Subaru might not be the first automaker that comes to mind when considering non-luxury Japanese manufacturers, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of attention. Toyota, Nissan, and Honda are all more widespread both globally and domestically, with Mazda tracking behind, but only in the U.S. The U.S. market is actually the reason behind Subaru’s recent success since more than 60 percent of their global sales stem from the U.S. market. The Japanese have marketed 1,059,697 vehicles worldwide during 2017, of which 647,956 were sold right here in the USA. Moreover, the Japanese brand’s U.S. sales have soared by more than 200 percent between 2009 and now, which represents the largest non-luxury automaker’s growth percentage-wise (only Maserati has recorded a larger growth). Finally, this feat gets even more significant when we consider the fact the Subaru’s U.S. sales between 1999 and 2009 only grew from around 150,000 to 200,000 units. But how does the 2019 Subaru lineup compare?
The newfound Subaru’s success stems from their willingness to provide exactly what the customers need. Models such as the Outback, Forester, and XV Crosstrek are all in a league of their own – not to mention the iconic Impreza WRX STI! The upcoming Subaru lineup for MY 2019 is bolstered by the addition of the all-new Ascent which should be the final piece of the puzzle for the Japanese brand. The three-row SUV was exactly what the Subaru lacked all these years, and their overall sales are now poised to continue growing. The rest of the lineup changes aren’t as significant, but they still include the next-generation Forester and a few minor aesthetic upgrades across the remainder of the Subaru range. Here’s how that looks on paper, metaphorically speaking.
What’s Hot In the New 2019 Subaru Lineup
04. 2019 WRX STI
The Subaru Impreza, which serves as a donor car for the high-performance WRX STI, has been around for more than a quarter of a century. The latest, fifth-generation Impreza dates back to late 2016 as do the current WRX STIs. The Japanese have sold 117,401 Impreza compacts including 31,358 WRX and WRX STI models in the U.S. during 2017, making the Impreza their third best-selling vehicle at the time. Despite entering its third model year without any significant updates, the 2019 Subaru WRX STI is still one of the coolest sports cars money can buy. The rally pedigree is available from $36,500 and includes a specially-tuned suspension, 6-piston Brembo brakes and a number of aesthetic tweaks including a large wing at the rear. For $5,000 more, the Limited trim adds leather-trimmed Recaro seats, a power sunroof and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2019 WRX STI’s exhaust note alone can be enough to make us forget its hefty price tag for a moment. The 2.5L turbocharged Boxer flat-four cranks out 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of twist. More importantly, it’s paired with a proper 6-speed stick and, of course, Subaru’s mandatory symmetrical all-wheel-drive with manually adjustable center differential. However, the present-day WRX STI is a much more subdued car than some of its monstrous predecessors. The limited-slip diff and torque vectoring alone are enough to keep it firmly on the ground, and there’s also an evident lack of power compared to the 75-unit limited Cosworth WRX STI CS400 which was exclusively offered in the U.K. during 2010, for instance. Like any car out there, the new Subie WRX STI has ups and downs of its own, but it’ll always be one of the coolest performance cars on the market, without any doubts.
03. 2019 Ascent
Despite being colorful enough and even an oddball at times, there was still something the Subaru lineup has lacked until now. That thing was a three-row SUV, but with the introduction of the all-new 2019 Subaru Ascent, the Japanese have finally rectified that problem. The new Subaru Ascent has only just entered the market, and it’s immediately become one of the best vehicles in its class. The mid-size family SUV offers a flexible interior with space for up to eight passengers and 47.5 cubic feet of cargo space, a standard touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, between 4 and 6 USB ports between specific trim levels, and a number of standard electronic safety goodies which even includes automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control from the get-go. On the other hand, the new car fails to impress when it comes to driving dynamics, but then again, which intermediate family SUV doesn’t? It can also be rather noisy at high speeds which isn’t something owners of a $32,000 vehicle should have to deal with.
