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The Best Subaru Models for 2020

Reviewing the 2020 Subaru Lineup

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 limited-run model

The popular Japanese car manufacturer has reached its all-time sales record in 2017 and 2018 with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. They’ve finally surpassed the psychological 1-million-vehicle barrier on a global level in 2017 and 2018, and 2019 sales are promising to be even better. After selling exactly 1,059,697 vehicles worldwide throughout 2017, Subaru has managed to market an even more impressive 1,075,152 units in 2018 which is roughly a 1.5 percent increase year-to-year. Things might have slowed down a bit considering their 2016/2017 growth amounted to north of 4.5 percent, but don’t let that undermine Subie’s success – it also makes us believe the company will carry over with this successful spell for a while longer. This is why we’ll now take a look at the forthcoming 2020 Subaru lineup.

Before we move on, however, let’s get back to the detailed U.S. sales figures. Subaru has marketed a best-to-date 680,135 vehicles in the states during 2018 which is a 5 percent increase over 2017 when the Japanese had sold 647,956 cars. Taking previous figures into account, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the U.S. market is by far Subie’s most important single market accounting for a little over 60 percent of their total worldwide sales. What’s more, the first two quarters of 2019 is showcasing another 4 percent growth over the same period in 2018. If things hold to form throughout the year, Subaru will have recorded its 12th consecutive year of growth in the U.S. by the time 2020 is upon us, and deliver north of 700,000 units for the first time in their history.

Broken down to separate models, Subaru owes most of its success to the Outback, Forester, and Crosstrek trio which had sold 178,854, 171,613, and 144,384 units respectively in the U.S. during 2018. Although both the Outback and Forester’s sales have actually declined compared to 2017, the Crosstrek’s comparative sales have increased by a whopping 31 percent, helping the automaker on its path to success. The all-new for 2018 Ascent has found 36,211 new homes in the U.S., also helping put the year-end totals into the green – especially considering the remainder of the Subaru lineup, including the long-time favorite Impreza, hasn’t had much success.

You might also be interested in the similar 2020 Honda, 2020 Nissan, and 2020 Mazda lists.

What’s Hot in the New 2020 Subaru Lineup

06. 2020 Ascent

Introduced in the Summer of 2018 as a 2019-year model, the three-row Ascent takes its place at the top of the Subaru crossover/SUV lineup as the largest vehicle the Japanese have manufactured to date.

The mid-size SUV starts from just under $33,000 and, although slightly more expensive than some of its rivals, comes with a mandatory symmetrical all-wheel-drive system which costs extra everywhere else. The $35,000 Premium trim should be the best-buy option, however, considering it boasts a number of upgrades over the base model (which, too, is well-equipped, by the way), including the automated emergency braking, a push-button start, a power liftgate, and many others. The range-topping Ascent Touring models, on the other hand, command a somewhat high price tag for a family crossover of $46,000.

Although its third row isn’t the most spacious out there, the Ascent doesn’t have any serious shortcomings, and that’s arguably its biggest advantage. Furthermore, the largest Subaru vehicle money can buy handles like a charm, offers plenty of space for both the passengers and their cargo (except in that third row), and offers as much bang for your buck as the best models in its class.

There’s only one engine powering the Ascent, however, and apart from Subaru’s obligatory all-wheel drive system, it also utilizes a CVT gearbox for the best possible fuel efficiency. Although that efficiency is far from class-leading figures at 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway (20/26 in top trims due to larger 20-inch wheels), the CVT does its job more than admirably. It’s no wonder the Japanese utilize it across most of their range.

The engine in question is a new 2.4L turbo four rated at 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It’s capable enough for everything you’d require of a family mid-size SUV, although it can get noisy at higher speeds.

Every Ascent apart from entry-level models can tow up to 5,000 pounds which is more than what they themselves weigh at around 4,500 pounds. We’re hoping to see the 3.6R from the Outback lineup make its way into the Ascent in the years to come, but only time will tell what the Japanese are planning on doing on that front. We don’t exactly know Subaru brass’ thoughts on the matter, but to us, it’s a no-brainer.


05. 2020 Legacy

Like any major car manufacturer out there, Subaru isn’t immune to a decline in sales of conventional passenger cars in favor of crossovers and SUVs. Subaru’s larger sedan was never a particularly strong seller – at least compared to other mid-size offerings on the market – but its sales had dwindled nevertheless.

After its record sales of 65,306 units in 2016, the Legacy’s sales fell by almost 40 percent to 40,109 units in 2018. The all-new seventh-generation Subaru Legacy that made its debut at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show aims to soften the blow, if not reverse this negative trend. It’ll definitely have its work cut out for it, but we can safely say the new car improves on the outgoing sixth-generation in a number of ways.

