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Subaru Forester vs Subaru Outback: Which Subaru Will be Better for You?

Subaru Forester vs Subaru Outback

If you're interested in buying a new Subaru, then choosing between the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback is probably one of the things you're going to have to look into. Subaru has been manufacturing its compact crossover SUV the Subaru Forester since back in 1997. This 5 door SUV has sold fairly well for Subaru with numbers of over 170,000 units sold every year since 2015.  The Subaru Outback wagon has been around since 1994 and it sells more than 100,000 units per year in the US, which it's done since the year 2011. In fact, Subaru was selling a new Outback every 2.94 minutes to the United States in 2019. That's not too bad at all.

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As you can see, both the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback are popular vehicles and they also offer similar performance in value. But when you get down into the details, which one of these vehicles is going to be better suited to your needs? Let's take a look at the difference between the Subaru Forester in the Subaru Outback point-by-point so we can determine which of these Subaru models is going to be the right one for you.


Subaru Forester vs. Subaru Outback: Which Performs Better?


Both the Subaru Outback and the Subaru Forester have a 182-horsepower 2.5 L 4-cylinder engine. The Subaru Outback also has a second option of a 2.4 L turbo engine that will give you 260-horsepower. That gives you a little extra pickup and better acceleration, but the fuel economy does suffer slightly when you choose this option.


On the road, the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback both handle fairly well. The Outback does seem to be a little peppier though, and more of a fun ride if that's what you're looking for. Because their engines are the same for the most part, you won't notice a huge difference except insofar as how the overall design of the vehicle adapts to the engine that's installed in it.


Since the Outback does offer you the option of a second engine however, one that is designed to give you a better performance overall, the Subaru Outback does edge out the Forester in this particular segment. When it comes to performance, the Subaru Outback wins.


Subaru Forester vs. Subaru Outback: Which is More Affordable?


If you are only concerned with sticker price then you're definitely going to want to look more at the Subaru Forester than the Subaru Outback. The Subaru Forester starts at $24,495. That puts it around is $2,000 less than the base model of the Subaru Outback. As you go up through the different trim levels the Subaru Forester is still more affordable at every level than the Outback. Even the top of the line Subaru Forester which is called the Subaru Touring Edition is only $34,595. The Subaru Outback’s top trim level is the Subaru Outback Touring XT and that costs $39,695.


Obviously, there is a range in between the lowest in the highest trim levels of each of these vehicles. Also, the Subaru Outback has seven different trim levels while the Forester has five. So, depending on which Outback model you're looking at it could be cheaper than some of the Foresters, but of course you need to take into consideration which features come with which trim level. At the end of the day, the Subaru Forester is cheaper in general than the Subaru Outback.


Obviously, which one is a better value is going to depend on your individual circumstances and what you expect to get out of your Subaru. The Subaru Outback Touring XT features a lot of high-end features and options that you're not going to get with a base model Subaru Forester for instance.


Subaru Forester vs. Subaru Outback: Which Gets Better Gas Mileage?


Although the initial price of a Subaru Forester or a Subaru Outback is something that you need to be aware of, the other thing you need to factor into overall affordability is gas mileage. The Forester is a little bit better on gas than the Outback when you compare them head-to-head in this way.  The difference is not greatly significant however because the Subaru Outback and the Subaru Forester both share the same engine.


Both the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback are going to give you 26 miles per gallon when you're driving in the city and 33 miles per gallon when you're driving on the highway. However, there is one other thing to be aware of and that is that the Outback does have a second engine option. If you go for the Subaru Outback turbo engine and then fuel economy changes to 23 miles per gallon in the city and 30 miles per gallon on the highway.


The other thing to keep in mind at this point is that the Subaru Outback and the Subaru Forester are not the exact same kind of vehicle. The Forester is an SUV and the Outback is a wagon. When you compare the Subaru Outback with other vehicles in its class, the mileage it offers is about average. However, when you compare the Forester to other vehicles in its class it actually is ahead of much of the competition in terms of fuel economy. When you look at it from that perspective, then the Forester stands out as the better option for fuel economy. When it comes to gas mileage, the Subaru Forester wins.


Subaru Forester vs. Subaru Outback: Which Has Better Features?


As we've established, the Subaru Outback does cost more than the Subaru Forester. Along with that higher price comes some better features and options. For instance, the Subaru Outback at higher trim levels is going to give you Nappa leather seats, a heated steering wheel, ventilated seating and so on.


The Subaru Outback and the Subaru Forester both feature the same Starlink infotainment system that Subaru offers and its vehicles, however the Outback is going to give you some superior options. For instance, the Outback starts with a 7-inch touch screen and can be upgraded to an 11.6-inch touch screen. The Subaru Forester on the other hand has a 6.5-inch touch screen that you can upgrade to an 8-inch touch screen.