The 2019 Ascent packs a powerful 2.4L turbocharged Boxer 4-cylinder engine with 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque regardless of chosen trim. It comes without saying, but symmetrical all-wheel-drive is mandatory across the range as well. A surprising choice comes in the transmission department, though. The Ascent is only available with a continuously variable gearbox which helps with overall fuel economy. The base models are rated at 21/27 mpg, while the upper-tiers lose a point in both categories due to being offered with larger 20-inch wheels (entry-levels make do with 18s). The CVT, however, performs admirably and minimizes the droning that is more apparent in other Subaru models. All in all, it’s a solid start for the most refined Subie to date, but there’s plenty of room for improvement as well.
02. 2019 Forester
Like most Subies out there, the compact Forester isn’t a car for everyone. Despite that, as many as 177,563 buyers decided to get one in 2017, and that figure should only grow now that the Forester has undergone a complete overhaul for MY 2019. The second-best selling Subaru vehicle in the U.S. aims to retain its current base of followers by remaining true to its roots and adding a few improvements in the process. The fifth-generation Forester might have kept most of its predecessor’s shape, but it now sports a lighter and stronger frame underneath. Since the platform is shared with the Impreza, the new Forester benefits from some WRX enhancements like a brake-based torque-vectoring system and Subaru Intelligent Drive throttle control. Furthermore, the next-gen Forester also offers a number of contemporary tech features such as a facial-recognition camera from the top Touring trim, which prevents a loss of focus on the driver’s part. Finally, even the entry-level models are all equipped with standard automatic emergency braking, forward-collision alert, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.
The new Forester’s only available engine is a 2.5L flat-four with 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Tied to a CVT transmission, the naturally aspirated engine returns 33 mpg on the highway which is a marginal 1 mpg improvement over the outgoing model. Then again, the new Forester does also gain 12 horsepower over the old model. The 2019 Subaru Forester won’t be available with either a turbocharged engine or a manual transmission, but the Ascent’s new 2.4L turbo four might make it to all the subsequent Foresters. For now, though, the 2019 Forester is exactly how its fan base has imagined it’ll be – a robust, somewhat slab-sided and conservative, but highly practical and capable compact for its price.
01. 2019 Outback
With 188,886 units sold in the U.S. during 2017, the Outback SUV is Subaru’s best-selling vehicle on this side of the Atlantic. The highly capable and durable wagon still doesn’t care if you drive it over city pavement or take it on a prolonged off-road adventure. Equipped with standard all-wheel drive and more ground clearance than its competitors, the Outback outperforms a number of SUVs when it comes to off-roading. On the other hand, it still handles like a car, which again puts it ahead of its crossover competitors. Competing across two segments (crossovers and wagons), the Legacy-based Outback combines most of the features an average family would deem necessary into a single package. The Subaru Outback is, however, starting to show its age despite being mildly updated last year. Be that as it may, the new 2019 Subaru Outback SUV tries to rectify this issue by offering a standard EyeSight safety bundle which consists of adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.
Unlike the newer range of Subaru products, the Outback still offers a choice between two very different engines. A base 2.5L flat-four develops 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, but feels sluggish and doesn’t cope well when fully loaded with passengers and their cargo. It does offer an adequate 28 mpg combined which can be ruined in an instant if the more powerful 3.6L flat-six is your choice. The larger option’s fuel economy ratings drop to 22 mpg combined, but 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque should make up for it. Both engines are paired with a CVT gearbox which has its own ups and downs. Like most similarly equipped Subarus, the Outback, too, takes some time getting used to due to its snappy throttle response primarily intended for stop-and-go city driving.
