Subaru Crosstrek vs Subaru Outback

Executive Summary

What is the difference between Outback and Crosstrek?  Lots of folks new to Subaru compare the two, but usually not for long because they quickly discover big differences between them.  The Outback is a substantial "midsize crossover" where Crosstrek is a smaller "compact crossover."  Outback looks and feels more like a wagon, Crosstrek looks and feels more like a mini-ute.  Urban drivers tend to prefer the Crosstrek's ability to sneak around buses and into tight parking spaces.  Suburban drivers tend to prefer the Outback's limousine ride and cavernous interior. 

Outback has the longer wheelbase (the distance between the axles is three inches longer than the Crosstrek).  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. 

Both are "Top Safety Pick" award winners of from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but Outback goes one step better to earn a "Plus" designation because of superior crashworthiness. 
  Outback and Crosstrek 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). 

Comparably equipped, Outback is about $4,000 more.  Despite its larger engine and curb weight, Outback gives up only one mile per gallon to Crosstrek around town and on the highway. 





Ground clearance

is the same, at 8.7 inches, so both vehicles elude obstacles that snag mortal vehicles.  These Subarus are just beastly in deep snow.

utback is two inches wider.

utback is fourteen inches longer.

Outback is two and a half inches taller.

"Long Travel" Suspension.

Both cars have lots of "dead cat space" between the top of the tire and the bottom of the wheel well.  (That's the technical industry term, believe it or not.  But don't worry, we love cats.)

Outstanding Visibility

Both have a "command driving position" allowing you to see over traffic in front of you.   They also feature an ingenious window design that allows you to look past the outside mirrors. 



Dawg (and cargo) Space

You can fit a whole kennel in the Outback, including our Greeter,
.  He likes all the room to take his buddies along (Pabst and Mabel), so you could say he prefers the waggin'.  

35.5 cubic feet: seats up.

20.8 cubic feet: seats up.

Two adult bicycles fit easily inside the Outback, flat with the wheels on. They would fit in a Crosstrek, but you'll need to take the front wheels off. 

cubic feet:

seats down

Adult bike with kid's bike on top,
wheels on, lying flat.   

  55.3 cubic feet:
seats down

Adult bike, front wheel on but turned up. 
Second bike would need wheel off.

Power Tailgate Option

Optional only on Outback.  Watch our instructional video here.

Note the extra rod that
actuates the hatch.


Total People Space

Outback is considerably larger inside.

cubic feet


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


Comparably equipped, Outbacks cost about $4,000 more.


Towing Capacity

Crosstrek 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
six 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) Crosstrek 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

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

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards both cars with "Top Safety Pick" ratings but only Outback gets the rare "Plus" designation.

Engines and Fuel Economy
Both offer standard Boxer engines and run regular unleaded. 

2.5 liter four cylinder
175 horsepower

Continuously variable
automatic transmission:

25 city, 32 highway

No manual offered

2.0 liter four cylinder
152 horsepower

  Continuously variable
automatic transmission:
27 city, 33 highway

Six-speed manual:
23 city, 29 highway

Optional Engines

Outback's six cylinder really puts the "Sport" in Sport Utility Vehicle.  Crosstrek offered the only Hybrid powertrain in the entire Subaru line-up, but they only made this model from 2014 to 2016.

Optional 3.6 liter boxer
six cylinder

256 horsepower

Continuously variable 
auto transmission

20 city, 27 highway

Optional 2.0 liter hybrid boxer
 four cylinder engine

160 horsepower

Continuously variable
auto transmission

30 city, 33 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 looked at these vehicles before they bought a Planet Subaru.  Click on any of the blue links for a dedicated comparison.

Rooftop Cargo Solutions

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 Crosstreks but crossbars are optional. 

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

Optional crossbars are
easily bolted on to
the standard rails.

Dedicated Planet-exclusive resource pages with high-res galleries, videos, and more!

Outback Center



Subaru shoppers from Boston to Plymouth know that they will learn a lot from Planet's comparison between the Outback and Crosstrek. 
; )
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