Subaru 20 Outback upgrades interior tech

By | July 20, 2019

FORT BRAGG, Calif. — To expand the appeal of its perennial bestseller, Subaru of America focused on the Outback’s interior for its redesign for 2020.

“We needed a more functional interior,” Yoichi Hori, Outback project general manager, said last week during the crossover’s introduction here.

That functionality mainly arrived in the form of an 11.6-inch touch screen infotainment system, which will come on all Outbacks except the base trim.

“The Outback does very well, but people always want a little more space, a little more technology,” Peter Tenn, car line manager, told Automotive News. “Customers felt the technology was a little behind the times. That’s why we tried to leapfrog the technology. No mainstream brand has that kind of head unit, that kind of infotainment.

“That’s something we had to develop way before the car,” he said. “The whole car is kind of designed around it.”

Subaru leaned on Japanese supplier Denso Corp. for the infotainment system, including the display unit and processors.

“We asked the supplier to support the whole development because our own resources are not enough to make everything,” Hori said.

The tablet-sized, vertical layout of the screen is a new look for Subaru design. But the automaker made sure it kept its familiar functional physical knobs for volume, radio tuning, hazard lights and some HVAC controls. Hori credited that decision to Subaru customers in snowy climates who wear gloves while they drive and prefer physical buttons over touch screens.

Through the first half of 2019, Subaru sold 93,711 Outbacks in the U.S., an increase of 3 percent from the year earlier. The outgoing model remained Subaru’s No. 1 nameplate despite being at the end of its product cycle.

The Outback also led the midsize crossover segment through June, outpacing the Honda Pilot (68,452), Hyundai Santa Fe (67,571) and Ford Edge (64,234), among others, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Production of the 2020 Outback is set to begin this week at Subaru’s Indiana plant, with the first deliveries scheduled for this summer.

For the Outback’s sixth generation, Subaru added a new trim, the Onyx Edition XT.

Highlights include a turbocharged engine, black 18-inch wheels, a two-tone interior with water-repellent seat material and a full-size spare tire.

The Onyx Edition XT starts at $35,905, positioning itself between the nonturbo Outback Limited, which starts at $34,455, and the nonturbo Outback Touring, which starts at $38,355. All prices include shipping.

Tenn said the Onyx Edition XT is intended to expand the Outback’s appeal and brand, a move Subaru started with the introduction of the Touring trim on the previous-generation model.

That package was an appeal to target higher-income households that were cross-shopping the automaker with Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and other luxury brands.

“There’s a whole market out there of younger folks who would love the Outback,” Tenn said the company realized.

With the Onyx Edition XT, Subaru aims to attract more enthusiasts and younger, more active customers to the Outback.

The company took a similar step last year with its redesigned Forester compact crossover, adding a Sport trim to attract younger buyers.

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