What’s Not In the New 2019 Subaru Lineup
03. 2019 Crosstrek
The Impreza-based XV Crosstrek offers all the capability and most of the practicality of the Outback in a smaller package. The 2019 Subaru Crosstrek starts from just under $22,000 and offers the same 8.7 inches of ground clearance as the Outback. The Crosstrek’s interior room isn’t on-par with that of its larger relative, and this especially translates to cargo space. Moreover, the smaller Crosstrek doesn’t come with the EyeSight driver assist technology bundle from the get-go, but even the entry-level models can still be ordered with one at an extra price. Only the range-topping Limited trim starting from $27,000 offers the aforementioned package from the get-go.
The 2019 Crosstrek can only be ordered with one engine, and not a particularly enthusiastic one at that. Subaru’s 2.0L flat-four doesn’t make more than 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque while weighing as much as 3,100 pounds. What’s more, the CVT gearbox saps the little fun left, but lucky for most buyers, it comes at $1,000 extra. A standard 6-speed manual, sadly, doesn’t fare much better either. In fact, it reduces the just-fine 29 mpg combined rating of its CVT counterpart to an unacceptable 25 mpg combined. At least the new MY 2019 Crosstrek handles like a champ, and if properly equipped, can be a good choice within its segment.
02. 2019 Legacy
The sixth-generation Legacy has been available since late 2014 which makes it one of the most outdated Subaru cars on the U.S. market. Mildly revised last year, the Legacy continues the mid-size sedan’s path of progress by adding the standard EyeSight driver assist bundle for MY 2019. In fact, the intermediate Subie sedan does almost everything right but doesn’t manage to bring home the bacon. Apart from offering a long list of standard safety features, the Legacy also offers a roomy interior and equal performance wherever you are and whatever season it is due to standard all-wheel-drive. Yet, only 49,837 U.S. buyers decided to buy one in 2017 which is a considerable drop compared to 65,306 units sold a year beforehand. Not to mention that both figures are less than inspiring when the Legacy’s segment is concerned.
Much like its spin-off, the Outback, the Legacy also offers a choice between two powerplants. Most people will stick with the base 2.5L flat-four making 175 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. The rest, on the other hand, will get the more powerful 3.6L flat-six worthy of 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of rotational force. The latter of the two is exclusively available with the range-topping Limited trim, however, which pushes the price tag to almost $32,000 without extras. The entry-level 4-cylinder Legacy costs almost $10,000 less than that. The two engines share very little between them, apart from Subaru’s trademark symmetrical all-wheel-drive and a relatively frugal CVT transmission.
01. 2019 BRZ
Available since early 2012, the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ is an affordable Japanese sports coupe that continues the proud tradition of its numerous predecessors. Not so fresh these days, both versions of the car are getting ready for an upcoming makeover. Although a redesign is looming around the corner, it won’t arrive in time for MY 2019. Instead, both the 2019 BRZ and its Toyota clone are carrying over virtually unchanged. This doesn’t undermine their quality and abilities, but there’s only so many years you can offer the same product without some major breakthroughs. Even the limited 250-unit Series.Gray special edition isn’t enough to hide that fact. Especially considering it’s basically just another Subie BRZ in Limited trim with included $1,195 performance package, a special Cool Gray Khaki paint job, and different interior stitching.
The 2019 Subaru BRZ packs a punchy 2.0L horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine under its hood. The flat-four Boxer is good enough for 205 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque if paired with a 6-speed manual, while the output drops by 5 ponies if the BRZ is ordered with an optional 6-speed automatic. A new addition to the lineup, the track-focused BRZ tS doesn’t pack any additional heat, but it comes with stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, specially-tuned Sachs dampers, and larger Brembo brakes. Combined, they turn the already great-handling BRZ into a clockwork-precision track machine with an affordable price tag of $33,500. The entry-level models, on the other hand, start from $25,795 ($200 more than last year), while the mid-grade Limited trim commands a $28,645 sticker. The above mentioned Series.Gray edition costs at least $30,140. Until the next-generation and the announced larger 2.4L Boxer, the current-generation BRZ will have to do. At least the things are now spiced up thanks to the tS model.