2023 Subaru Outback Review
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First Drive: 2023 Subaru Outback Review

Subaru’s long-running Outback SUV gains major mid-cycle updates for 2023, from refreshed styling to added interior features including an improved infotainment system. Canada Drives puts the 2023 Outback to the test, including the new Onyx trim for those who want to get even deeper off the beaten path.

Key Features:

  • Mid-cycle styling refresh
  • New Onyx trim
  • Updated infotainment and safety technology

Direct Competitors:

  • Toyota RAV4
  • Honda CR-V
  • Subaru Forester

The Subaru Outback gets a refresh for 2023, with a new grille, front and rear bumpers, LED headlights and fog lamps, and new cladding. All trims get an updated infotainment system and the latest generation of EyeSight, a suite of driver-assist safety technologies that uses a windshield-mounted stereo camera and includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, and emergency front braking. 

On the top Premier XT trim, EyeSight now gains a third wide-angle camera for better detection of cyclists and vehicles across a wider range, along with a camera rearview mirror.

Outback Onyx new for 2023

2023 Subaru Outback Onyx | Photo: Subaru 

The new Onyx trim is a halfway point between the regular trims and the more rugged Outback Wilderness. It includes a dual-function X-MODE with selectable drive modes for snow/dirt and deep snow/mud, plus all-weather upholstery, rear bumper protection pad, 18-inch dark grey wheels, black grille and styling accents, and heated rear seats. 

The Wilderness was a new addition in 2022 with a unique look, and so it gained the technology and safety upgrades but not the new styling changes. On all trims, the engines and drivetrains are unchanged for 2023.

Price: 2023 Outback costs increase across all trims compared to previous year

The 2023 Outback comes in four trim levels with a non-turbocharged engine: the Convenience at $32,695; Touring at $36,995; the new Onyx at $38,695; and Limited at $40,995. 

The three turbocharged trims are the Wilderness at $43,195; the Limited XT at $43,995; and the Premier XT at $46,395. All are subject to an additional $1,995 fee for freight and PDI. 

Most of the trims rise by $1,200 to $1,600 over prices for the 2022 models. The Premier XT receives the lion’s share of updates and it rises by $2,200. 

Among the Outback’s rivals, the non-hybrid Toyota RAV4 in AWD runs between $31,090 and $42,990, and the Honda CR-V AWD from $37,590 to $43,390. In the Subaru lineup, the Forester is a popular cross-shop and is $29,495 to $40,595.

Interior: refreshed Outback cabin gains new features and improved operating system

2023 Subaru Outback | Photo: Subaru 

The 2023 cabin updates across all trims include LED interior lighting, USB-C port, and full-circumference heated steering wheel. 

The entry Convenience trim has twin seven-inch infotainment screens, but all others use an 11.6-inch centre screen with an operating system that’s been considerably upgraded. It features faster processing speeds and improved voice recognition, and updates for firmware and maps are now over-the-air. 

The home screen has been improved with larger icons for the climate control, including one-touch operation for the heated seats instead of the previous two-touch. The 11.6-inch screen also includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2023 Subaru Outback | Photo: Subaru 

Subaru’s Starlink remote app system now has more features including unlocking the liftgate. On infotainment systems equipped with navigation, you can now use what3words, a free mobile app that pinpoints a location and identifies it with three words, which can be entered into the map to be guided to it. It’s meant for places that don’t have a physical address, such as if you’re trying to find someone’s campsite.

The cabin is good-looking, roomy and comfortable, and all trims have a power driver’s seat. Lower trim levels have cloth upholstery, while the Limited and Premier have leather. The Onyx and Wilderness have soft-touch all-weather seat upholstery that’s easy to clean.

Performance: 2.5-litre engine the popular choice but 2.4-litre turbo adds much more power 

The first four of the Outback trims use a horizontally-opposed 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. From there, the Wilderness, Limited XT and Premier XT have a turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder, also horizontally-opposed, making 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Both engines use a CVT, and all models come with all-wheel drive.

Driving impressions: how does the 2023 Outback handle and perform?

2023 Subaru Outback with Lane Keep Assist | Photo: Subaru 

The 2.5-litre is popular with buyers and it’s easy to see why. It accelerates smoothly and there’s enough power for highway merging and passing, but for those who want extra-strength, the turbocharged Outback takes it that step beyond with more power at lower rpms, and which sticks around higher up on the tachometer. 

The AWD system always sends power to both axles, with 60% going to the front wheels. This gives it an advantage over many rivals’ SUVs and crossovers that drive only the front wheels in most conditions, and transfer power to the rear as needed. 

Wilderness vs Onyx

The Outback handles well in tight curves, and maintains its composure on rough surfaces such as gravel roads. The new Onyx trim doesn’t have the 10-millimetre higher ground clearance that the Wilderness does, but both have two extra selectable drive modes that adjust engine response and wheel spin to tackle deep snow or mud. 

Verdict: Is the updated 2023 Subaru Outback SUV worth it?

Subaru calls the Outback an “SUV alternative” and for many buyers it can be the better option. It’s a manageable size but still has a roomy interior and 920 litres of cargo space (2,144 litres with the rear seats folded). 

2023 Subaru Outback | Photo: Subaru 

Depending on the trim, it can tow a maximum of 2,700 to 3,500 lbs. It’s primarily aimed at buyers who live in the city but like to get away to the great outdoors on weekends, with the Onyx and Wilderness available to those who want to get even deeper off the beaten path. 

It offers a number of standard safety assist features and has received the highest crash-test ratings from NHTSA and IIHS. Subaru may not consider it to be an SUV, but for many drivers, it stacks up very favourably against that segment.

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