Comparison of 2018 Forester and 2018 Outback

What is the difference between Outback and Forester?

Executive Summary

"What is the difference between the Forester and the Outback" is the most common question we hear at Planet. 

Outback is Subaru's number one seller, and Forester number two. 
Outback is a longer, more substantial vehicle--a "midsize crossover" where Forester is a "compact crossover."  Outback looks and feels more like a wagon, Forester looks and feels more like a small sport utility vehicle.  Comparably equipped, Outback is about $2,000 more.  Many shorter drivers like the Forester's high perch; other drivers prefer the Outback's smoother ride and European handling.  Forester returns slightly better city fuel economy and they're tied at 32 on the highway.     

Both are "Top Safety Pick Plus" award winners of from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  Forester won Motor Trend's "Sport Utility of the Year" award in 2009 and 2014; Outback won in 2010 with the previous generation.  Forester and Outback offer the utility and all-weather prowess of a sport utility vehicle with the lower cost, higher fuel economy, better ride, and superior outward visibility of a car.  They boast many safety features, including full-time symmetrical all wheel drive (with no buttons to push).  They both come with a 3 year/36,000 mile comprehensive warranty and a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Planet-exclusive video comparing Forester with Outback


Outback, silver, left
Forester, black, right


Ride Quality
Outback has the longer wheelbase (the distance between the axles is four inches longer than the Forester).  Lengthening the distance between the axles provides an even smoother ride because the vehicle platform covers more square area and therefore bumps are less noticeable.  However, even with a wheelbase shorter than an Outback, Forester is much smoother than its competitors.

You're looking at the front axles, with the rear
axles lined up, out of sight.  Outback, on left;

axles are farther apart.

Ground clearance

is the same, at 8.7 inches, so both elude
obstacles that snag mortal vehicles.


utback is almost two inches wider.


utback is over eight inches longer.


Forester is two inches taller.






Outward Visibility
Both have a "command driving position" allowing you to see over traffic in front of you.   Forester and Outback were ranked #1 and #3 for best outward visibility among all vehicles
See the graphic.


Dawg (and cargo) Space

See how Blue
can stand up better in Forester because it's a little taller.  He can lounge better in the Outback because it's longer.  So you could say he prefers the waggin'. 

35.5 cubic feet: seats up

34.4 cubic feet: seats up


Two adult bicycles fit easily inside the Outback, flat with the wheels on. They would fit in a Forester, too, but would require tilting the front wheels or removing them.

cubic feet:

seats down

74.7 cubic feet:
seats down

Power Tailgate Option

Optional on both Outback and Forester.  Watch our instructional video here.



Total People Space

Outback is considerably larger inside.

108.1 cubic feet

103.3 cubic feet

Rear Legroom

About the same; both benefit from ingenious scooping of front seats so there's more room for knees.

38.1 inches

38.0 inches


Comparably equipped, Outback is about $2,000 more, which buys you a bigger and even more substantial-feeling vehicle.


Image Perception

Outback looks more like a
station wagon; Forester more like a sport utility vehicle.  We have determined that there are Outback people and there are Forester people.  Which one are you?




Towing Capacity
Forester can tow a small utility trailer but for a sailboat you'll need the Outback.

2700 pounds with
six preset gear ranges

(3,000 pounds with
optional six cylinder engine)

1500 pounds with
two preset gear ranges

Both have the six listed below: 
  • Two front airbags (deploy from steering wheel and dashboard);
  • Two torso airbags (deploy from the edge of the front seats);
  • Two curtain airbags (deploy downward from the roof protecting all four outboard occupants)


To prevent "submarining," (sliding forward out of a safe position from under the seat belt) Forester offers a driver knee airbag.  Outback gives both front seaters a cushion airbag in the flat part of the seats to hold you in place.


Eight total airbags

Outback uses two
cushion airbags for driver
and front passenger to
prevent "submarining."

(#4 above)


Seven total airbags

 Forester uses knee airbag
for driver to prevent "submarining."
(#4 above)

Crash Tests

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded its highest rating to both cars...  "Top Safety Pick Plus."


Subaru Eyesight System

Subaru Eyesight includes pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise, and much more. Both have Subaru's latest, third-generation system, which includes Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Detection, and steering responsive headlights. 



Optional Moonroof

Outback moonroof increased in size from previous generation, but only Forester offers an enormous panoramic moonroof big enough to eject unwelcome passengers.


Regular Size

super Size

Engines and Fuel Economy
Standard mills in both cars produce about 170 horsepower and displace 2.5 liters.  Both run regular unleaded. 

Continuously variable
automatic transmission:

25 city, 32 highway

No manual offered

175 horsepower


Continuously variable
automatic transmission:

 26 city, 32 highway

Six-speed manual:
22 city, 29 highway

170 horsepower

Fuel Tank and Max Range

18.5 gallons, 591 miles
15.9 gallons, 508 miles

Go-go motor option

Most folks find the standard engine sufficiently potent, but we can oblige your power hunger. 

Optional 3.6 liter
six cylinder with high-torque
Lineartronic Continuously
Variable Transmission

    20 city, 27 highway

Optional 2.0 liter turbocharged
four cylinder with
Lineartronic Continuously
Variable Transmission

city, 28 highway.

Typical Competitors
Of course we don't think a Subaru has any competition.  But the nice folks who buy cars here say that they drove these vehicles before they bought a Planet Subaru.  Click on any of the blue links for a dedicated comparison.

Rooftop Cargo Solutions

Except on Touring model, Outback offers standard roof rails (the bars that run front to back) AND integrated crossbars (the bars that run side to side).

Rails are standard on all Foresters except base model; crossbars optional on all Forester models. 

Integrated crossbars are
posed partially open to
show how they work.

Optional crossbars (not shown)
are easily bolted on to the rails
shown here

Planet-exclusive high resolution photo galleries, videos, and much more...

Planet Outback center

Planet Forester Center

Digital Brochures

New Inventory

Used Inventory

Pre-loved Outbacks

Pre-loved Foresters



If you're in the communities of Boston, Cambridge, Watertown, Plymouth, or Somerville, Planet is your best bet to buy or lease your Subaru Forester or Subaru Outback.