Are you a wing spoiler or a lip spoiler person? That’s a question you’ll need to ask yourself when purchasing a new Subaru WRX STI. It might come down to your age, or how fast you plan on driving…

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport Road Test

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The 2020 WRX STI gets some styling tweaks, but the 2019 still looks fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Are you a wing spoiler or a lip spoiler person? That’s a question you’ll need to ask yourself when purchasing a new Subaru WRX STI. It might come down to your age, or how fast you plan on driving your new ride. If you’ve got a race course close by, choose the wing as it adds significant downforce at high speeds.

Being that Vancouver doesn’t have a decent track within easy distance I’m personally torn, because the big aerofoil on the backside of this high performance Subaru actually has purpose, unlike so many of its contemporaries. The WRX STI’s predecessor, after all, won the FIA-sanctioned World Rally Championship (WRC) three years in a row from 1995 to 1997, amassing a total of 16 race wins and 33 podiums, no small feat. Of course, that was a long time ago and Subaru hasn’t contested a factory WRC team for more than a decade, but the road-going rally race replica before your eyes is a much better car than the one I tested in 2008 in every way.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The STI features some aggressive lower aerodynamics plus this sizeable rear wing on Sport and Sport-tech trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Competitors have come and gone over the years, the most saddening being the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (EVO) that was cancelled at the end of 2015, and no doubt sport compact enthusiasts are also lamenting the more recent loss of Ford’s Focus RS that went wayward with the demise of the model’s less potent trims at the end of 2018. Still, the segment isn’t down and out. Volkswagen raised its Golf R from the dead for 2016 and it’s still running strong, while Honda’s sensational Civic Type R hit the streets with front-wheel screech for 2018, and Hyundai is getting almost as serious with its new Veloster N for 2020, although these last two are front-wheel drive entries and would therefore rally in a different class than those mentioned previously.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
All the scoops and ducts are functional, the WRX STI one of the most purposeful performance cars in its class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The WRX STI being reviewed here is a 2019, which means it’s devoid of the styling enhancements available with the 2020 model, but both receive the 5-horsepower performance boost added last year. What styling enhancements? To be clear, the regular WRX looks the same for 2020, at least externally, although its interior gets some red stitching on the door trim and its engine bay comes filled with a retuned 2.0-litre boxer, while the differential receives some tuning too. This said only the STI receives any styling upgrades, which include a new lower front fascia and redesigned 19-inch aluminum machined alloy wheels for Sport and Sport-tech trims. Additionally, 2020 Sport trim gets proximity-sensing keyless entry with a pushbutton ignition system.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
LED headlights add sophistication to the STI’s raw power. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This 2019 WRX STI was tested in Sport trim, which sits between the base and top-line Sport-tech models. The base STI starts at $40,195 plus freight and fees, with the Sport starting at $42,495 and the more luxury-trimmed Sport-tech at $47,295. Incidentally, the wing spoiler comes standard with the Sport and Sport-tech, but can be exchanged for the aforementioned rear lip spoiler with the Sport-tech at no charge.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The STI Sport gets new 19-inch alloys wrapped in grippy Yokohama rubber. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Your pickings are slim for a 2019 model, but I scoured Canada’s Subaru dealer websites and found plenty for sale. Still, don’t expect to be picking and choosing trims or options. At least you’ll save if opting for the 2019, with CarCostCanada reporting up to $2,500 in additional incentives available at the time of writing, seen on its 2019 Subaru WRX Canada Prices page where you can also get complete trim, package and option pricing for the WRX and WRX STI, plus info on special offers like financing/leasing, notices of manufacturer rebates, and dealer invoice pricing that will help you secure the best deal possible when it’s time to negotiate. On that note, if you don’t find the trim or options you’re wanting from a 2019 model, make sure to check out CarCostCanada’s 2020 Subaru WRX Canada Prices page that was showing up to $750 in additional incentives at the time of writing. 

