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 Plus" award winners of from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the highest honor.
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.  When equipped with the standard engines, Outback gives up only one mile per gallon to Crosstrek around town, and they both return 33mpg 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.
Outback is two inches wider.
Outback 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.)
Outward 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, Blue. He likes all the room to take his buddies along (Pabst and Mabel), so you could say he prefers the waggin'.

35.5 cubic ft: seats up

20.8 cubic ft: 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.

75.7 cubic ft: seats down

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

55.3 cubic ft: seats down

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

Power Tailgate Option: Optional on only on Outback. Watch our instructional video here.

Note the extra rod that actuates the hatch

Total People Space: Outback is considerably larger inside

109 cubic ft

100.9 cubic ft

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

39.5 inches

36.5 inches

Price: comparably equipped, Outback is about $4,000 more.

Outback models and prices

Crosstrek 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

(3,500 pounds with optional turbo engine)

1500 pounds with six 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) 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)

Crash Tests: Both earn the highest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest "Top Safety Pick PLUS" ratings.

Outback Test Results

Crosstrek Test Results

Engines and Fuel Economy: most folks find the standard engine sufficiently potent, but both cars are also available with power upgrade, see below.

2.5 Liter four cylinder 182 horsepower Continuously Variable Transmission

26 city, 33 highway

No Manual Offered

2.0 Liter four cylinder 152 horsepower Continuously Variable Transmission

27 city, 33 highway.

Six-speed manual:

23 city, 29 highway

Optional Engines: Outback's turbo really puts the "Sport" in Sport Utility Vehicle. Crosstrek offers the only plug-in Hybrid powertrain in the entire Subaru line-up. Crosstrek also offers an optional 2.5 liter engine that comes in the Sport and Limited models, available only with an automatic. 26 city, 34 highway.

Optional 2.4 liter boxer six cylinder

260 horsepower

Continuously variable automatic transmission:

26 mpg combined

Optional 2.0 liter hybrid boxer four cylinder engine

148 horsepower

Continuously variable automatic transmission:

35 mpg combined (90 MPGe) 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: 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 are easily bolted on to the standard rails.

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

Planet Outback Center

Planet Crosstrek Center

Search our inventory for your next vehicle

* Although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained on this site, absolute accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This site, and all information and materials appearing on it, are presented to the user "as is" without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title or non-infringement. All vehicles are subject to prior sale. Price does not include applicable tax, title, and license. Not responsible for typographical errors.

Exclusive Planet Benefit:  Planet Passport Program

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