Subaru is the brand that brought AWD to the masses and made safety accessible to everyone. The plucky little Japanese manufacture has a multi-faceted front between sporting aspirations and family-based vehicles, creating a unique company that has the experience needed to create safe, reliable vehicles at cost.
Surely, by now, you have heard of Subaru’s top-notch reliability and safety, so what makes them such great vehicles with some of the highest ratings on Edmunds and US News? To me, it’s the care that goes into the design of the vehicle. Subaru isn’t focused on frivolous details that will only jack up the prices. They focus their attention on making engines that last, safety features that work, and strong components that can handle madmen like Travis Pastrana beating them to death down a country road. They make the most reliable and safe vehicles available at the best cost. See that’s the intrigue of Subaru, their double-edged sword. The combination of motorsports and family safety/reliability has led to the manufacturing of some of the best value vehicles available today.
So really the question that boils down is, what Subaru do I buy? It's really a very simple answer. Create a list of what you actually use your vehicle for. Camping, soccer practice, weekend motorsports, the daily trip to work, or used for your dog walking business; there is a vehicle for us all. From this list, narrow down what Subaru fits your lifestyle the best.
It gets difficult when you discover the best vehicle for you is a small SUV/crossover or wagon. Subaru currently has two such vehicles that have long established themselves in the automotive world. The Subaru Forester and Subaru Outback have similar layouts but are actually very different vehicles. Let’s dive into the differences between the two vehicles.
One of the more important factors of an SUV is its interior space. The larger frame and increased cargo space are the majority of the reason we need an SUV in the first place! So does the Subaru Forester or the Subaru Outback offer more in terms of overall space?
Thanks to the large windows, panoramic sunroof, and small dash, the Subaru Forester has a spacious, airy feeling cabin. Climbing into the Forester there is a feeling that you can perform a full yoga routine and still have room to spare. Small blind spots mean great all-around visibility and the Forester is one of the only modern cars that still look good with untinted clear windows. The quantifiable data supports the large airy feeling interior. The Subaru Forester has 43.3 inches of front legroom, 58.2 inches of front shoulder room, 54.1 inches of hip room, and 40.2 inches of headroom. Rear seats are blessed with a similar 39.4 inches of legroom and 37.7 inches headroom. The Forester has 33 ft³ of cargo room with the seats up and 70.9 ft³ with the seats folded down. Not bad numbers for a small SUV.
The Subaru Outback has a similarly large, airy cabin, though the larger dash and higher beltline limit the spacious feel that the Forester has. That being said, the Outback is actually a larger vehicle. The Subaru Outback has 42.9 inches of front legroom, 58.1 inches of front shoulder room, 38.3 inches front headroom and 55.5 inches front hip room. The rear-seat passengers have an equally impressive 38.1 inches rear legroom, 38.9 inches rear headroom, and 57.3 inches rear shoulder room. Cargo space is what is truly impressive however. The Subaru Outback comes with 35.5 ft³ cargo capacity with the seats up and 73.3 ft³ with the seats folded down.
Both these crossovers have no shortage of space. They have more than enough room to carry around the whole family with the dogs down to the campground. Neither vehicle is available with a third-row however, that ability is reserved for Subaru’s large SUV, the Subaru Ascent.
Subaru’s reputation for safety is what they have built the brand around. The care that goes into the safety of their vehicles is an important difference between them and every other brand. Both Subaru models, the Forester and the Outback, have an impressive array of safety features.
Subaru’s safety obsession is clearly demonstrated in both the Forester and the Outback. Both vehicles come with Standard EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology. Eyesight is Subaru’s iteration of active driver-assist safety features and includes a long list of features, namely automatic braking for possible front impacts. This technology has been proven to reduce rear-end crashes with injuries by up to 85%, according to Subaru. The forward-facing radar also means that adaptive cruise control is available as standard in the Outback and Forester. This is not only an important safety feature but also a nice convenience. Also available as standard in both models is lane keep assist, sway warning, and pre-collision throttle management.
The fact these safety features are available as standard on all Forester and Outback models is a testament to Subarus' commitment to safety. Additional safety features are available on both models as well, including Subaru DriverFocus™ Distraction Mitigation System, blind spot protection, 360-degree camera, and many more. Between the two vehicles, it is a tie when it comes to safety Each has the same features available and each safer than many other vehicles on the road for you and your family.
So what really is the difference between these two vehicles? Besides the fact that one looks like it can’t decide if it wants to be a wagon or an SUV?
Mostly the interior space, ride quality, and luxuries. The Subaru Outback is a far superior vehicle when it comes to the overall quality of the interior and ride. The softer suspension takes bumps and undulations in the road in a much more compliant fashion, and the interior uses higher-end materials. The dash is lined in quality leather and plastics and the seats are soft and cushiony. Overall, the Outback is just a better go anywhere, do anything kind of car. It has a higher ride height, a more comfortable and quiet interior, more luxury features, and even more powerful engine options.
In the long run, you would be hard stretched to find much wrong with either vehicle, but the more refined interior and increased cargo space are noticeably better in the Outback.
Bang for Buck
So, as always, we get to the point of which is more bang for your buck. Both vehicles offer enormous value for what they cost. Subarus have one of the highest resale values and hold their costs better than any other brand. But which of these two offer better overall value. Subaru Forester vs Subaru Outback.
While the Outback has a nicer interior and more available features, but when looking for the best bang for your buck, the Forester has it beat. A far lower MSRP and even better discounts mean the Forester can be picked up for cheap. This, along with the fact that features like Eyesight Driver Assist are standard on the Forester, getting an affordable SUV with AWD, forward crash mitigation, and adaptive cruise control is cheaper than ever. While the entry-level Forester is still a bit bare-bones for me, the mid-level Premium trim will give you a useable stack of features at a price that is still affordable on any budget.