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Subaru Outback vs Forester

Two subaru cars with water splash.

Choosing between the right car to get can sometimes become overwhelming, especially if you’re caught up between two similar ones. That can be the case for the Subaru Outback vs Subaru Forester, which both are similar but also different in their way. Given the arguments between the two, I took the liberty to find out which one is better.

Someone looking for more power may want to consider the Outback if they’re willing to pay a big price for that turbo engine. The Outback also has the latest updated features from Subaru, though the Forester benefits from a slightly more spacious interior.

Both cars are great crossovers and even more so competitors for Honda CRV, Toyota Rav4, and Mazda CX-5. However, choosing between the two is tricky, but all comes down to the finer details that will help you make your final decision.

Subaru Outback vs Forester

Front view picture of a forester car.

The Outback is a lengthy, more substantial vehicle or a “midsize crossover,” whereas the Forester is a “compact crossover.”  The Outback is comparible to that of a wagon, whereas the Forester looks and feels more like a small sport utility vehicle.

Comparing the two in terms of price, the Outback is $2,000 more than the Forester. Many shorter drivers like Forester’s high perch seating; other drivers prefer the Outback’s smoother ride and European-like handling. Both have the same base engine with reasonably the same fuel economy, but only the Outback offers an optional faster spec motor.

Both vehicles come with Subaru Eyesight System, including pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise, and much more.  Both earn the highest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest “Top Safety Pick PLUS” ratings. So you can be at ease that you will be safe in both vehicles at all times.

Between the two, the Outback in 2017 sold more than the Forester did. In 2017 the Outback sold 188,886 units in the USA, increasing 3,3 percent to the amount sold in 2016. Whereas the Forester only sold 177,563 units in the USA but did worse than 2016 sales with a -0.6 percent decrease.

Size Difference

Side view look f a silver forester car.

Even though these two models look similar in size, you will be surprised to hear that there’s surprisingly a big difference in size between them. The Outback is bigger than the Forester outside. The Outback’s body is 9.2 inches longer and 1.5 inches wider, although it’s 2 inches lower to the ground than the Forester.

The Outback, with its bigger body, is heavier with 3,643 pounds compared to the Forester’s 3,449 pounds, which isn’t a surprise due to the size difference. Even though it might be a bit heavier, it still has that turbo that can pull its extra weight with ease compared to the Forester.

In terms of space, the Forester has more room for passengers. Total passengers volume in the Forester adds up to 111.9 cubic feet compared to the Outback’s 109 cubic feet, meaning that the Forester has more legs space than the Outback. The Forester offers slightly more front legroom; in terms of rear legroom, the Outback has 39.5 inches and the Forester at 39.4 inches. Basically the same as one another, but I mean, who doesn’t like more leg space for that long road trip, to stretch your legs and get comfortable!

When it comes down to cargo space, the Forester takes the win from the Outback once again. The Forester has 35.4 cubic feet of cargo room compared to the Outback’s 32.5, directly behind the second row of seats. When you need to put in even larger items in your car, one can lower the back seats. With the seats lowered the Forester’s cargo area jumps to 76.1 cubic feet compared to the Outback’s 75.7.

Though very slight size differences between the two, it could mean a lot for people who need extra leg space.

Engine Size

The more power the engine, the less of a struggle it is to carry weight in your vehicle, and you can easily tackle some off-road attempts. At the end, who doesn’t like a faster car, better to get to your destination first than being late. That’s exactly why the Outback probably got chosen over the Forester and sold more.

The Forester and Outback feature a 2.5-liter flat-four boxer engine that makes 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. But unlike the Forester, the Outback also offers a more powerful turbocharged engine on higher-priced versions. This 2.4-liter engine delivers a robust 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to get your kids to school and be on time for work.

The Forester and Outback are equally fuel-efficient with the 2.5-liter engine. Both models deliver 26/33/29 mpg city and highway combined in this configuration. They are also both available exclusively with all-wheel drive and are capable of off-roading, which means you can make your Rally Crossing dreams come true in a Subaru that can also be used for the family.

If you choose to go for the turbocharged Outback, the fuel economy drops significantly. This engine is rated to achieve 23/30/26 mpg city and highway combined like the above stat.

Towing capabilities of the two differ quite dramatically but are not surprising for the turbocharged Outback engine. When towing, the Forester can only tow a weight of 1,500 pounds, whereas the Outback, with the standard engine, can pull a weight of up to 2,700 pounds. Almost double that of the Forester, but with the turbocharged engine that number rises even more, up to 3,500 pounds can be towed.


The Outback definitely seems the better choice between the two and offers a great value for money. The Forester is never that far off with the Outback, but the Outback definitely is the sportier model in terms of performance.

In the end, it’s going to come down if you want to compromise space/size for that bigger and better performing engine of the Outback. Either way, both cars are great crossovers that won’t disappoint.