Subaru Forester vs Outback

Subaru Forester vs Outback: A comparison of Subaru crossovers known for long-term dependability and low cost of ownership.

See Subaru Clearance Prices

Congratulations! We've Located Clearance Prices

Choose Dealers to See Prices

Thank You


I would like to be notified of other Reply! money-saving offers


* By submitting your information, you agree to be contacted regarding automotive information, using email, telephone or text – including the use of autodialed and/or prerecorded calls or messages to the telephone number provided above, including your wireless number, if provided. I understand that consent is not a condition of purchase.

Searching For Dealers...

So you’ve decided on a new Subaru vehicle. Fantastic choice. One problem: Subaru has such an outstanding lineup of stylish, versatile and economical vehicles that it can be hard to decide which model is right for you. Now you’re stuck between the Subaru Forester vs. Subaru Outback. Both offer go-anywhere Symmetrical All Wheel Drive (AWD) and the long-term dependability that Subaru has built its reputation.

It’s a tough choice, but don’t sweat it; you really can’t go wrong with either model. After reading this comparison guide, use Reply! to find the most competitive price quotes in your area on the Subaru Forester vs Outback.

Choosing a Subaru Forester vs Outback

The Subaru Outback has been a favorite in the North American market for several decades, while the Forester is a relative newcomer. Each offers similar performance and handling capabilities, as well as fuel efficiency and cost of ownership. So, what are the biggest differences between the Subaru Forester vs Outback?

“The Forester is more utilitarian, no excess, just what you need,” said Sebati Oker, Sales Associate at Carr Subaru in Beaverton, OR.

Outback vs Forester“It’s basic, with less options and it’s about $4,000 cheaper model to model [with the Outback]. It’s also smaller, more maneuverable and nimble and meets more of the minimalist lifestyle that Subaru customers have. You can throw your muddy gear in the back, then hose off the interior when you’re done.”

The Outback, on the other hand, is more flush with features to keep passengers comfortable.

“Outback drivers tend to have a family and also tend to like the more elegant features offered standard in the Outback,” said Oker. “It has a tighter and more ‘fit and finish’ ride, and is much quieter. It’s longer and wider to provide better handling, with confidence in the turns and a more solid feel at higher speeds.”

If you’re busy running errands and driving around town all week, but still hit the mountains and hiking trails on the weekend, the Outback might be right for you. If you just want outstanding AWD performance with no frills and a lower price tag, you might choose the Forester instead. So with that said, let's run down the features and stats for each vehicle and discuss comparisons with other vehicles competing in thier classes. 

Subaru Outback 

Subaru Outback vs ForesterThe Outback is Subaru's most iconic vehicle. It's a utility crossover wagon designed with outdoor enthusiasts in mind, but also urban dwellers in need of a dependable ride for the daily grind. Since its inception, the Outback has become the standard from which all other wagons are measured, regulary achieving top ranking in its class by reviewers including U.S. News.

This elite sport wagon has standard features including roof rails with integrated cross bars, under-the-floor rear cargo storage, 65/35-split fold-down rear seats and a rollover sensor. Because the Outback has so much cargo capacity, it is a top choice for moms.

You can choose between a four-cylinder engine, which gives you up to 30 miles per gallon on the highway, and a six-cylinder engine, which allows you to take advantage of the Outback's 3,000-pound towing ability. Its ride is comfortable and smooth.

The Subaru Outback also has a lot of optional features for you to choose from. You can opt to include an SD-based navigation system, upgrade to a Harman Kardon audio system and add the EyeSight driver assist system to your new vehicle. This system uses adaptive cruise control and gives you a lane-departure warning. Other optional features for the new Subaru Outback include rear-vision camera, dual-zone climate control and Satellite radio.

Compare the Subaru Outback to other competing models:

Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester vs OutbackThe Subaru Forester is an ideal choice for people looking for a compact SUV that cuts out the fat and only leaves the premium meat. Like the Subaru Outback, the small crossover is designed for people who enjoy the great outdoors. It is also an outstanding car for commuters.

