Subaru Debuts Updated Outback and 3-Row SUV Concept

Published May 1, 2017 by Elizabeth Jeneault

Subaru debuted an updated version of its best-selling model, the Outback, at the 2017 New York International Auto Show as well as the design concept for its upcoming three-row crossover. The new SUV will be called the Ascent and will be sold exclusively in the North American market beginning in 2018. The 2018 Outback, meanwhile, arrives this summer.

The latest Outback has revised styling and a refreshed interior. It also has new multimedia capabilities and a new available headlight system. You can choose between either the less powerful 2018 Outback 2.5i or the 2018 Outback 3.6R. While the 2.5i is available in all four trim levels, the 3.6R is available in just the top two trims.

As for the Ascent, it will be built on a modified version of the Subaru Global Platform that debuted last year. Subaru says it will feature an all-new turbocharged direct injection boxer engine. 


Wider, lower grille openings and a new bumper give the 2018 Outback a more rugged looking face while also complementing the iconic Subaru hexagonal grille. The C-shaped headlights feature distinctive “Konoji” daytime LED running lights. The redesigned front cladding, meanwhile, helps better protect the 2018 Outback from mud, rocks and other debris while driving off pavement. As for the crossover’s wheels, the 2018 Outback 2.5i base and Premium trims come with standard 17-inch alloy feet. All Limited and Touring models, meanwhile, get 18-inch alloy wheels.


All 2018 Outback trims receive new premium materials and a redesigned center console. Premium and higher level trims feature special stitching on the dashboard. Stitching detail is also added to the seats and door panels on Limited and Touring models. As for the interior color, a new Titanium Gray is now available. Slate Black and Warm Ivory are the other options.

When it comes to comfort, there’s a revised air conditioning system in the 2018 Outback to help keep occupants cool. Subaru says it cools the vehicle more quickly and provides a more uniform temperature throughout the cabin. The Outback is also quieter for 2018 thanks to reshaped exterior mirrors and new sound-insulating glass for the front side windows.

As for technology, the 2018 Outback’s standard STARLINK 6.5” multimedia system is an upgrade from the previous system as it’s slightly larger than before and it also offers quicker performance. You can opt for an even larger STARLINK 8.0” system, however, if you so choose. The STARLINK systems offer a wide range of standard features including Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming. Voice recognition is also improved in the 2018 Outback. Two microphones now make it easier for the driver to use Apple Siri or OK Google voice commands.


When it comes to choosing a 2018 Outback you have to decide between either the Outback 2.5i, available in standard, Premium, Limited and Touring trims, or the Outback 3.6R, available in just the top two trim levels. The Outback 2.5i is powered by a DOHC 2.5-

liter boxer engine that produces 175 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque. The Outback 3.6R, meanwhile, gets more power than the 2.5i thanks to its DOHC 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer engine. It produces 256 hp and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines are teamed with the standard Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) now with a seven-speed manual mode and paddle shift control switches.

All Outback models come with Subaru’s active all-wheel drive system. They also all get 8.7” of ground clearance, which Subaru says excels many crossovers. And when it comes to driving in the elements, standard driver-selectable X-Mode can help. It activates the Vehicle Dynamics Control stability system and Hill Descent Control. The 2018 Outback also features standard Hill Start Assist.


All Outback trim lines come with a standard rear-view camera that was upgraded for 2018. It’s now able to provide more accurate vehicle positioning when backing up. Also new for 2018 is the available Steering Responsive Headlight system. The system aims the vehicle’s LED headlights into turns as the driver steers. Other safety improvements for the 2018 Outback include an upgrade to the tire pressure monitoring system. It now detects pressure changes at individual tires. Automatic locking doors are also new for 2018 and improved LATCH anchors make installing child seats easier.

Some of the best safety features, however, come with Subaru’s available EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. It comes standard on the top-of-line Touring trim and is available on most of the others. It includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking, Vehicle Lane Departure Warning and more.

Subaru Ascent SUV Concept

Aside from the 2018 Subaru Outback, Subaru also had a concept SUV on display at the 2017 New York International Auto Show. As we mentioned before, the concept previews the three-row production SUV Subaru plans on rolling out in the North American market beginning in 2018. It will be called the Ascent. The production vehicle will be based on a modified version of the Subaru Global Platform and just like the concept, will feature an all-new turbocharged direct injection boxer engine.

The concept’s exterior design is said to follow Subaru’s “Dynamic x Solid” theme with powerful fender flares and a large, bluff grille. The interior, meanwhile, features a flowing dashboard design and room for seven with center captain’s chairs. Not many other details about the vehicle have been released.

Our Take

Subaru is certainly proud of its Outback SUV’s history. It says the vehicle was instrumental in launching the crossover trend more than 20 years ago. It continues to be their best-selling model and the upgrades made to it for 2018 make it even more attractive. The Ascent concept SUV, meanwhile, is a big deal for Subaru as it previews the production vehicle which will mark the automaker’s return to the three-row SUV segment. Like many other companies, Subaru sees the benefit in expanding its SUV lineup. And while not many details about the Ascent have been released, people are definitely paying attention.

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