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
To wing or not to wing? With the Sport you don’t have a choice. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Even though the 2019 WRX STI appears no different than the 2018, it’s still a fine looking sport sedan. Last year’s STI added new LED headlights for a more sophistication look and brighter frontal illumination, while standard cross-drilled Brembo brakes get yellow-green-painted six-piston front calipers and two-piston rear calipers enhanced with four-channel, four-sensor and g-load sensor-equipped Super Sport ABS. Subaru revised the STI’s configurable centre differential (DCCD) so that it’s no longer a hybrid mechanical design with electronic centre limited-slip differential control, but rather an electric design for quicker, smoother operation, while the interior received a set of red seatbelts that, like everything else, also get fitted to this 2019 model.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The STI Sport’s cabin is nicely finished, and filled with a decent assortment of features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The interior also includes red on black partial-leather and ultrasuede Sport seats, with the same soft suede-like material used for the door inserts, along with nice red thread that extends to the armrests as well, while that red stitching also rings the inside of the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, the padded leatherette-covered centre console edges, and the sides of the seat bolsters. Recaro makes the seats, and therefore they come as close to race car-spec as most would want for a daily driver. They provide power adjustment for the pilot, including two-way lumbar support. The rear passenger compartment is comfortable too, and gets finished identically to that up front, even including the padded door uppers.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The STI’s cockpit is near perfect for optimal driver control and comfort. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That rear passenger compartment is one of the strongest selling points of the WRX STI, in that it couples legendary sports car performance with day-to-day practicality. Along with a rear seating area that’s good enough for two regular-sized adults or three smaller folk, upgraded with a fold-down centre armrest featuring integrated cupholders in the 2018 model year, the 340-litre trunk holds plenty of gear, while the rear seat even folds down 60/40 via pull-tab latches on the tops of the seatbacks.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The mostly analogue gauges include a highly functional display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All occupants continue to benefit from reduced interior noise too, not to mention a retuned suspension with a more compliant ride, while the car received a beefier battery and upgraded interior door trim last year too. Additionally, the driver received a revised electroluminescent primary gauge cluster with a high-resolution colour TFT centre display that Subaru dubs Multi-mode Vehicle Dynamics Control system indicator, showing an eco-gauge, driving time info, a digital speedometer, a gear display, cruise control details, an odometer, trip meter, SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) indicators, and the Driver Control Centre Differential (DCCD) system’s front/rear power bias graphic, whereas the 5.9-inch colour multi-information dash-top display, also updated last year, shows average fuel economy, DCCD graphics, a digital PSI boost gauge and more.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
Base WRX and STI’s include a 6.5-inch centre touchscreen instead of the 7.0-inch unit found in Sport-tech trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Subaru has been updating its electronic interfaces for all models in recent years, and now they’re some of the best in the business. The most impressive, a giant vertical touchscreen, is found in the new 2020 Legacy and Outback, so after experiencing that, the WRX STI’s centre display seems a bit lacklustre. Truly, the base 6.5-inch system found in this 2019, as well as the 2020, should no longer exist in a car that starts at more than $40k. Instead, the top-line Sport-tech’s 7.0-inch touchscreen should at the very least be standard across the line. I wouldn’t care if navigation was included or not, this worth paying more for some and not for others, but a single interface makes sense from a build cost scenario too. Then again the larger display might cost more than the smaller one even after factoring in economies of scale, but both incorporate glossy screens with deep contrast and crisp, bright colours, which is what’s needed to compete in this space.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The multi-information display at the top of the dash is a brilliant bit of electronics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As it is, the standard infotainment system incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Subaru’s own StarLink smartphone integration that also includes Aha radio and the ability to download additional apps. I like Subaru’s updated interface, which features colourful smartphone/tablet-style candy drop graphics on a night sky-like blue 3D tile-style background, plus the system’s easy functionality that for 2019 includes near-field communication (NFC) phone connectivity, a Micro SD card slot, HD radio, new glossy black topped audio knobs, and more. The standard six-speaker audio system is very good too, but that said I missed the top-line 320-watt nine-speaker Harman/Kardon upgrade tested previously in the Sport-tech package.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The base WRX’ might be a bit on the small side, but it’s an excellent system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Along with everything already mentioned, all STI trims include a glossy black front grille insert, brushed aluminum door sills with STI branding, carpeted floor mats with red embroidered STI logos, aluminum sport pedals, a leather-wrapped handbrake lever, black and red leather/ultrasuede upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, voice activation, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, an AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio head unit, vehicle-speed-sensitive volume control, Radio Data System, satellite radio, USB and aux ports, plus more.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The STI’s six-speed manual is silky smooth and brilliantly engaging. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

STI trims get plenty of standard performance enhancements too, such as quick-ratio rack and pinion steering, inverted KYB front MacPherson struts with forged aluminum lower suspension arms, performance suspension tuning, high-strength solid rubber engine mounts, a red powder-coated intake manifold, a close ratio six-speed manual gearbox, a Helical-type limited-slip front differential and a Torsen limited-slip rear diff, plus more.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport
The STI’s new electric configurable centre differential (DCCD) apportions drive bias to the front, centre or rear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Sport trim adds 19-inch dark gunmetal alloy wheels wrapped in 245/35R19 89W Yokohama Advan Sport V105 performance tires, the high-profile rear spoiler, light- and wiper-activated automatic on-off headlamps with welcome lighting, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a powered glass sunroof, Subaru’s Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) featuring blindspot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and more.

Lastly, Sport-tech features not yet mentioned include proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, navigation with detailed mapping, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stocks info, while the Sport-tech’s Recaro sport seats are only eight-way power-adjustable.

STI’s configurable centre differential (DCCD)
The STI’s Recaro sport seats are fabulously comfortable and ultra-supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, like with almost all Subaru models (the rear-drive BRZ sports car excluded) the WRX STI comes standard with Symmetrical-AWD, its torque-vectoring system continuing to push and pull its way to the front of the sport compact pack. You can pitch it sideways on dry pavement or wet, or for that matter on gravel, dirt, snow or almost anything else, and be confident in its ability to pull you through, as long as you’ve got the right tires underneath as well as the driving chops to apply the correct steering, throttle and braking inputs exactly when required.

STI’s configurable centre differential (DCCD)
The rear seating area is finished as nicely as the front, the seats are comfortable, and Subaru added a folding centre armrest last year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

On this last note it almost feels redundant talking about WRX STI performance, considering its legendary status noted earlier, but I should point out changes made a couple of years ago to the shifter and suspension, which made it a much nicer car to drive both around town and at the limit. The manual gearbox is much smoother, and clicks into place with greater precision than the previous one. In fact, I’d go so far to say it’s now one of the better six-speed manuals on the market, rivalling the Civic Si manual’s brilliance, which I would place at the top of almost anything on the market. That’s heavy praise to both automakers, but certainly well deserved.

STI’s configurable centre differential (DCCD)
This is as practical as sports cars get. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The six-speed manual connects through to a turbocharged 2.5-litre four that includes stronger pistons, a new air intake, new ECU programming and a higher-flow exhaust system than in previous generations, resulting in the same 290 lb-ft of torque, albeit five more horsepower for a new total of 310, while the just-noted gearbox features a revised third gear for quicker acceleration. This means the new STI feels even more energetic off the line than its predecessor, which was already brilliant fun.

STI’s configurable centre differential (DCCD)
The rear seats fold 60/40, opening up the cargo area for longer cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As anyone who’s driven a WRX STI knows, its handling is outrageously good. Then again the EVO mentioned earlier was capable of outmanoeuvring the previous five-door STI. I’d love to put the new STI up against the final EVO back-to-back, like I previously did with the old models, because Subaru has completely eradicated any handling problems of past STI models. It feels light and lively, yet mostly locked in place through fast-paced corner, whether the road surface is smooth or filled with bumps and dips. I say mostly because the old five-door held on too tight, and a little oversteer in the rear is important when making quick time through particularly sharp curves, such as those found on autocross courses. Braking is stupendous, with incredible bite from high speeds, the meaty 245/35R19 Yokohamas grippy on most surfaces and the majority of conditions, snow aside.

