transporting a lot of people and/or cargo is routine. Like its engine, the handling is adequate for everyday use. There isn’t much body roll felt through the corners, but it’s not exactly light on its feet. The steering is immediate, though it was slightly cumbersome. Drivers who like a SUV with sportier handling traits, might have to look elsewhere though. The brakes performed decently, as its stopping distance of 126 feet from 60 mph is average in its class. However, the nose dives significantly during sudden stoppages. There is also a lack of firmness in the pedal, which didn’t provide a sense of security either.
The base 2.5i trim comes with automatic headlights, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB port, CD player, auxiliary audio port, and an infotainment system with 6.5-inch touchscreen and four-speaker sound system. The 2.5i Premium trim then includes windshield wiper deicer, heated side mirrors, foglights, automatic climate control, power-adjustable driver seat with lumbar adjustment, heated front seats, satellite radio, three USB ports, and an infotainment system with 8-inch touchscreen and six-speaker sound system. Optional features are a moonroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a power liftgate. The EyeSight package includes several advanced safety and driver aids as well as navigation. The 2.5i Limited trim have all the Premium features and steps it up with keyless entry and ignition, power-adjustable front passenger seat, driver-seat memory settings, and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Xenon headlights are the only option available. The 3.6R Limited trim now has the xenon headlights and the rest of the Limited features as standard but now comes with the bigger powerplant. The EyeSight package is available for both the 2.5i and 3.6R Limited trims and also include steering-activated LED headlights. The Touring trim available for both the 2.5i and 3.6R is the crème-de-la-crème of the Outback lineup. It includes all features from the Limited trim as standard as well as having unique exterior parts, upscale interior appointments and a heated steering wheel.
The 2018 model has been tested by the NHTSA and it earns a 5-star rating for the frontal crash test, a 5-star rating for the side crash test, and a 4-star rating for the rollover test. Overall, it achieves a 5-star safety rating. The IIHS has also tested the 2018 model and rates it “Good” in crashworthiness and “Superior” for crash avoidance and mitigation. Overall, it earns a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS. Advanced safety and driver aids that come standard include hill descent control, hill holding assist, and a rearview camera. Optional features that are available according to trim level include blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking for front and rear collision, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams.
The 2018 model has a 188.8-inch length, 72.4-inch width, 66.1-inch height and 108.3-inch wheelbase. The 2018 is a minor visual refresh from last year’s model. The front fascia has a new grille and the headlights look sportier with running lights outlining the flanks. The side mirrors are redesigned to reduce noise inside the cabin while on the highway. Despite being classified as a crossover SUV, the Outback has been known to resemble a station wagon with its elongated body and roof rails. With a higher ride height than a typical station wagon, it allows for safely venturing into unpaved roads. The base 2.5i and 2.5i Premium trim come standard with 17-inch wheels while the rest of the trims have 18-inch wheels as standard. The Touring trim however has its own unique 18-inch wheels to distinguish it from the other higher-end trims.
The front doors widely open for a trouble-free entry. However the taller ground clearance may be a challenge as well as the bigger rocker panels, which can seem like stepping deeper inside the cabin. The headroom and legroom for the front row and second row is spacious, but feet movement is limited for the second row passengers. There is accommodation for up to five people with its two rows of seats. The leather upholstery is supple to the touch and the seats are very comfortable while having good support. The cushion of the second row of seats however doesn’t reach the back of the knees to fully support the upper legs. Ride quality is superb with the soft settings for the suspension. Small imperfections on the pavement were barely felt and humps were almost glided over. However while driving at higher speeds, the imperfections on the pavement can be transmitted abruptly.
Behind the second row of seats is 35.5 cu. ft. of space, and once the second row is folded down, there is 73.3 cu. ft. of space available for cargo.