Subaru Outback vs Forester: Which SUV is Right for You?

If you are in the market for a capable and reliable SUV, Subaru offers two compelling options: the Outback and the Forester. Both models share many similarities, such as standard all-wheel-drive, rugged styling, and a reputation for safety and dependability. However, there are some key differences between them that may influence your purchasing decision. In this article, we will compare and contrast the Outback and Forester, and help you choose the one that best fits your needs, preferences, and lifestyle.

Size and Cargo Space

One of the most noticeable differences between Outback and Forester is their size. The Outback is slightly larger, with an overall length of 191.3 inches, a width of 73 inches, and a height of 66.4 inches. The Forester, on the other hand, is more compact, with an overall length of 182.1 inches, a width of 71 inches, and a height of 67.5 inches.

This difference in size translates to differences in cargo space as well. The Outback has a maximum cargo volume of 75.7 cubic feet, while the Forester has 70.9 cubic feet. However, the Forester has slightly more headroom and legroom compared to the Outback, making it a better choice for taller passengers.

Winner: If you prioritize cargo space and utility, the Outback is the winner. If you prefer a more compact SUV with ample passenger space, the Forester is the better choice.

See also  DIY Guide: Disabling Daytime Running Lights on Your 2004 Subaru Outback

Ground Clearance and Towing Capacity

Another area where Outback and Forester differ is in their ground clearance and towing capacity. The Outback has a ground clearance of 8.7 inches, which is impressive for an SUV of its size. The Forester, however, has an even higher ground clearance of 8.9 inches, making it better suited for off-road adventures and rough terrain.

When it comes to towing, the Outback and Forester have similar capabilities. The Outback can tow up to 2,700 pounds when properly equipped, while the Forester can handle up to 1,500 pounds. If towing capacity is a priority for you, the Outback is the better choice.

Winner: If you plan to do some light off-roading and value ground clearance, the Forester is the winner. If you need to tow a trailer or a boat, the Outback is the better choice.

Engine Options and Fuel Economy

Both Outback and Forester offer two engine choices. The Outback comes with a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. You can also opt for a more powerful 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque.

The Forester also has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as its base option, with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Its higher trim levels come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

In terms of fuel economy, the Forester has a slight edge over the Outback. The base model of the Forester can get up to 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, while the Outback gets up to 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. However, the fuel economy can vary depending on the engine and trim level.

See also  The Ultimate Guide to Choosing and Changing Your 2000 Subaru Outback's Oil

Winner: If you want more power and acceleration, the Outback’s turbocharged engine is the clear winner. If fuel economy is a top priority for you, the Forester is the better choice.

Safety Features and Technology

One area where Subaru excels is safety, and both Outback and Forester are no exception. Both models come with standard EyeSight driver-assistance technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning. They also have excellent crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

When it comes to technology, both Outback and Forester offer similar features such as touchscreen infotainment systems, smartphone integration, and optional navigation. However, the Outback is available with a larger 11.6-inch touchscreen, while the Forester maxes out at 8-inch. The Outback also has available features like a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, while the Forester has a standard six-speaker system.

Winner: Both models are equally excellent in terms of safety, but the Outback offers more advanced technology and premium audio options.

Pros and Cons

To summarize the key differences between Outback and Forester, here are the pros and cons of each model:

Subaru Outback


  • Larger cargo space
  • More powerful engine options
  • Better towing capacity
  • Available with larger touchscreen
  • Premium Harman Kardon sound system


  • Slightly lower fuel economy
  • Higher starting price

Subaru Forester


  • More headroom and legroom
  • Slightly better fuel economy
  • More ground clearance
  • Available with premium turbocharged engine
  • Lower starting price


  • Smaller cargo space
  • Weaker base engine
  • Smaller touchscreen
See also  Breath of Fresh Air: Does Your 2004 Subaru Outback have a Cabin Air Filter?


Which is safer, Outback or Forester?

Both Outback and Forester have similar safety features and excellent crash-test ratings, so they are equally safe.

Which is better for off-roading, Outback or Forester?

The Forester has higher ground clearance, making it better suited for off-roading and rough terrain.

Which is better for towing, Outback or Forester?

The Outback has better towing capacity, with the ability to tow up to 2,700 pounds when properly equipped.

Which is more fuel-efficient, Outback or Forester?

The Forester has slightly better fuel economy, with up to 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway compared to the Outback’s 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Which is more spacious, Outback or Forester?

The Outback has more cargo space, with up to 75.7 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume. The Forester has more headroom and legroom for passengers, making it more spacious for taller individuals.


Both Subaru Outback and Forester are excellent SUVs with a lot to offer. The choice ultimately depends on your priorities and preferences. If you need more cargo space, towing capacity, and advanced technology, the Outback is likely the better choice. If you prefer a more compact SUV with higher ground clearance and better fuel economy, the Forester is a great option. Regardless of which model you choose, you can be confident that you are getting a reliable, capable, and safe SUV that can handle any adventure you have in mind.

Avatar photo

Davis Bellew

As a Subaru owner and enthusiast, Davis has a deep understanding of the needs and concerns of Subaru drivers. He specializes in writing informative and engaging content about Subaru maintenance and repair, and his articles are always well-researched and easy to understand. When he's not writing, he enjoys hiking and photography.

Recommended Articles