2019 Subaru WRX STI
If you like looking at mechanicals, the STI’s “naked” engine is a thing of beauty. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Fuel economy won’t likely matter much to anyone purchasing an STI, but it’s nevertheless reasonably efficient for its performance at 14.1 L/100km in the city, 10.5 on the highway and 12.5 combined, this number not changing one iota from last year. Subaru isn’t showing any improvement from zero to 100km/h either, its claimed sprint time still 0.5 seconds quicker than the regular WRX, at 4.9 seconds. With only negligible changes to its 1,550- to 1,600-kilo curb weight (depending on trims), plus five additional horsepower joining a stronger third gear, both off-the-line and mid-range acceleration should be quicker, which leaves us to believe Subaru is either being conservative or their marketing department just hasn’t gotten around to changing all the specifications on their website.

If you’ve never driven a WRX STI you should, because it’s one of the best sports cars available in its low- to mid-$40k range, plus it’s a practical everyday road car that can manage an active lifestyle.

Can you just imagine future Subaru Outback ads? Subaru versus the mountain goat, only once the all-electric Outback is up on top of the mountain it will need to plug into a diesel generator in order to…

Subaru announces plans to go 100 percent electric by the mid-2030s

2020 Subaru Ascent
The Ascent, introduced last year, will likely receive a hybrid powertrain in the near future. (Photo: Subaru)

Can you just imagine future Subaru Outback ads? Subaru versus the mountain goat, only once the all-electric Outback is up on top of the mountain it will need to plug into a diesel generator in order to get back down. Advantage goat.

The oft-heard term, “Get woke, go broke” comes to mind when a niche automaker like Subaru announces plans to toss away its most notable brand identity trait, the horizontally opposed “boxer” engine, in order to appease the green crowd and align with some global governments’ impending regulations to eventually ban internal combustion engines.

At a time when the current U.S. administration is loosening new vehicle emissions restrictions, the European Union, China and other markets are tightening them, on vehicles at least (Europe will soon be celebrating new fossil fuel pipelines from Russia and China is seemingly building coal-fired power plants—to fuel said electric cars—faster than anyone can count).

2020 Subaru Crosstrek
The Crosstrek will probably be one of the first Subaru models to receive the brand’s new hybrid powertrain, because it already has an ownership base ready to trade up from. (Photo: Subaru)

It makes sense that Subaru would want to continue being able to sell into these markets after internal combustion engines are banned, and therefore is planning to electrify its lineup. The process will begin with the introduction of a hybrid-electric drivetrain powering key models, its source for hybrid technology coming from Toyota, which owns 16.5-percent of Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), Subaru’s parent company. The short-lived 2014-2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid was this union’s first project, but it didn’t find enough marketplace interest to remain viable.

2020 Subaru Forester
The Forester would be ideal for a hybrid powertrain, as it could go up against the compact SUV segment’s top-selling RAV4 Hybrid. (Photo: Subaru)

Currently important to those in charge of Subaru is the retention of its distinctive brand character traits, which have long included the aforementioned horizontally opposed engine configuration, as well as standard all-wheel drive for most of its models (the Toyota co-developed BRZ sports car only comes with rear-wheel drive). The previous Crosstrek Hybrid, for instance, used Toyota’s hybrid technologies together with Subaru’s 2.0-litre boxer engine, thus making it perform and sound just like other models wearing the idiosyncratic alternative brand’s six-starred blue-oval badge. What Subaru doesn’t want is simple badge engineering, like Toyota has done many times (including the Subaru-powered albeit co-developed Scion FR-S/Toyota 86, the Mazda2-based Yaris Sedan, etcetera), as the niche automaker would run the risk of diluting its very unique brand image.

2020 Subaru Impreza
An Impreza hybrid could go up against the new Toyota Corolla Hybrid and Honda’s Insight. (Photo: Subaru)

“Although we’re using Toyota technology, we want to make hybrids that are distinctly Subaru,” said the brand’s chief technology officer, Tetsuo Onuki, to Reuters news agency. “It’s not only about reducing CO2 emissions. We need to further improve vehicle safety and the performance of our all-wheel drive.” 

While Onuki made a point of mentioning that all-wheel drive will continue to be an important differentiator with future Subaru models, the inclusion of AWD is becoming more commonplace amongst its competitors. Both Nissan and Mazda recently introduced redesigned passenger cars with optional AWD (Nissan’s Altima makes AWD standard in Canada), and while Subaru’s trademarked “Symmetrical AWD” is considered by many to provide better traction than most rival AWD systems, whether or not its even delivery of power can be achieved as effectively when hooked up to a solely electric power unit will remain to be seen. As it is, plenty of electric vehicles now offer AWD, so Subaru’s current traction advantage may not be as novel in 15 years time, making it just another brand when its current crop of boxer engines are no longer available.

2020 Subaru Legacy
The Legacy was recently redesigned, but we’ll have to wait and see if the mid-size sedan segment improves sales before guessing whether or not we’ll see a hybrid version in the near future. (Photo: Subaru)

EVs in mind, Subaru and Toyota are currently co-developing an electric powertrain, which will result in at least one electric vehicle apiece at some undefined point this decade, with additional models expected. Subaru claims that hybrid- and pure electric-powered models will represent at least 40 percent of its annual global production by 2030, with all hybrids discontinued within another half decade or so.

Ten years is a long time in the automotive sector, let alone any consumer vertical, and much can happen in battery technology development, the introduction and/or development of alternative fuels, car/ride sharing development, etcetera, not to mention geopolitical developments (not all of which may be positive) that could easily force changes to Subaru’s plans.

2020 Subaru Outback
The Outback was redesigned for 2020, and would be ideal for hybrid conversion. (Photo: Subaru)

The win-win for Subaru is garnering green accolades now without much action initially being taken, making its owners feel as if their brand of choice is righteously marching toward utopia within a decade and a half, but the reality is an ultimate target that’s so far off into the future that it represents little if no real commitment, other than the likelihood of a new hybrid model or two within the next couple of years, plus at least one EV.

Notably, Subaru isn’t alone in making such all-electric future plans, with General Motors (in 2018) having pitched a U.S. national environmental program designed to motivate all automakers to transform at least 25 percent of their lineups to zero-emissions vehicles; Ford stepping up with an $11.5-billion spending program to result in more than a dozen new hybrids and EVs by 2022; Toyota (as part of its Environmental Challenge 2050 program) vowing to reduce vehicle life-cycle emissions by 25 percent or more by 2030, while targeting 2050 for the elimination of all carbon emissions; Mercedes-Benz claiming that half of its non-commercial passenger car lineup will be electric by 2030, plus full carbon neutrality will arrive within the next two decades.