Both vehicles offer you USB ports, and the Outback to give you USB ports that the rear seats have access to as well. They're also wireless charging stations, dual-zone climate control, and Wi-Fi hotspots if you're looking to keep yourself connected while you're in your vehicle.


When it comes to the range of features that you were going to have access to, the Subaru Outback wins.


Subaru Forester versus Subaru Outback: Which Vehicle is More Reliable?


Because both the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback are made by Subaru then it's obvious that they're both going to have the same safety features included. For that reason, it's not really a fair comparison between the two to try to determine which one is going to be safer than the other. 


Both the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback have what Subaru calls its EyeSight safety system. Eyesight is a driving support system that offers a wide variety of safety features to drivers that are meant to improve the overall safety of not just yourself but everyone else on the road. It's also meant to help reduce driver fatigue.


Two cameras are mounted by the rear-view mirror that monitor traffic and can react to conditions even before the driver does. It also sounds an alert and will give you a visual warning if there's danger of collision and includes automatic braking if you need to stop but your reaction time isn't up to snuff. It can optimize its cruise control and has lane warnings as well. Basically, that means that both the Subaru Forester or the Subaru Outback have adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warnings and lane sway warnings as well as a host of other features. Suffice it to say that both the Subaru Forester and Outback are extremely safe.


Subaru also offers the same warranty on both the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback. That warranty covers 3 years or 36,000-miles limited plus 60,000-miles in a 5 year warranty on the powertrain. That's standard warranty stuff in the industry.


In terms of what you can expect for how these vehicles react in the case of an accident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the 2020 Subaru Forester a 5-star safety rating. It excelled in every crash test they put it through and only lost one star on the rollover testing. Five stars for everything else, though.


The Subaru Outback also scored five stars across the board according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's crash testing. Just like the Subaru Forester, it also lost one star for its rollover rating but otherwise it's about as good as any vehicle can be on the road.


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also conducts crash tests on vehicles, and both the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback got the top ratings in the crash test here as well. Both have been labelled a Top Safety Pick Plus and are among the safest vehicles that you can get from any manufacturer on the road today. If reliability is a concern, then you don't need to worry about either of these.


For these reasons, the crash test ratings as well as the safety features we have to say that the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback are exactly evenly matched.


Subaru Forester vs. Subaru Outback: Which Vehicle Has More Problems?


Much like how the Subaru Forester or the Subaru Outback have excellent safety ratings, each of these vehicles have proven that they are generally problem-free. Generally, is the operative word here however, and there have been a few issues reported with both of these vehicles in the past.


The Subaru Forester has had the most problems, especially in terms of excessive oil consumption. 2013 Subaru Foresters through 2015 all had issues with burning excessive oil to the point that some drivers were forced to add new oil at a rate of nearly every 1,000 miles of driving. That's three to five times more often than is usually necessary with most vehicles.  As you can imagine this could be quite costly over time. At the end of the year if you are replacing 5 quarts of oil every time you hit 1,000 miles, you'll likely be spending over $1,000 on oil with this kind of problem.


The Subaru Outback has had fewer problems than the Subaru Forester over the years. 2015 models of the Subaru Outback had some electrical issues that caused accessories to malfunction but in general they were far fewer performance problems with the Subaru Outback throughout its history. No vehicle is perfect of course, and both the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outback have had isolated problems that drivers have had to deal with ranging from engine problems to transmission issues but these were certainly not endemic issues and nothing that you should expect specific to the Subaru Outback versus Subaru Forester that you would expect to find in any vehicle made by Ford or Honda, or any other manufacturer.


When it comes to the history of mechanical problems then, the Subaru Outback has performed better than the Subaru Forester, but only because of those few years of excessive oil consumption issues in the Subaru Forester. The Subaru Outback wins for having fewer problems.


Subaru Forester vs. Subaru Outback: Which Vehicle is the Better Option?


When you compare the Subaru Forester versus the Subaru Outback point-by-point as we've done you can see that the differences between the two are not that great. There's a reason why the Subaru Outback has dominated the wagon market in North America. There's also a reason why the Forester is one of the most popular crossover SUVs that you're going to find whether it's made by Subaru or any other manufacturer.


Because the Subaru Forester gives you the best value in terms of price it does come out ahead in terms of overall affordability. However, if you want to look at the total package and include not just price but the features that you got for the money you're investing, not to mention the handling and comfort that you're going to get in the Subaru Outback as opposed to the Subaru Forester then it seems like the Subaru Outback edges out the Subaru Forester ever-so-slightly when you add up all the advantages between the two vehicles.


For that reason, we are going to say that the Subaru Outback is the better choice but by no means is the Subaru Forester a bad choice.


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