It might not look like it’s all-new, but the 2020 Subaru Legacy hides an all-new Subaru Global Platform underneath its familiar face – not to mention a completely revised interior with better sound insulation and overall, more upscale feel. A new suspension consisting of a MacPherson strut layout up front and a double-wishbone at the back helps improve driving dynamics and comfort as well. The new car is between $200 and $500 more expensive than the outgoing models, and adds a new range-topping Touring XT trim which starts from close to $37,000.

The new Legacy’s powertrain department has also experienced a major overhaul. The base engine remains, but the all-new 2.4L turbo four from the Ascent SUV breathes some fresh air into what was previously a stale offering. The turbo engine is, however, available exclusively with the top Limited XT and Touring XT trims, and delivers up to 260 horsepower.

The base 2.5L naturally-aspirated flat-four has been updated in order to deliver 182 ponies. Both mills are paired with Subaru’s prolific CVT gearbox and mandatory all-wheel drive which is a rarity in Legacy’s segment, so that’s another plus for the mid-sizer there (or a minus depending on your position). Fuel economy is best with the base engine which returns 27/35 mpg, but the new turbo four improves on the outgoing flat-six with 24/32 mpg.


04. 2020 Outback

As soon as the Japanese had revealed the next-gen Legacy, we were gearing for the immensely popular Outback’s successor. Making its debut at the 2019 New York auto show, the new car fails to disappoint. It doesn’t exhibit a flashy design overhaul either, but that was never expected from it to begin with.

Like its mid-size sedan sibling, the elevated wagon, too, sports a new architecture with increased rigidity and revised suspension for improved comfort and sharper handling. Unlike the sedan, the new Outback continues to rely on its hallmark rugged demeanor, putting ground clearance, practicality, and capability in front of beauty.

The new models sport all of the Legacy’s improvements on the inside, including a new vertically oriented 11.6-inch touchscreen display with EyeSight active safety gear bundled as standard. Prices remain mostly intact as Outback ranges between $27,500 and $41,000. Every single trim level is now slightly more expensive, however. Speaking of trims, there’s also an all-new Onyx edition XT which slots just below the two range-topping trims but still gets the more powerful engine, more advanced all-wheel drive system, and plenty of standard gear.

The new 2020 Subaru Outback ditches the old 3.6L flat-six mill in favor of a more efficient 2.4L turbo-four taken from the recently introduced Ascent. The engine is capable of putting up 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque but is offered exclusively with top grades which command premium stickers.

Base versions retain the current 2.5L flat-four engine which now returns 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of rotational force, while boasting as much as 90 percent new parts according to Subaru.

Needless to say, all models are available exclusively in all-wheel-drive setup and are paired with a peppy continuously variable transmission that successfully balances between fuel economy and performance. Speaking of fuel efficiency, expect 23/30 mpg with the turbo mill and 26/33 mpg with the revised naturally aspirated base engine.


03. 2020 WRX STI S209

The Impreza-based Subaru WRX might be losing its rightfully earned sales momentum like pretty much any passenger car out there, but a dedicated performance specialist will always have a loyal crowd of enthusiasts to rely upon. If it continues delivering what’s expected from it, that is.

What’s expected, exactly, are high-tech upgrades and more power with each iteration. This latter bit has been threatening to become a major issue for the brand considering the most powerful Impreza’s horsepower ratings had only increased by 10 horsepower (from 300 hp to 310 hp) in the 15 years the ultimate WRX STI version has been available in the U.S. All that has finally been rectified thanks to the 2020 WRX STI S209 which finally squeezes more out of the venerable EJ25 Boxer engine. It’s also the first S-badged Subie ever to make it to the U.S.

The iconic 2.5L turbocharged flat-four is good enough for 341 horsepower thanks to a larger HKS turbocharger with increased boost of 18 psi compared to 16.2 psi in the regular WRX STI. The reworked engine also gets forged pistons and connecting rods in order to be able to withstand all the extra power. A new intake system, a fuel pump, and injectors are also part of the setup, and so is a reworked center differential.

Needless to say, the S209’s improvements over the regular model don’t stop with the engine. The 2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 sports a different body that’s 1.7 inches wider than the original STI and boasts 0.6 inches wider track.

Bilstein shocks are only the beginning of the revised suspension setup which is much stiffer, yet still flexible enough to offer a comfortable ride in certain situations. Brakes with cross-drilled steel rotors are courtesy of Brembo while 19-inch alloys come from BBS. Even the S209’s tires are unique Dunlop GT600As 265s.

The sad part is that Subaru will only make 209 of them and sell them at exorbitant prices. $63,995 might sound like a lot for a WRX STi (and that’s an understatement), but consider it an investment for the future when this limited-edition model is sure to become a collectible and its prices are expected to skyrocket.


02. 2020 Forester

The second best-selling Subaru model was recently completely overhauled which should help it regain the sales momentum it’s enjoyed prior to 2017 stagnation and 2018 decline. Like always, the compact SUV emphasizes utility and practicality while also providing a comfy ride and an abundance of features to keep you occupied.