2020 Subaru WRX
What would an electric WRX drive like? Or maybe a hybrid drivetrain? The prospects are interesting to contemplate. (Photo: Subaru)

Volvo might be the world’s most progressive automaker thanks to its promise to make half of its passenger cars wholly electric by 2025, that each cars’ life-cycle carbon footprint will be reduced by 40 percent by the same year, that the carbon output of its entire global operations (including suppliers) will be reduced by 25 percent by 2025 as well, and lastly with a plan to use a minimum of 25-percent recycled materials in its vehicle production when that same year arrives.

While some may chalk up the majority of these plans as politically correct grandstanding, we all can feel confident that Subaru is currently selling the Greatest Outback Of All Time (G.O.O.A.T.), with the term “all time” likely including its Outback EV of the future.

2020 Subaru BRZ
Will the brilliant BRZ sports car still be around in 10 or 15 years? We doubt it, but Subaru might have an all-new electric sports car. (Photo: Subaru)

Incidentally, the Outback mid-size crossover is Subaru Canada’s third most popular model with 10,972 unit sales during calendar year 2019, behind the brand’s best-selling Crosstrek subcompact crossover SUV that found 15,184 new buyers, and Forester compact SUV with 13,059 new sales last year. Additional Subaru models include the Impreza compact sedan and hatchback with 9,065 deliveries in 2019, the Ascent mid-size three-row crossover SUV with 4,139 new buyers, the rally-inspired WRX/STI sport sedan with 2,707 new sales, the Legacy mid-size sedan with 1,752 customers last year, and the previously-noted BRZ compact sports coupe with 647 buyers during the same 12 months. Check out full pricing, including trims, packages and individual options at CarCostCanada, plus learn about available rebate info, special financing/lease rates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.

Also, make sure to check our photo gallery above for Subaru Canada’s current 2020 lineup of new models, as well as the videos below showing its humourous the new G.O.A.T. (#GOOAT) TV ad, as well as a slightly longer behind the scenes “meet the goat” backgrounder.

 

All-New 2020 Subaru Outback – #GOOAT (0:30):

 

All-New 2020 Subaru Outback – Behind-The-Goat #GOOAT (0:53):

 

The compact class is incredibly competitive in Canada, but thanks to continually improving its exterior design, plus major strides made in interior refinement, big gains in cabin infotainment, and a diehard…

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door Road Test

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door is one great looking compact sport wagon. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The compact class is incredibly competitive in Canada, but thanks to continually improving its exterior design, plus major strides made in interior refinement, big gains in cabin infotainment, and a diehard adherence to its unique horizontally-opposed powertrain connecting through to standard all-wheel drive, Subaru has found a way to keep its Impreza thoroughly relevant when others are getting discontinued.

News of model cancellations is never good to a car enthusiast, even if the vehicle in question is a rather bland compact commuter car. After all, the same market shifting issues that caused the elimination of the Chevy Cruze and its electrified Volt is responsible for the demise of Ford’s Focus and its two sportiest trims, not to mention the fun-to-drive Alfa Romeo-based Dodge Dart a couple of years ago. And these four are only in the compact segment. Plenty of others have fallen by the wayside in the subcompact and full-size passenger car classes too, all making space for new crossover SUVs and EVs.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The 5-Door’s sweptback rear design makes it the sportiest of the two body styles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Subaru produces its share of crossovers, its most popular Crosstrek based on the very Impreza 5-Door being reviewed here. I’m actually a big fan of that innovative little CUV, but I’m also a proponent of smart compact wagons, which is more or less what the Impreza 5-Door is.

Call it a hatchback if you want, or a liftback if you want to make it sound sportier, but in reality the Impreza 5-Door is a wagon through and through. No doubt some in Subaru’s marketing department would rather I don’t say that, but they should be well aware that this Japanese brand has an ardent following of wagon-loving zealots. After all, the Outback is little more than a raised Legacy Wagon, the latter model no longer with us, unfortunately, but a mighty find rally car in its time, not to mention an excellent family hauler.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
LED-enhanced headlamps make for a sophisticated look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Subaru has spiffed up the Impreza’s styling in recent years, and it really does look a lot more upscale and premium like, even in its more basic trims. This Sport tester comes with fog lamps and LED-enhanced headlights even though it’s just a mid-range model, not to mention side sill extensions, a subtle rooftop spoiler, and attractive LED taillights, while machine-finished twinned-Y-spoke 17-inch alloys with black-painted pockets round out the sporty look.

Subaru makes a 4-Door Impreza sedan as well, but I’m willing to guess the 5-Door is more popular in Canada. They both look nice and each serves a purpose as well as personal styling tastes, the sedan providing the security of a trunk, useful for those that regularly need to keep valuables locked away from prying eyes, while the latter gets the convenience of added cargo space of a hatch or liftback. The trunk can manage a load of 348 litres, which isn’t bad for a compact, but compared to the 5-Door’s 588-litre cargo hold behind the rear seats, not to mention is uninterrupted 1,565 litres of available volume when the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks are lowered down, it’s no contest.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The Impreza incorporates some similar design elements to the brand’s rakish BRZ sports car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The car I recently tested is a 2019, and yes I’m fully aware the 2020s are already upon us and therefore this review will have a very limited shelf life. Nevertheless, those willing to choose the 2019 can access up to $2,500 in additional incentives (at the time of writing), as seen on CarCostCanada’s 2019 Subaru Impreza Canada Prices page, whereas those wanting the refreshed 2020 model can only save up to $750 in additional incentives, unless they join CarCostCanada to access dealer invoice pricing at which point they could find themselves saving thousands.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
These are some sporty looking 17-inch alloy wheels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Subaru makes its EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistive systems standard on all Imprezas upgraded to an automatic transmission for 2020, while it’s only available in Sport and top-line Sport-tech trims for 2019. The car I tested didn’t include EyeSight, which meant it was missing pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, and adaptive cruise control. A Starlink connected services package is also available for 2020, included in most Impreza trims, while both 4- and 5-Door styling has been updated front and back.

