Meet two very able AWDs with rugged reputations.
Subaru has been making highly capable, highly popular all-wheel-drive wagons for decades. Their owners love them, and the company sells plenty of them.
The Outback and its tall-roofed counterpart, the Forester, could almost be called crossover SUVs. The term seems more in vogue these days. But the facts remain: both vehicles come with AWD as standard equipment across all trims. Both handle more like cars than larger SUVs and trucks. And both enjoy reputations as rugged vehicles for outdoorsy types.
Let’s run through the 2017 Outback vs. Forester comparisons.
Subaru Outback Overview
How popular is the Subaru Outback? Quite popular. According to the company, August 2018 was the 54th consecutive month that the company sold more than 10,000 Outbacks.
Physically, the Outback is a bit longer and wider than the Forester. Models like the 2017 Outback 2.5i give owners 35.5 cubic feet of cargo space in back (with rear seats up). With the back seats folded flat, you’ve got 73.3 cubic feet of space to pack with gear for your next trip to the beach or the mountains.
The ride height is tall here too, at 8.7 inches. Lots of ground clearance to go with your AWD capability.
2017 Subaru Outback Trims
- Subaru Outback 2.5i
- Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited
- Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium
- Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
- Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring
Four-cylinder models, like the 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium, give you a respectable 175 hp, and the engine is mated to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
A six-cylinder-engined Outback like the 2017 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited puts 256 hp and 247 ft-lbs of torque under your right foot. According to Subaru, this Outback can tow up to 2,700 lbs, when properly equipped.2This trim also comes with a CVT gearbox.
Fuel Economy: What Can You Expect?
The 2017 Outback 2.5i Premium delivers an estimated 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.3
The larger-engined, 2017 Outback 3.6R Limited gives you an estimated 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.3
The five-seat Outback offers all-around leather in upper trims like the 2017 Outback 3.6R Limited, plus passenger-friendly features like heated front seats, Bluetooth® compatibility, and a rearview camera. Adventure seekers will love the full roof rack that comes with this trim — great for securing a canoe or kayak.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2017 Subaru Outback its highest overall five-star safety rating. Certain vehicles may have unrepaired safety recalls. Click here to look up a specific vehicle.
Subaru’s EyeSight® package (available on 2017 models) gives you lots of driver- and passenger-friendly features here, like adaptive cruise control and emergency braking.
Subaru Forester Overview
According to Subaru, the Forester sells slightly better than the Outback — 61 consecutive months of at least 10,000 Foresters sold, as of August 2018.
The slightly smaller Forester’s roofline is taller than the Outback’s, and the available panoramic sunroof is larger than the Outback’s. It lets in more light and creates an airy cabin space for your passengers.
Cargo capacity is another difference, with a 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium offering 31.5 cubic feet of luggage space with back seats in an upright position. When the seats are folded flat, you have 74.7 cubic feet of stowage.
2017 Subaru Forester Trims
Here’s your turbo, Subaru fans. The 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring comes with a four-cylinder, turbocharged motor that gives you the same performance (hp and torque) as an Outback with the six-cylinder engine (250 hp).
There’s also the 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i, which comes with the same engine as the 2.5i Outback. Same number of cylinders, same power output.
Fuel Economy: What Can You Expect?
A 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i, equipped with four-cylinder engine and CVT transmission, delivers an estimated 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.3
Four-cylinder turbo models like the 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT deliver an estimated 23 mpg city and 27 highway.3
A look at the 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium gives you a laundry list full of top-shelf features like AWD, a powered liftgate, and heated front seats. The Touring trim gives you a heated steering wheel.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2017 Subaru Forest its highest overall five-star safety rating. Certain vehicles may have unrepaired safety recalls. Click here to look up a specific vehicle.
Subaru’s EyeSight (available on 2017 models) gives you lots of features here, like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, and emergency braking.
The Bottom Line
Looking for the best Subaru model? While both vehicles offer Subaru’s time-tested-and-proven Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the Forester gives you a slight edge on total available cargo area, plus it comes with an available turbo option.
The Outback has great features, plus an available, powerful six-cylinder engine.
Is there a best Subaru SUV? These are both solid vehicles — but just wait for the 3-row, seven-passenger Subaru Ascent in 2019. It’ll be Subaru’s biggest vehicle yet, and undoubtedly a big SUV!
Still shopping? Research the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester here:
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1Based on average prices on carmax.com in September 2018. Actual prices may vary based on your selected features and trim packages. Prices do not include taxes, tags, titles, and any applicable fees.
2Various factors may impact towing capacity, including weight of passengers, cargo, and options/accessories.
3Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates when vehicles sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Unless specified, figures are for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. See fueleconomy.gov for details
Unless otherwise noted, information relating to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.