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2021 Subaru Outback vs Crosstrek

2021 Subaru Outback vs Crosstrek

2021 Outback vs Crosstrek - How do they stack up? What are the differences?

Subarus have been around for a long time, and that's likely because they're known to be reliable, safe, and practical. The Outback and Crosstrek are two popular SUVs in the company's lineup. They aren't too big, but they still have good-sized, versatile cabins. They have all-wheel drive, many available high-tech components, and comfortable seating areas, and perhaps best of all, they're affordable. These are all reasons why these models are highly sought after, and this overview will provide prospective customers with more information on each.

Size and Styling

The Crosstrek is considered by many to be a subcompact SUV, and the Outback is more of a mid-size SUV. With this in mind, it goes without saying that the Outback is the larger of the two models. It's a few inches taller, a few inches wider, and nearly 15 inches longer than the Crosstrek is. This means that it'll have much more interior space, though the Crosstrek will be the easier one to park.

Passengers in the Outback are going to appreciate all the space they have. Leg room in the front is up to 42.8 inches, and in the second row, there's 39.5 inches of leg room. This is a fairly generous amount of room that taller riders will be happy to find.

In contrast, there's only 36.5 inches of second-row leg room in the Crosstrek. This should be fine for many situations, especially if kids are riding in the back, but things could start to get uncomfortable on longer road trips or when three people are sitting together in that second row. In the front of the Crosstrek, space shouldn't be an issue. There's 43.1 inches of leg room in the first row. That being said, there's a little less shoulder room and head room in the Crosstrek than in the Outback.

Subarus are often used to pack the family up and go on a road trip, load up bikes and other sports gear in the back, or run errands around town. For all of these situations, it can be important to have a sizable cabin. In the Outback, the rear cargo area has a volume of 32.5 cubic feet, and it can be expanded to 75.7 cubic feet by lowering the rear seats down. This is going to work well for a lot of households. For some people, it's always better to have more space for storage.

The Crosstrek, on the other hand, has a smaller cargo area. The area behind the rear seats only has a volume of 20.8 cubic feet. When the second row has been lowered, there's 55.3 cubic feet of space. Sure, this is a lot compared to the trunk space in a sedan, but it's more than 20 cubic feet less than what the Outback offers. Customers who are interested in the Crosstrek are likely going to be those who don't frequently carry bulky items or fully pack their cabins up with equipment.

The exterior stylings of the Outback and Crosstrek are very similar. They're so similar that it could be hard to tell the two models apart when looking at them from certain perspectives. The 2021 versions of these models look modern, though there's nothing about them that's particularly edgy or notable. For many people, though, this will be a perfect fit.

Both vehicles can ride on 17- or 18-inch wheels. They can be enhanced with LED fog lights, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and power-operated moonroofs that can either tilt or slide open.

There are some differences in terms of which components are standard or available on various trims, and in general, the Outback has the more premium elements. For instance, several of the Outback trims come standard with the power moonroof, which is something that's only optional on even the most upscale Crosstrek trim. Further, the Outback can be enhanced with chrome inserts on its door handles and have chrome-finished side mirrors, and it comes standard with LED steering responsive headlights. These headlights can change their direction when the vehicle is making a turn, and this better lights up the road at night. They're standard in the top two trims of the Crosstrek, but they aren't available in any other Crosstrek trims.


Just like the Outback is the larger model, it's also the more powerful one. There are two available engines in the Outback and three available Crosstrek powertrains.

Subaru has given each of the first four trims of the Outback a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. It comes with 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. This is a decent amount of power, and it should keep many drivers satisfied. For those who plan on towing, this engine should be able to get the job done, as it has a towing capacity of 2,700 pounds.

The other option is found in the top three trims of the Outback, all of which have the XT designation in their trim names. These vehicles run on 2.4-liter turbocharged engines. Because they have those turbochargers, they're able to make 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. This is going to make the ride much more exciting, and it will certainly give drivers confidence as they tackle tough terrain or carry heavy loads. The towing capacity in the Outback's equipped with turbo engines is 3,500 pounds.

With the Crosstrek, the standard engine has a displacement of two liters. Like all of these other engines, it has four cylinders. This 2.0-liter engine gives the Subaru 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, and it's found on the base trim and the Premium trim. With this engine, the Crosstrek can tow up to 1,500 pounds.

The Sport and Limited versions of the Crosstrek benefit from having larger engines. They actually have the same engine that's found on the first four trims of the Outback. The only difference is that these trims are limited with their towing ability. Like the other Crosstrek trims, the Sport and Limited can tow 1,500 pounds.

Finally, the third type of Crosstrek powertrain utilizes hybrid technology. The Crosstrek Hybrid uses an electric motor and a 2.0-liter engine. It has a net horsepower that's estimated to be 148. A Crosstrek Hybrid has a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds.

There are other differences beyond just the power output of these two Subaru SUVs. First, it needs to be noted that the base Crosstrek and the Crosstrek Premium have six-speed manual transmissions, with the option to get Lineartronic continuously variable transmissions (CVT). The CVT is the type of transmission found on all of the other Crosstreks as well as all of the Outbacks.

