The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

SUBARU'S OUTBACK ONYX Review - NOT JUST A SMOKE AND MIRRORS MOOD CHANGER


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Martha Hindes
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Subaru Outback Onyx Edition sport utility for 2020 has to be a blackout driver's dream. More than their preferred cruising at night with interior dash lights turned off so they don't contaminate the barely visible landscape outside, it announces its character at first glance.

Like the distinctive mineral rock that gives it its name, the Outback Onyx edition is a bit of an outsider. Consider the darkened feel – with strong touches of black cladding every visible element – from sultry dark shading on the 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels, mirrors in Crystal Black Silica, grille trim with a muscular black line differentiating it from run-of-the-mill everyone else's bright trim version, all on a Magnetite Gray Metallic body. This isn't a vehicle designed to fit in with the crowd. It's designed to make sure the crowd just gets out of its way without a word.

So let's examine what gives it its heft.

The Outback Onyx Edition has the driving credentials to move it in and around rush hour traffic with authority we learned, after taking its wheel, to eating up pavement with quick takeoffs and agility. It was a pleasure to be guiding the responsive steering through its paces.

So what gives this brother of the BRZ and WRX the same kind of oomph as its sports authority kin?

Let's check under the hood. There's that famed 2.4-liter turbocharged flat four boxer engine that can grunt out 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. If you think you'd pay a price for the extra punch, think again. It ekes out 23 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 26 mpg. There was no indication it takes anything but regular fuel.

Of course it is all wheel drive. You'd probably never guess it has a continuously variable transmission guiding it through its paces, including 0 to 60 in a six second sprint.

Let's look inside where people live when driving.

At a time electronics rule, the Onyx doesn't skimp.

The checklist includes such must haves as SUBARU STARLINK, built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual USB ports front and rear, plus heated front seats and dual zone climate control,

Two-tone gray faux leather seating that's water resistent trims this four-door five-seater. Keyless access and push button start gets it going

Safety wise, it's all there including EyeSight Driver Assist, lane departure, sway warning, brake override, 180 degree front view camera and rear vision camera, plus anti-theft immobilizer. LED headlamps and fog lamps plus wiper de-icer keep the road ahead visible.

You'd never relate the Outback, especially dressed in Onyx trim, with the term “wagon” and give people a touch of indigestion at the thought of a designation virtually verboten among American vehicle buyers. That's although it perfectly fits the need for a sporty set of wheels that's not too tall, not too clumsy, not too overwhelming, but with the character to maul its beefier contenders.

Want to take it off road? Go ahead,. As the Outback name suggests, this isn't meant to be limited to college parking lots or a gravel road to the nearest beach (consider Subaru's national park launch). Again, its got more wilderness merits than expected with a driver selectable dual X-Mode that disengages all wheel drive to accommodate Snow and Dirt, and also Deep Snow and Mud. The 8.7 inches of ground clearance help keep one on the trail.

If you damage a tire by going overboard through a rocky ravine, there's a full size spare to get you out of trouble – as long as you can change it, or the towing company can get to you.

In the “you pay for what you get” department, the Onyz definitely is not the Outback value leader.

With base pricing listed at $34,895, our test model clocked in at $37,750. But that included Subaru's $1,845 Option Package 22 with STARLINK 11.6 inch multi-touch hi res Multimedia Navigation Infotainment System (updated free for three years), Power Moonroof with slide and tilt, and Reverse Automatic Braking.

But if ordinary isn't in your vocabulary, the Outback Onyx could be just the answer. After all, who wants boring.

Copyright 2020, Martha Hindes, Automotive Bureau, All Rights Reserved