The Impreza’s four trim lines remain the same from 2019 to 2020, and include the base Convenience, plus Touring, Sport and Sport-tech, with 2019 pricing ranging from $19,995 to $30,195 for the 4-Door and $20,895 to $31,095 for the 5-Door. Subaru leaves the base price alone for 2020, but ups some pricing in between with the new 5-Door adding $100 to the bottom line for $20,995, and top-line Sport-tech trim costing $30,795 and $31,695 for the 4- and 5-Door body styles respectively.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
A fine looking set of LED enhanced taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The 2019 Impreza Sport 5-Door model on this page retails for $25,395, this car increasing to $26,195 next year. Like the two bottom trims it can be had with a five-speed manual or optional Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) with standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, the latter being how Subaru equipped my tester. As always, Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD comes standard, not only making this the sole car with standard AWD in the compact class, but one of the only vehicles to be offered with AWD in this segment at all.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The Impreza’s interior quality will undoubtedly impress. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To be clear, Mazda recently anted up with an AWD 3, while Toyota’s Prius can now be had with its new hybridized e-AWD system. Volkswagen offers its Golf Alltrack until they sell out (it’s sadly being cancelled after model year 2019), but it’s more of a Crosstrek competitor anyway, while the Golf R competes with Subaru’s WRX STI. There you have it, all the AWD competitors in the compact class, a very small number for sure.

Speaking of VW, it’s ironic that a relatively small Japanese brand has kept the German manufacturer’s boxer engine design alive and thriving all these years. Subaru has long claimed the horizontally opposed engine configuration as its own, only sharing it with Porsche and, occasionally, Ferrari, with this latest 2.0-litre, dual-overhead cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder making a reliable 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque via direct-injection, dual active valve control, and electronic throttle control. This is significantly stronger engine output than most competitors’ base engines. In fact, only three rivals make more power, albeit not much more, while just four put out greater torque.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The Impreza offers up a comfortable, well organized cockpit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The result is strong performance from standstill all the way up to highway speeds and beyond, all of the extra torque working very well with my tester’s CVT, which provides especially smooth, linear power delivery. The paddles are useful for downshifting mid-turn, but I found the engine and transmission worked best when left to their own devices. The Impreza’s ride is very smooth too, while its agility through the corners is also typical of fully independent suspension setups, Subaru having infused a set of MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones in back, with stabilizer bars at both ends. This is a more sophisticated design than some of its challengers that use cheaper rear torsion bar suspensions, and can really be felt when pushing hard through curves covered in uneven pavement. Rather than having the rear axle bunny hop over the rough stuff, my Impreza’s 205/50R17s stayed locked on course, the little five-door certainly showing the effects of Subaru’s storied rallying heritage.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The simple gauge cluster is nevertheless easy to read in any light. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This was when I wished my test car had been equipped with the five-speed manual, as it would have been more fun to play with and potentially easier to extract more speed, but truth be told the paddles worked wonders when more engine revs were needed, even though they’re hooked up to a CVT. It was good enough, in fact, that I might lean towards the CVT if this were my own personal ride, not only because it would make driving life in the city a lot more agreeable, but also because the automated transmission is a lot thriftier with a claimed fuel economy rating of 8.3 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.5 combined, compared to 10.1, 7.5 and 8.9 respectively for the manual.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The centre stack sits on top of the centre dash. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While a serious driver’s car, the Impreza is also extremely comfortable, and not just because of its just-noted ride quality. The driver’s seat offers good adjustability, but strangely no lumbar adjustment in this trim. Fortunately the seat design is inherently supportive, and thanks to excellent reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column I had no problem getting into a good position for optimal control of the leather-wrapped steering wheel and sporty metal pedals. The steering wheel is nicely shaped for a sporty, comfortable feel with the hands at the proper 9 and 3 o’clock positions, while ample switchgear on its spokes allow for control of audio, phone, cruise, and trip/multi-information display functions.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The Impreza’s top-line 8-inch infotainment touchscreen is very good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Unlike most rivals, the Impreza’s mostly analogue gauge cluster merely splits its dials with a colour TFT readout for speed, gear selection, real-time fuel economy, fuel level, the odometer and trip mileage. The actual multi-information display is housed in a hooded 4.2-inch colour display atop the dash. It provides a comprehensive level of information, its top half-inch or so displaying the time, interior temperature, climate control setting, and exterior temperature, while the larger bottom section can be set up based on driver preference with options including audio info, real-time fuel economy and projected range, all-wheel drive torque distribution, a row of three gauges encompassing water temp, oil temp and average speed, and more.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The Impreza Sport can be had with a 5-speed manual or this smooth CVT. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While the quality of graphics and screen resolution of the multi-information display has made big strides this generation, Subaru’s biggest single area of improvement over the past few years has been in-car infotainment, particularly the centre touchscreen and its many features. The move up to Sport trim increases the display from 6.3 to 8.0 inches in diameter, and it’s an extremely high-quality touchscreen with crystal clear definition, beautiful vivid colours and extremely rich contrast. The overall tile design is attractive, with big colourful “buttons” overtop a starry blue background that looks attractive and is easy to use, with the main functions being radio, media, phone, apps, settings, and Subaru’s Starlink suite of apps. There’s no navigation in Sport trim, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto offer route guidance through your smartphone, which is likely good enough for most peoples’ needs. The apps panel includes Aha and iHeartRadio, while dual USB ports and an aux plug allow smartphone access. The backup camera is excellent too, and benefits from dynamic guidelines.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
This is a superb driver’s seat, despite not having adjustable lumbar support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All HVAC controls can be found just below on a dedicated interface, and in Sport trim is a single-zone automatic climate control system featuring three dials and a couple of buttons to actuate. Setting the heatable front seats is done via two rocker switches on the lower console, but even the two-way warmer’s highest settings aren’t anywhere hot enough to feel therapeutic.

