In a bid to keep its largest crossover model fresh in the face of an evolving mid-size class, Subaru's Outback gets a mid-cycle update for the 2018 model year that brings changes like revised front-end styling, new side mirrors and back bumper and redesigned air conditioning controls and vents.
On the tech front, a new 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen for base models supports the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration platforms, while all models from 2.5i Touring and up get an eight-inch screen. Limited and Premier trims also get steering-responsive LED headlights.
Notable powertrain changes include the elimination of the manual transmission in entry-level four-cylinder models, and a new seven-speed manual shift mode for the continuously variable automatic that now standard in all 2.5i trim levels.
There are a few safety enhancements too, including automatic door locks with a collision detection feature that will also automatically unlock them, and improved child seat anchors. Cars with the optional EyeSight active safety suite gain automatic high beams, and all cars get a new power brake booster Subaru says adds stopping power.
The EyeSight system is optional in about half of the Outback's trim levels, starting with the accessibly-priced 2.5i Touring, which carries a $34,295 MSRP when so equipped.
Outback's engines are carried over from last year, so 2.5i models get a 2.5L four-cylinder making 175 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque, and 3.6R variants use a 3.6L six-cylinder that's good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft and also comes mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Naturally, as per Subaru tradition, both engines are horizontally-opposed "boxer" designs, and all Outback models come with Subaru's symmetrical AWD system.
To our eyes, the Outback still looks great following a 2015 redesign that brought more sophisticated styling that fits right in next to competitive heavy hitters like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Edge.
Subaru's calling card here is that the Outback is the closest thing to a car you'll find among mid-size crossovers, because it's the closest thing the Japanese brand offers to a station wagon version of the Legacy sedan.
Standard features across all trims include Bluetooth, a retractable cargo cover, 12-volt power outlet, air conditioning and cruise control. Stereo systems begin with a four-speaker setup that's upgraded to a six-speaker system in Touring models and a 12-speaker system in Limited and Premier trims. Automatic climate control is standard from the 2.5i Touring model.
Base models get 17-inch steel wheels with covers, while uplevel models get 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Fuel consumption estimates aren't available yet for the 2018 model, but expect them to be very close to, if not the same as, those for the 2017 model: 9.4/7.3 L/100 km (city/highway) for the four-cylinder/CVT drivetrain, and 12.0/8.7 in six-cylinder models.
This vehicle has not yet been reviewed