Also, every Outback and Crosstrek have been built to have all-wheel drive, but not all trims have X-MODE and Hill Descent Control. X-MODE makes it easier to get through rugged terrain. It can make the traction control system more sensitive to reduce wheel slippage, and it can utilize lower gear ratios to give the SUV more power when it really needs it. With Hill Descent Control, the speed of the vehicle can be limited so that it doesn't go down inclines too quickly. X-MODE and Hill Descent Control are standard on all trims of the Outback and three trims of the Crosstrek. They are available, at an additional cost, in the other Crosstrek trims.

Of course, the Crosstrek Hybrid is going to outshine all of the others when it comes to fuel efficiency. When factoring in its electrical system, it has a combined fuel efficiency of 90 MPGe.

The other Crosstreks are in the same general range as the Outback. A Crosstrek can earn up to 34/27 (highway/city) miles per gallon, though it has slightly less efficiency with the manual transmission. An Outback gets an estimated 33/26 or 30/23 miles per gallon, depending on whether it has the traditional engine or the turbocharged one.

Comfort, Options and Performance

Since it's the more premium vehicle, the Outback is going to have nicer interior elements than the Crosstrek. To start, it can come with heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. Those seats can be trimmed in a very upscale Nappa leather.

The Crosstrek can have leather upholstery, but the Nappa leather isn't available. It can have heated front seats, but they don't have ventilation, and there isn't any option for putting in heating elements in the back seats. The Crosstrek does have an available heated steering wheel, just like the Outback does.

In addition, more trims of the Outback than the Crosstrek have power-adjustable driver's seats. The Outback's front-passengers seat can be power-adjustable, too, and the driver's seat can have a memory function. Only in the Outback can someone find an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a hands-free power rear gate. This gate can be programmed to open to a certain height. It can be useful for those that park in garages that don't have too much vertical space.

In terms of staying entertained and in touch with others, there are plenty of options. Both Subarus have multimedia systems that feature touchscreens, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth. Wi-Fi capability is included on all the trims of both models except the two entry-level trims.

The Outback starts out with a seven-inch touchscreen that has SiriusXM Satellite Radio. All of its other trims have 11.6-inch touchscreens, some of which come standard with integrated navigation and Harman Kardon sound systems with 12 speakers.

Subaru hasn't been as generous with the Crosstrek. Three out of its five trims have 6.5-inch touchscreens, and the entry-level trim is the only one that doesn't have SiriusXM. Navigation is included with the Crosstrek Limited and Hybrid. Those trims have available Harman Kardon sound systems, which would give the vehicle eight speakers.

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Safety is an area in which the Subaru does very well, and standard symmetrical all-wheel drive helps these models stand out in a competitive SUV market. Both models have rear-vision cameras, Daytime Running Lights, and traction control. However, there are many differences between the two Subarus.

Every trim of the Outback has automatic high beams and driver-assist technology. As part of the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package, the Outback has adaptive cruise control; lane centering, lane keep assist, and lane departure alert; and pre-collision braking with frontal collision warning. The Outback can do an excellent job of staying out of harm's way since it can independently hit the brakes or correct its steering if necessary.

This model can come with blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert to give people an extra pair of eyes, and it can have reverse automatic braking to prevent minor accidents when parking. Plus, it has an available front-view camera that provides an 180-degree perspective of what's in front of it. This can help with precision when parking.

That front-view camera is, unfortunately, not a part of the Crosstrek safety package. Reverse automatic braking, automatic high beams, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring are included with the two two Crosstrek trims, so this is something to be appreciated.

The EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package that was just described is only a standard component of the top three Crosstrek trims. This is one way in which the Crosstrek is set apart from the more premium Subaru SUVs. On the first two Crosstrek trims, EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is available, but people would have to pay extra for it.

Which Model to Choose?

It makes sense that the Crosstrek would be more affordable than the Outback. It's smaller by a significant margin, and it's not as powerful. Its starting cost is $22,245, with the Crosstrek Limited costing $27,995. The Crosstrek Hybrid, which costs $35,345, is unique since it's a hybrid, and it comes with an expensive price tag.

With a starting cost of $26,795, the Outback is going to require a larger investment than the Crosstrek does. This price is still reasonable, given all the features that come with the Outback. However, the Outback really jumps up in price when moving up in trim. The Touring, which is the most premium Outback offered with the 2.5-liter engine, costs $37,495. The Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT, and Touring XT cost $35,145, $37,995, and $39,945. This will make some customers think twice about treating themselves to trims that are towards the high end of the Outback lineup.

In the end, the Outback is the better option for those who can use the extra space and all of its capability. The turbocharged engine won't be necessary for most people, but it could be fun to have, as long as someone can afford its expensive cost.

The Crosstrek will work well for those who would be happy with a vehicle on the smaller side and don't want to spend too much money. It has an open cabin that can be useful, a nice technology package, and many practical amenities.

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