There’s no heated steering wheel rim in Sport trim and no seat warmers offered in back at all, which is strange for a car that would likely be used as a family ski shuttle during winter months, but nevertheless the Impreza Sport 5-Door’s rear quarters are nicely finished, yet without secondary air vents on the backside of the front console or anywhere else.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The rear seats are roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It’s roomy in back, with about eight inches of space remaining ahead of my knees when seated behind the driver’s seat that was set up for my five-foot-eight, long-legged, short-torso frame, plus ample area to stretch out my legs with my feet under said driver’s seat. There’s no shortage of room side-to-side either, plus a comfortably wide folding armrest at centre with dual cupholders, and about three inches left over above my head. The outboard rear seatbacks offer good lumbar support too, so it’s easy to overlook the lack of amenities in back.

I’ve yet to mention this Sport trim’s upholstery, which is a high point thanks to a nice durable feeling fabric featuring an attractive patterned insert surrounded by grey striped bolsters with contrast stitching. Each Impreza generation improves interior refinement, with this latest fifth-gen model a wholly more hospitable place for driver and passengers front to back with respect to materials quality and design. Just look at the contrast-stitched leather-like soft-touch dash top, which is easily as good as this class gets, the impressive surfacing treatment even flowing down the right side of the centre stack and copied over to the left portion as to provide a visual balance. It’s gorgeous. The door uppers get a similar soft synthetic treatment and the armrests feel like genuine stitched leather, while Subaru adds more depth via carbon-fibre-like inlays, satin-silver/grey accents, tasteful applications of chrome and more, not to mention especially tight fitting switchgear throughout the cabin. Anyone buying into this class should be more than impressed with the Impreza’s interior.

2019 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport 5-Door
The Impreza 5-Door provides more cargo room than most competitors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I’ve mentioned cargo dimensions already, and while it sits in the middle as far as space behind the rear seatbacks and much better than average when those seats are folded, I wish Subaru had thought of including a centre pass-through for loading in longer items like skis. Of course you can squish someone into the centre position if carrying four, but the outboards seats are much more comfortable and the view out the windows more enjoyable for those in back. Subaru includes a retractable cargo cover within a solid, attractive aluminum cross-member that’s easy to pull out and store behind the first row of seats if no one is seated in the second row, or lay on the cargo floor if someone is.

All things said the Impreza 5-Door is a car I could buy and live happily with. It’s just the right size, offers up lively performance with decent fuel economy, promises strong reliability, and delivers the level of refinement and quality I’ve grown used to. Its infotainment is now as good as this class gets, and while I would’ve liked a few more features in this Sport-trimmed tester, a top-line Sport-tech model I tested a couple of years ago delivered more than enough goodies to satisfy the tech geek within. Everything considered, the Impreza wholly worthy of your attention.

The Outback has long been my favourite family-oriented Subaru, unless you consider the four-door WRX STI a family car. I know my son would’ve tried to convince me of its practicality, but he would have…

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited Road Test

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Subaru’s Outback is almost as legendary as the brand’s WRX, but for very different practical reasons. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Outback has long been my favourite family-oriented Subaru, unless you consider the four-door WRX STI a family car. I know my son would’ve tried to convince me of its practicality, but he would have done the same for a BRZ back in the day. Now he’s a man and while I’m still his old man, I’m also an aging man, so not surprisingly comfort is starting to matter a lot more than performance, while having somewhere to haul my stuff around is important too.

A quick glance at this mid-size crossover wagon might cause you to question whether or not it’s as roomy inside as one of its slightly taller five-seat crossover SUV competitors, such as Ford’s Edge, Hyundai’s Santa Fe, Chevy’s new Blazer or Nissan’s Murano, or even Jeep’s more 4×4-capable Grand Cherokee, but not so. While the Outback sits lower than any of the just-noted utilities, its cargo capacity, which measures 1,005 litres (35.5 cubic feet) when all seats are in use or 2,075 litres (73.3 cubic feet) when the second row is lowered, is nearly identical to the Edge, Santa Fe and Grand Cherokee, and considerably more spacious than Murano and Blazer, so there’s no practical reason to choose an alternative SUV over the Outback.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The Outback might look like a wagon, but it can haul just as much as most mid-size SUVs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In fact, while I’d like to see a centre pass-through or an even more versatile 40/20/40-split second row in the Outback or any of its aforementioned rivals, the Outlook provides handy cargo wall-mounted levers to lower its 60/40 split-folding seatbacks down automatically, plus a nice retractable cargo cover and rugged available cargo mat, making it ideal for all types of hauling duties including winter sports.

Of course, the Outback’s standard all-wheel drive is probably its best all-season asset, its Symmetrical layout renowned for providing an even distribution of torque to each wheel and better weight distribution overall, including a lower centre of gravity thanks in part to its volume brand-exclusive horizontally-opposed “boxer” engine design. I’ve tested Outbacks since I initiated my writing career 20 years ago, and even drove the exact same one as this in white last year, and thanks in part to standard electronic traction and stability control its all-wheel drivetrain provides impressive capability no matter the road conditions, even when the white fluffy stuff surrounding my test car in the photos is on the road. It’ll climb out of much deeper snow than that, of course, something I experienced numerous times in ski hill parking lots and in winter conditions elsewhere, while its flat-four and -six engines maximize torque, which is optimal when dealing with off-road-like conditions.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The rugged looking Outback can do just as much as most mid-size crossovers, and then some. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Incidentally, Subaru refreshed the Outback for 2018 and is currently launching its redesigned 2020 Outback, so if you head down to your local dealer you’ll likely see the new one sitting in the showroom and some 2019s (which are identical to the 2018s) still on the lot, the latter models still needing homes and therefore reduced in price to sell quickly. At the time of writing CarCostCanada is reporting up to $3,000 in additional incentives for 2019 Outbacks, while you can also check this website for trim, package and option prices, plus rebate information and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when it comes time to negotiate, so for this reason alone it’s a good idea to consider a 2019.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
LED headlamps, fog lights and machine-finished 18-inch alloys help this mid-size family hauler look refined. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, the decision to choose a redesigned or outgoing model shouldn’t only be based on finances unless one’s limited budget demands, yet I still can’t see 2020 Outback buyers being wooed solely by styling as the new version hardly looks much different than the old one from the outside, despite subtle changes from front to back. See next to each other, the new one looks more refined and sleeker, but I understand why the old model’s chunkier, more rugged design would have more appeal to plenty of buyers.

