While speed enthusiasts recognize Subaru as the maker of the WRX and the STI, for most people with families it’s better-known for the Forester and the Outback. These SUV-type vehicles have long gained a reputation for terrific family service, and they can also go off-road because of their ruggedness. With their standard AWD configuration and generous ground clearance, they sure offer an enjoyable ride even in trying conditions.
But which one is better? To answer that question for you, we need to take a closer look and compare the 2 according to several factors:
Most people buy large vehicles because they tend to transport lots of stuff around. Just about everyone needs space for groceries after all. The Outback offers plenty of space for your stuff, as behind the 2nd row of seats you get 35.5 cubic feet and a longer length of 77.7 inches. In comparison, you only get 31.5 to 34.4 cubic feet and a length of 71.9 inches with the Forester.
Fold the rear seats down, though, and the Forester offers more space with 74.7 cubic feet compared to the 73.3 cubic feet in the outback. Even with the moon beam the Forester cargo space isn’t bad, as it is still 68.5 cubic feet.
Both vehicles offer very similar legroom for the front and rear. However, the Outback is a bit wider so you get about 2 inches of extra room for your hips and your shoulders.
You have a 2.5L flat-4 as the base engine for both vehicles, and both also get 174 lb-ft of torque. It’s just that the Outback gets 175 hp, while it’s only 170 hp in the Forester. Despite the slight hp disadvantage, the Forester only needs 8.7 seconds to get to 60 mph while the Outback requires 9.4 seconds.
If you want to upgrade the engine for the Forester, you can go with the 2.0XT and get the 2.0L turbocharged flat-4 that gives you 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to get to 60 mph in just 6.8 seconds while you can finish the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds at 90 mph.
For the Outback, you can go with the 3.6R model with the 3.6L flat-6 engine. This offers 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. It offers slower acceleration than the Forester, as you need 7.3 seconds to get to 60 mph. You also finish the quarter mile in 16.7 seconds at 91.2 mph.
The Forester is also better at stopping to a standstill from 60 mph. You’ll only need 115 feet for that, while you need 129 feet for the Outback.
Compared to other crossovers today, the Outback offers excellent visibility. But it’s even better in the Forester, simply because it has bigger windows.
Both have the same ground clearance at 8.7 inches and they also have the symmetrical AWD system for optimal traction on and off the road. But off-road, the Forester is much better as it’s less likely to end up with a damaged undercarriage when you’re going through rough terrain. It has a higher angle for its approach, departure, and breakover.
The Outback wins with its maximum towing capacity of 2,700 pounds. In the Forester, you get 1,500 pounds.
According to the crash test results from the NHTSA and the IIHS, the Outback is better. The NHTSA gives both the highest 5-star overall rating, but in the frontal crash test the Outback scores 5 stars to the Forester’s 4 stars. The IIHS regards the Outback as a 2018 Top Safety Pick+, while the Forester gets the nod as a 2018 Top Safety Pick but without the “+” rating.
Both vehicles come with a combined EPA rating of 28 mpg when they have the same base engine. However, while both score 32 mpg on the highway, the Forester scores 26 mpg on the city streets. The Outback only gets 25 mpg.
The Forester’s optional 2L turbo-4 rates 23/27/25 mpg (city/highway/combined) while the 3.6L flat-6 optional engine for the Outback rates 20/27/22 mpg.
The Outback does have a bigger fuel tank so you get to drive 592 miles before you empty the tank. The Forester has a shorter range at 509 miles.
Which one’s better depends on what your preferences are. It’s just that the Forester is a bit boxier while the Outback is a wagon that looks like a crossover.
The 2018 Forester price starts at $23,710 while the Outback goes at $26,810 to begin with. So if you want to spend $1,000 more to get the CVT automatic for the Forester, you still have more than 2 grand in your wallet. The Outback does offer more luxury features, so for some they may feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.
Which Subaru Is For You?
That depends on who you are. Do you prioritize safety, luxury, or towing power? If so, then you’ll want the Outback. The Forester, on the other hand, is for those who don’t want to spend as much money while still enjoying the better performance on pavement.
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