Comparison of 2019 Forester and 2019 Outback

What is the difference between Outback and Forester?

Executive Summary

"Should I buy a Forester or an Outback" is the most common question we hear at Planet.  

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 has few more horsepower and returns slightly better city and highway fuel economy.   

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 corners of the vehicle cover a larger area and therefore bumps are less noticeable.

Forester is all-new for the 2019 model year, while the 2019 Outback is in the last year of the five-year model cycle that Subaru uses for its volume products. Subaru "refreshed" the Outback last year to keep it competitive, but the 2019 Forester is produced on Subaru's newest "Global Platform" that won't underpin the Outback until the 2020 model year.
All 2019 Foresters and Outbacks come standard with Subaru's award-winning Eyesight suite of driver assistance technologies but only the Forester offers DriverFocus, and anti-distraction and convenience system that we don't expect to see on the Outback until next year.

Also, only Forester offers a "multi-mode" version of X-Mode, that can driver-selected to different terrains. So if you want the latest and greatest of Subaru engineering, choose the Forester now or wait a year for an all-new 2020 OutbackForester 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



Ground clearance is the same, at 8.7 inches, so both elude obstacles that snag mortal vehicles.
Outback is almost two inches wider.
Outback is almost 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'. Notice that they have the same amount of cubic volume, but the space is configured differently.

35.5 cubic ft: seats up

35.4 cubic ft: 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. Forester's extra height pays off here.

73.3 cubic ft: seats down

76.1 cubic ft: seats down

Power Tailgate Option: Optional on both Outback and Forester. Watch our instructional video here.
Total People Space: Both offer about the same amount of people space.

108.1 cubic ft

107.8 cubic ft

Rear Legroom: given the Forester's shorter overall length, it's surprising to see a little more legroom in the Forester. Both benefit from ingenious scooping of front seats so there's more room for knees.

38.1 inches

39.4 inches

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

Outback models and prices

Forester models and prices

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
Airbags: 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)
PLUS: 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: both earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's "Top Safety Pick" ratings. Outback goes one better to get "Plus" rating.

Outback Test Results

Forester Test Results

Subaru Eyesight System: Subaru Eyesight System 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. Only Forester offers DriverFocus.
Optional Moonroof: 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 180 horsepower and displace 2.5 liters. Both run regular unleaded. Both are available only with automatic transmission.

Continuously variable automatic transmission:

25 city, 32 highway

175 horsepower

Continuously variable automatic transmission:

26 city, 33 highway

182 horsepower

Fuel Tank and Max Range: Outback's huge tank gives it mammoth range.18.5 gallons, 591 miles15.9 gallons, 547 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

Subaru no longer offers an optional 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder with high-torque Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission so if you need extra power you might want to look at a low-mileage used Forester XT model.

23 city, 28 highway.

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

For more information on other Subaru models, click here for a Planet-exclusive Comparisons Page.

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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.
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