Open either model’s front door and you’ll see an interior delivering more plush luxury than their exteriors let on, the new version receiving the mainstream volume sector’s biggest centre display at 11.6 inches, while it’s now positioned vertically instead of horizontally, as is done with this 2019 Outback’s generously sized 8.0-inch touchscreen. I’m not about to detail out the 2020 version right now, being that I haven’t even sat inside one yet, but I can appreciate why some would-be buyers will be anteing up just for that mammoth monitor.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
This is one beefy set of roof rails. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This said I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone chose the 2019 Outback in order to get my tester’s fabulous 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine, which is being discontinued ahead of the 2020 model. Most recently it’s been optional in top-tier Outbacks and loaded up versions of Subaru’s Legacy mid-size sedan, but as soon as I learned that the brand’s newest Ascent mid-size three-row crossover SUV wouldn’t be offering the six-cylinder variant I knew its days were numbered.

For a quick history, the flat six arrived as an option for Subaru’s 1988–1991 XT two-door sports coupe. It was based on the brand’s four-cylinder of the time, and was soon upgraded for that model’s successor, the much more appealing 1991–1996 SVX, a model that I tested and totally blew me away back in 1994. This engine was replaced by the EZ30, a ground-up redesign that was notably almost as compact as the EJ25 four-cylinder of the time, the smaller 3.0-litre version being optional in Legacy/Outback models from 2002/2001-2008/2009, and the almost identically sized yet more potent 3.6-litre EZ36 iteration added as an option for the 2009 and 2010 model years respectively. As a side note, both versions of the EZ engine were used in the new Ascent’s three-row crossover SUV predecessor, dubbed Tribeca, with the 2006-2007 variant getting the smaller variant and 2008-2014 models using the larger.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The 2020 Outback’s taillights are redesigned, just like the rest of the car, but the changes are very subtle. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Enough history? I don’t normally deep dive so far into the past when it comes to engines, but when a relatively small brand makes such a big move, it seems relevant to go over some of the details. It’s also a bit of a shame. Most of us feel a need to help green our planet in some way or another, and altering the way we drive is certainly a less intrusive way than going vegetarian (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but even though 2019 to 2020 fuel economy figures show night and day savings, these don’t fully reflect real-world driving that might have a heavier right foot applied more often than not, causing a smaller four-cylinder engine to rev higher in order to extract the same performance that a larger displacement six-cylinder engine would need to for the same result.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The Outback’s refined interior gets authentic looking matte hardwood and metal-like trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Before comparing consumption, 2019 model year engines include an entry-level 2.5-litre four-cylinder making 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, plus the 3.6-litre H6 I’ve already covered a length except for output numbers that equal 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. For 2020, the base 2.5i receives a complete overhaul resulting in 90 percent of its components replaced for 6 more horsepower and 2 lb-ft of additional torque, which combine for a new total of 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, while a new optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine displaces 2.4 litres and makes an even more abundant 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, which is a nominal increase of 4 horsepower yet a very generous 30 lb-ft of extra torque when compared to the outgoing six.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The 2019 Outback is already outdated, yet it still looks great inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

How about efficiency? The 2019 Outback 2.5i achieves a claimed 9.4 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.5 combined compared to 9.0 city, 7.1 highway and 8.0 combined for the new 2020 base engine, which is certainly an improvement. Comparing 2019 Outback 3.6R fuel economy to the new 2020 2.4i is even more dramatic, with the outgoing engine managing an estimated 12.0 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.5 combined rating and the new version achieving 10.1 city, 7.9 highway and 9.0 combined.

To Subaru’s credit there doesn’t seem to be any downside with the Outback’s optional move from a six to a turbo-four, and few brands have had more experience building boosted four-cylinder engines, its WRX legendary for multiple world rally championships as well as dependability (those two normally going hand in hand), but I will miss the six-cylinder engine’s smooth, refined operation and throaty growl at takeoff.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The dual-binnacle motorcycle-style gauge cluster looks fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Shifts occur via continuously variable transmission, so while it feels much like a conventional automatic swapping its cogs as required, it’s actually Subaru’s High-Torque Lineartronic CVT with an eight-speed manual mode that mimics gear changes very well, unless pushed higher up into the engine’s rev range where it doesn’t pull off the process quite as well. Subaru includes paddle shifters for more hands-on engagement, but after playing with them for testing purposes I never found the need for them again.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Even the 2019 Outback Limited’s 8.0-inch display looks dated next to the new Outback’s 11.4-inch touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While quite quick off the line and plenty capable for passing slower moving vehicles on the highway, plus reasonably agile through fast-paced corners when pushed hard, the Outback hasn’t really been designed for performance buyers. No, this tall wagon is all about comfort, and to that end it’s best just to leave this ultra-smooth transmission in default mode and enjoy the ride, which is, by the way, superb. In fact, it has one of the most compliant suspensions in the industry, making it ideal for bumpy cottage roads and trips to the ski chalet, let alone tooling around town while running errands.

I’ve long found Subaru’s standard full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive system superior to other AWD systems I’ve tested, one of its advantages being an “X-MODE” button on the lower console that when activated controls the engine’s output, transmission shift points, the AWD system’s torque-split, plus the braking and hill descent control systems in order to overcome more challenging off-road conditions than most rivals should ever attempt. I wouldn’t go so far to say the Outback could replace a true four-wheel drive utility, but its advanced AWD and impressive 220 mm (8.7 inches) of ground clearance certainly make it more capable than most car-based crossover rivals.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
An electromechanical parking brake might impress some, but the AWD system’s X-Mode wows us with its capability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As you might imagine, I’m looking forward to getting into the 2020 Outback (next week in fact) just to see how it improves on this 2019. Obviously the larger centre touchscreen mentioned earlier in this review will be a night and day upgrade, which I’ll report on at length in a future review, but it’ll be just as interesting to see how Subaru updates the rest of the cabin. I’ll need to be especially good to beat the current Outback’s near premium levels of interior refinement, as it already boasts such niceties as fabric-wrapped A pillars, a soft-touch dash-top and instrument panel that’s contrast stitched and wraps all the way down the sides of the centre stack, padded door uppers, inserts and armrests front to back, and leather upholstery with contrast stitching in my almost top-line Limited model.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The Outback’s power-adjustable driver’s seat is as comfortable as its superb ride quality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The leather-wrapped steering wheel looks good and feels great in the palms and fingers, its nicely carved out thumb indents adding a sportier touch. The buttons and rocker controls on the steering wheel spokes are high in quality and function well, while all of the cabin switchgear is up to snuff, particularly the audio and dual-zone automatic climate control knobs on the centre stack.