Even the adaptive cruise control is standard from the get-go and so are automated emergency braking and active lane control. Starting from around $25,000, the Forester definitely offers a good value for money package – especially considering it’s bundled with a standard all-wheel-drive system. Even the range-topping Touring models find a way to justify their $35,000 price tag thanks to more refined interior arrangements including a leather-trimmed upholstery. Not to mention additional standard driving aids, premium Harman Kardon speakers, and a 10-way power driver’s seat.

Main news for the fifth-generation Subaru Forester is the exclusion of both the manual gearbox and turbocharged engine from the lineup. Prospective Forester owners from now on get the compact exclusively with a 2.5L flat-four engine paired with a CVT transmission. The engine is good enough for 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque which is just fine considering the compact weighs no more than 3,500 pounds.

Compared to other CVT-equipped competitors, the Subaru Forester definitely feels more sporty. Don’t let this fool you though, as even the Sport trim isn’t exactly sporty in truest sense of the word.

The fuel economy of 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway is pretty much class-leading among compact crossovers with all-wheel drive. Only the Honda CR-V does this particular job better than the Subie.


01. 2020 Crosstrek

The Impreza-based crossover is the most rapidly growing Subaru model in terms of overall sales with a 31-percent increase year-to-year between 2017 and 2018. A recent makeover has probably had a lot to do with such a sharp surge in sales as the new model benefits from an improved, quieter ride and an abundance of new safety features.

The off-road capable subcompact SUV offers a great value-for-the-money package but is still probably slightly less impressive than its larger siblings. Starting from under $23,000, the Crosstrek offers all the convenience gear at a glance, but very little in a way of advanced driver assist features. They’re easily accessible on higher grades, but that, naturally, costs extra.

Good thing is, the Crosstrek is also available as a hybrid which costs as much as $36,000 to begin with. Everything you’ll ever need from it can be found in the $25,000 Crosstrek Premium grade which most people will probably end up going for anyway.

The base Crosstrek engine leaves a lot to be desired and represents, arguably, the subcompact’s weakest link. A 152-horsepower and 145 pound-foot 2.0L flat-four can be paired either with a standard 6-speed stick or a CVT option. Neither helps the Crosstrek mask its apparent lack of power, but it’s good to know there is a choice. Also, the CVT returns up to 29 miles to the gallon combined, while the manual only manages 25 mpg combined.

The Crosstrek hybrid doesn’t only provide up to 17 miles of range on electricity alone and returns up to 35 mpg combined, but it also outperforms even the Outback when all aspects are taken into account. Provided you’re a type of buyer that wouldn’t be bothered by the Crosstrek hybrid’s shortcomings (higher price, smaller cargo space, and relatively short electric range).

At least every Crosstrek is nimble and sharp around corners, and doesn’t shy away from rugged terrain. Being its third year on the market after the major redesign, the 2020-year models remain mostly unchanged but do add a few new safety systems like a new collision detection system. Waiting for a refreshed version in 2021 could be a way to go, but knowing Subaru, they’ll probably change little in ways of how the Crosstrek looks and performs.


What’s Not in the New 2020 Subaru Lineup

01. 2020 BRZ

Although recent rumors have suggested the next-gen Subaru BRZ and its mechanical twin the Toyota 86 might never end up seeing the light of day, the Japanese companies are adamant that replacements for the current cars, which date back to 2012, are already in development. However, the new models can’t come quick enough as the current ones began showing their age a while ago.

Nothing has changed for MY 2020 which forces our hand into listing what’s otherwise a fun sports car among Subaru’s less attractive models. Although it’s closing in on its tenth year on the market, there’s very little wrong with how the BRZ looks. It’s how it feels that lets the affordable sports car down.

There’s a rather short list of available features which clearly isn’t up to 2020 standards and its infotainment acts accordingly. Also, the BRZ hasn’t received a power bump in a while and its price tag of $27,000 hasn’t been lowered in accordance with the previous fact. Good news is that the performance-oriented STI-tuned Subaru BRZ tS has returned for MY 2020 and is starting from just under $32,500.

Speaking of power, the BRZ uses a high-revving 2.0L flat-four Boxer engine with 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of twist paired with a proper 6-speed manual gearbox. A 6-speed automatic alternative is available in the top Limited trim which costs almost $30,000 without the transmission upgrade. The automatic itself costs an additional $1,100 and robs the BRZ of 5 horsepower, rounding the final figure off to 200 ponies.

The hardcore tS model uses the same powertrain (only exclusively tied with a manual), but gets a different suspension bolstered by Sachs dampers and coil springs. It also gets a Torsen limited-slip rear diff and larger Brembo brakes. The fastback coupe is the only Subaru model not to sport a mandatory all-wheel-drive system, instead routing all its ponies to the rear.

It’s sad how Toyota and Subaru have neglected their compact sports cars, but that’s life sometimes. We can only sit back and hope the revised Toyobaru twins will arrive as soon as possible.


About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!