The Forester includes ample interior space and flexible cargo areas. The vehicle comes standard with 60/40-split fold-down rear seats, seven airbags, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an iPod/USB audio interface, raised roof rails and a four-cylinder SUBARU BOXER engine. Athough the Forester is often recorgnized as a more stripped down version of the Outback, Kelley Blue Book calls the interior "impressively expanded, well-finished and well-appointed."

The Forester features Subaru's famous AWD that can traverse virtually any terrain. With approximately two more inches of ground clearance than other small crossover vehicles, this vehicle can go just about anywhere. The 2.5X Forester's four-cylinder engine pushes out 170 horsepower with a standard five-speed manual transmission. The XT Forester has a turbocharged engine that produces an impressive 224 horsepower. Depending on the engine package you should get between 28 and 32 mpg on the highway, which contributes to the Forester's low cost of ownership. 

Different Forester packages offer a wealth of optional features to improve performance and comfort. The All-Weather package includes heated exterior mirors, heated front seats and winshield wiper de-icer, perfect for regions with harsh winters. Technology features include Bluetooth audio streaming, USB port with iPod connectivity and rear vision camera.

Compare the Subaru Forester to other competing models:

Subaru Symmetrical AWD Explained

“AWD is more valuable on a Subaru than any other brand because cars like the Outback and Forester are built from the ground up to be AWD vehicles, while competing cars are built for 2WD and later adapted to AWD in performance packages,” said Oker. “The Subaru system is perfectly balanced, both in weight and power distribution.”

Forester vs OutbackSymmetrical All-Wheel Drive comes standard on every single Subaru model for added traction, stability and performance efficiency. This, of course, includes the Subaru Outback vs. Forester. The AWD is symmetrical by mounting the engine in-line with the drivetrain for equal power to all four wheels.

Other models built on a 2WD system have to be configured with complex designs to provide equal power to all four wheels. A more convoluted system will make the vehicle operate less efficiently. And of course, more parts means it’s more likely something can break, which adds to maintenance costs.

Learn more about other Subaru models!

“Subaru AWD provides more grip and more predictable handling. When it’s pouring rain on the freeway with low visibility, if you hit a huge puddle in the road, only the Subaru will be able to handle it. Cars with front-wheel drive are at risk of hydroplaning out of control.”

As power is distributed to all four wheels, Subaru AWD will and hold true to the path of a steep turn, and will never lose control in the rain. Front and rear-wheel drive cars can oversteer through corners, which may cause a slide out in the rain.

“Drivers may not need AWD all the time, but they’re confident in the traction AWD provides when they do.”

Subaru Outback vs Forester Tale of the Tape

Starting retail priceOutback engine

  • Outback: $24,495
  • Forester: $22,495

Exterior dimensions

  • Outback: 189” long, 107.9” wheelbase
  • Forester: 179.5” long, 103” wheelbase

Interior dimensions

  • Outback: 41” front head room, 42” rear head room
  • Forester: 42” front head room, 40” rear head room


  • Outback: 2.5-liter 173 horsepower base engine, 4x4 AWD
  • Forester: 2.5-liter 170 horsepower base engine, 4x4 AWD

Fuel efficiency

  • Outback: 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway
  • Forester: 21 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway

5-Year cost of ownership

  • Outback: $17,907 based on depreciation, fuel costs, insurance, etc.
  • Forester: $14,780 based on depreciation, fuel costs, insurance, etc.

Get the lowest local price quotes on the Subaru Forester vs Outback now!

Whether you're looking for an everyday vehicle for your family or a small SUV that can handle the roughest terrain, both the Subaru Outback and the Subaru Forester fit the bill. Because both of the crossover vehicles are designed for avid outdoorsmen, you'll discover that both vehicles offer a variety of optional features and that the cost between the two doesn't differ much.

As you conduct your Subaru Forester vs. Outback comparison, you'll find that both vehicles are reliable, have plenty of safety features and get good gas mileage, making either one of them a good buy.

Free Quotes! Get local quotes on the Subaru Outback vs Subaru Forester now!

About the Author

Alex Gabriel is a content editor at Reply! with several years of digital marketing and and copywriting experience. A native of Portland and graduate of the University of Oregon, Alex has a passion for test-driving new cars he can’t afford. Click here to connect with Alex on Google+.