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Subaru Outback vs Toyota Highlander

A picture of outback and highlander facing each other.

Choosing between two greatly praised cars is difficult, especially if you don’t know which one is better in different aspects. That’s how it feels for people to decide which is better between the Subaru Outback vs. Toyota Highlander. That’s why I took the liberty to discuss this matter and come to a conclusion!

The Toyota Highlander takes the lead in power and cabin space, with that extra third row of seats and a v6 engine. The Outback is still a great choice for people that don’t want to take out an extra $8000 for the Highlander, plus the Outback comes standard with AWD where the Highlander doesn’t.

The Highlander can’t be compared to the Outback, as it is almost on a higher quality of level category to the smaller Outback that is a better affordable option. The Highlander feels like a more family-ready luxurious vehicle than the niftier sized wagon like Outback.

Outback vs. Highlander

Side view look of a white toyota vehicle.

The Outback has adapted from a station wagon to becoming a mid-sized SUV; however, it still takes inspiration from the wagon. The Outback drives like a sedan and has an SUV’s ground clearance to give a nifty height view. This design style makes the Outback a unique Subaru model, retaining its comfortability and versatility.

The Outback is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want something fuel-efficient for the city and can take you out of the city for some adventurous times. Thanks to its all-wheel drive, it makes going off-road possible while retaining a sleek urban look.

The Highlander takes after the more SUV style and stays true to the Toyota brand and its brothers and sisters; it’s a lot bulkier than the Outback. It looks ready to go out in the bush, with the family in the back; one can almost imagine some big fan putting a snorkel on it with camping stickers at the back.

Surprisingly unlike the Outback, the Highlander does not come standard with all-wheel drive, and it will cost you extra to get your hands on that. All-wheel drive plays a vital role as it is considered the best attraction control and grip.  On top of that, the Highlander isn’t so “high,” with less than a whole inch of ground clearance to that of the Outback.

It is quite weird to think about; when you look at the two, the Highlander looks more off-road ready than the Outback with its wagon-shaped body.

Size Comparison

Side-top view look of a moving car.

The Highlander has a bigger wheels base and body than the Outback with its smaller slim wagon shape. The length of the Highlander is 194.9 inches, making it a lengthy car for the city. The Outback’s length comes at 191.3inches, slightly shorter than the Highlander.  The total height of the Highlander is 68.1 inches from the ground to the top of the car, and the Outback is 66.4 inches. 

The Highlander has three rows of seats which explains its length to accommodate that extra row. The legroom for the first and second seat rows is a generous 42 and 41 inches, but the third row is just suited for little kids because it only has 27.7 inches of legroom, which is tiny for an adult to sit in comfortably.

The Highlander has big space for cargo; behind the third-row seats is a volume of 16 cubic feet. Lowering the third-row seats makes the cargo capacity 48.4 cubic feet, and if you still need extra space for more luggage, you can fold the second row of seats down. Folding down the second and third rows of seats gives the cabin a maximum cargo capacity of 84.3 cubic feet.

The Outback is a bit smaller has 42.8 inches of legroom in the first row of seats and 39.5 inches of space in the second row. Unlike the Highlander, there isn’t a third row of seats, so the Outback isn’t ideal if you have a large family. The cargo space for the Outback is 32.5 cubic feet, and with the back row seats down, that number becomes 75.7 cubic feet of maximum cargo space.

Engine Specs

An inside view of toyota's engine.

The Subaru Outback comes standard with its boxer 2.5L DOHC engine that can be upgraded to a turbocharged version that will give you 290 horsepower. The Outback has a 26 city/33 highway miles per gallon fuel efficiency, making it the more conventional choice to save fuel.  The Outback comes standard with an all-wheel drive train.

The Highlander comes standard with a 3.5L V6 engine that gives more power out than the Outback but drinks fuel for every mile you drive. The fuel efficiency of the Highlander is 21 city/29 highway miles per gallon, less optional choice if fuel is a concern. The Highlander comes standard with a front-wheel drive train; if you want the AWD model, it will cost you to upgrade.

The Highlander, however, does have models that come with hybrid technology that gives you an electric motor to try and fill in the gap between the Highlanders’ higher fuel usage than the Outback. However, the electric motor doesn’t get you that far before it needs to be topped up, making it seem not so useful.

Interior comparison

Black themed interior design look .

The Outback and Highlander come to both standards with similar safety features and interior decorations that will lead you to personally decide which one is more your taste when you see it for yourself.

Both crossovers come with heated seats, leather seated options, and more when you upgrade to the premium version of the vehicles. The Highlander, however, doesn’t have what the Outback has, which is cargo-area underfloor storage and a removable cargo-area tray. On top of that, the Outback also comes with roof racks that the Highlander doesn’t have in its standard versions.


The Highlander definitely might seem like the choice to go for if you’re looking for large cargo space, a big powerful engine, and an extra row of seats in your car. The overall effect of all of the high-quality components in the Highlander is undeniably impressive. If you have the money to spend on the higher trims of the Highlander, then you’re sure to be rewarded with a great ride.

However, with the Outback, why need all those extra things if you don’t need them. Between the two crossovers, it could be the more practical and durable choice. The Outback is the more cost-effective choice between the two that gives you the taste of both worlds between on-road and off-road. It gives you exactly what Subaru stands for and what people expect from the brand.