Andrew Davis
Automotive Editor - October 16, 2017

2018 Subaru Outback OVERVIEW

Though Subaru didn’t invent the all-wheel drive sport-utility wagon, it certainly have done the most to popularize it in the US. The formula is deceptively simple: combine the capability and capacity of an SUV with an economy car’s efficiency and ease-of-use. That Subaru’s Outback has had two decades of success pulling it off proves just how well the company has managed to blend ruggedness, refinement, and roominess while remaining reasonably-priced.

What's New for 2018

Though it’s due for a complete redesign for 2019, Subaru has nonetheless made significant changes to the 2018 Outback, with revised front and rear fascias, improved interior materials and features, new multimedia capabilities, additional safety technology, and a more refined and quieter ride.

Also quieter is the cabin as a whole thanks to reshaped exterior mirrors, better sound insulation, and refinements made to the standard continuously variable transmission, which now features a seven-speed manual-shift mode as well. All these improvements come at a significant cost, however, as Outback prices rise an average of $2,500 across the six-model/four-trim range for 2018.

Subaru Outback

Choosing Your Subaru Outback

The heart of the Outback line is the 2.5-liter flat-four engine, which despite having a relatively meager output of 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, a CVT ,and all-wheel drive to contend with, along with the Outback’s not insubstantial curb weight, is the overwhelming choice among buyers – it provides enough power and enough economy (EPA ratings of 25 mpg city/32 highway/28 combined) at a low enough price. There are four separate trims for the starter engine: 2.5i, Premium, Limited, and Touring.

The available 3.6-liter flat six will appeal to customers that need more power – the carmaker’s largest-displacement motor, the 256-hp, 247-lb-ft six-cylinder is only available in the Limited- and Touring trims. It's coupled to a more robust continuously variable transmission that shares its paddle-shifter controls and new seven-speed "manual mode" with the four-cylinder's CVT. Unfortunately, the six-cylinder's additional 81 hp and 73 lb-ft demand a hearty sacrifice – a significant drop in EPA mpg ratings, to 20/27/22.


The Outback line starts here, at $26,810 (including a $915 destination charge) for the base 2.5i model. It’s the sole trim with manually-adjustable seats and HVAC controls, basic analog gauges, and a 6.5-inch LCD display for the Subaru Starlink infotainment system system. And while the last item does include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Pandora, and Bluetooth connectivity, it does so with only an AM/FM stereo and four speakers, and a complete lack of optional extras. This also means 17-inch alloys, auto up/down on the driver’s window only and fabric upholstery.

2.5i Premium

Starting at $28,910, the Outback Premium gives owners a chance to partake in more of what Subaru has to offer, so it’s no surprise that this represents the volume trim. At this point, Outbacks come standard with fog lamps, a power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate controls, and body-colored exterior rearview mirrors that – thanks to the included All-Weather Package – are heated like the front seats and windshield. Also included is an upgraded Starlink infotainment system with a larger eight-inch display, cloud-based Magellan navigation software, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, and a CD player, plus two additional speakers.

Options here include the $1,695 Power Moonroof Package, which includes a moonroof (duh) and a power liftgate. The $1,995 EyeSight Driver Assist Technology Package adds the entire EyeSight safety suite (adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist) blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams, and the power tailgate. There's also a package that marries the EyeSight suite with the Power Moonroof Package and adds an integrated navigation system – it rings up at $3,590.

Also, from here on out, a subscription to Subaru’s “Starlink Safety and Security Plus” service – a SiriusXM Services-based alternative to General Motor’s OnStar – is available for $49 the first year ($149 for two after that), and includes remote locking, a horn-and-lights-based vehicle locator, security alarm and automatic collision notifications, and roadside-assistance and stolen vehicle recovery services, all via a built-in AT&T 4G LTE wireless setup.

2.5i Limited

If leather upholstery is a must, so is the $33,610 Limited trim. The $4,700 jump from the Premium is a steep one, but includes as standard the Premium’s two option packages and adds a memory function for the driver’s seat, a power passenger’s seat, heating for the rear seats, proximity entry with push-button start, 18-inch alloys, and a 576-watt Harmon Kardon premium audio system with 12-speakers, including one center-dash and a subwoofer.

The only available option package costs $2,085 and includes the navigation system and EyeSight suite previously offered on the 2.5i Premium. The upside is that the EyeSight system benefits from rear automatic braking, while the headlights are bending LEDs that can look around turns.

2.5i Touring

This is Subaru’s all-in trim, and at $37,405 it should be. In addition to including every aforementioned option, the $3,795 it costs over the 2.5i Limited includes unique piano black interior trim, special Java Brown-hued leather, low-profile silver-tone roof rails, and a host of exterior trim “upgrades” including body-color door handles and lower door cladding (both with chrome inserts), and a rear bumper cover.

EyeSight with the bending LED headlights and rear automatic emergency braking is standard, as is a heated steering wheel, and navigation. There are no available options, only dealer-installed accessories.

3.6R Limited

Adding the six-cylinder engine adds dual exhaust outlets to the Limited trim and $2,700 to the MSRP – bringing the cost of entry to $36,310 – but it adds the bending LED headlights as standard. Otherwise, the 3.6R Limited enjoys the same content as its four-cylinder counterpart.

3.6R Touring

At $39,605, the 3.6R Touring is far from cheap. But along with all the worthwhile additions found on the 2.5i Touring, it comes with an ample dose of power that almost makes the $2,200 premium demanded by the bigger engine on this trim seem worthwhile.

CarsDirect Tip

While the changes made to 2018 Outbacks might make paying the premium they demand make sense, seeing as how it’s due for an imminent redo, waiting on the savings that come from replacement makes more sebse. That said, the Outback is a very popular vehicle, so not every configuration will see incentives. If a particular Outback is the one you have to have – we recommend the 2.5i Limited – it’s best to bite the bullet and buy now so as not to be “stuck” getting a better deal but for more – or less – Outback than you wanted.

Get your price on a Subaru Outback >>

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