It wasn’t long ago that Subaru trailed the segment in electronic interfaces, but the brand has been taking such sizeable strides forward in this respect that as noted earlier it’s now a segment leader, and while the 2019 Outback won’t wow your neighbours like the new 2020 will, it’s still competes well next to its peers. Both models use fairly traditional primary instrument clusters featuring analogue dials to both sides and a tall, vertical multi-information display (MID) at centre, but the 2020 says sayonara to the sportier double-hooded motorcycle-style gauge design currently being used for a more conventional look that’s actually a letdown at first glance, but that said its 5.0-inch MID can now be upgraded to a full 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The second row is roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That means 2019 Outback Limited and Premier trims aren’t much more intriguing ahead of the driver than base 2.5i, Convenience and Touring models, other than the base 3.5-inch MID being replaced by a much nicer colour 5.0-inch version when EyeSight gets added (more on this in a moment), but over on the centre stack it’s a different story altogether.

The 2020 base Outback comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, by the way, an upgrade from the 2019’s 6.5-inch centre display, while the top-line 2019 model gets a reasonably large 8.0-inch touchscreen, as mentioned earlier in this review. Unless you just stepped out of the updated car or something premium from Germany, my tester’s infotainment system looks fairly state of the art, thanks to lots of gloss black surfacing around the monitor so that it all just blends together as if it’s a giant screen, while the digital interface graphics simulate a deep blue night sky with twinkling stars for a background and colourful smartphone/tablet-like tiles for selecting functions.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Vents, dual USB charge points, and two-way rear seat heaters, all within easy reach of rear passengers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The reverse camera system is very good, aided by dynamic guidelines, while infotainment highlights include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Subaru’s proprietary StarLink smartphone integration, plus the usual AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio sources, as well as satellite and Aha radio, USB and aux ports, SiriusXM advanced audio services, SiriusXM Travel Link, and Bluetooth with audio streaming, all played through four speakers, while Touring trims and above include the 1.5-inch larger touchscreen along with a second USB port and two additional speakers.

I’m tempted to go into detail about trims, packages and standalone options, but it’s not like you’ll be able to order a 2019 Outback anyway. What you see will be what you get, and you’ll probably need to be quick to snag a 2019 anyway, especially one with the inline-six. This said I’d like to cover some as yet unmentioned features found in my Limited trimmed test model, which include 18-inch alloys, auto on/off steering-responsive LED headlights, fog lamps, welcome and approach lighting, proximity-sensing keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, brushed aluminum front doorsill protectors, genuine looking matte woodgrain and silver metallic interior accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto-dimming side mirrors, a heatable steering wheel, three-way heated front seats, navigation, adaptive cruise control, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, two-way driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger seat, a Homelink garage door opener, an excellent sounding 576-watt, 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, a powered moonroof, two-way heatable rear outboard seats, a powered rear liftgate, and more.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
This lever automatically folds the right-side rear seatback down when pulled. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Additionally, those EyeSight advanced driver assistive systems noted earlier include pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keeping assist, lead vehicle start alert, reverse automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and high beam assist.

The Limited 3.6R with the EyeSight package starts at $41,395, which is $1,500 more than the Limited 3.6R without EyeSight, while that model is $3,000 more than the Limited with the four-cylinder engine. The base Outback 2.5i starts at only $29,295 by the way, while other 2019 trims include the $32,795 Touring 2.5i, and the $39,295 Premier 2.5i that comes standard with EyeSight. You can add the Eyesight package and engine upgrade to Touring trim, although the six-cylinder is the only option available to Premier customers, other than colour choices of course, but exterior paints won’t cost you any more no matter the trim.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Remember, the Outback provides more cargo room than a lot of mid-size SUV rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While the 2019 Outback might range in retail price from $29,295 to $42,295, remember that CarCostCanada was claiming up to $3,000 in additional incentives at the time of writing, so be sure to check out their 2019 Subaru Outback page for more info, which also provides detailed pricing, info on the latest rebates, plus otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, the Outback provides mid-size SUV-levels of cargo carrying capacity, so it only makes sense there’d be no shortage of room for full-size adults up front and in back too. It’s comfortable as well, the front seats nicely shaped to provide support in all the right places, particularly at the lower back, while side-to-side bolster support is also good for this comfort-first segment. Rear seat spaciousness is generous too, especially when it comes to headroom.

2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Try an Outlander on for size the next time you need to haul a big load. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Another bonus in back is refinement, with its surfaces and details finished just as nicely as those in the front compartment. A big, wide centre armrest folds down to an ideal height for average-sized adults, and better yet it features large cupholders with grippy rubber clasps to keep drinks secured in place. What’s more, a covered compartment on the backside of the front centre console incorporates a duo of USB charging ports as well as an auxiliary plug, while rocker switches for the aforementioned rear seat warmers sit right beside, and rear vents are housed just above. Back seat readers will appreciate the spot lamps overhead, while the door panels get nice big bottle holders.

It feels right to wrap up a Subaru Outback review on a practical note, despite how upscale its interior looks and feels, and how luxurious its smooth six-cylinder power and even smoother ride is. It’s a car that’s even better than advertised, and that’s something truly special in today’s sensationalized world. Whether you choose to go with this superb 2019 Outback or choose the updated 2020 model, I believe you’ll be fully satisfied.

Subaru has just introduced a redesigned 2020 Legacy mid-size sedan with new styling, updated engines, and a revised interior, but outward changes are so subtle you’d be forgiven for mixing up the new…

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport Road Test

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
It’s difficult to tell this outgoing 2019 Legacy from the new 2020 version, except for the savings. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Subaru has just introduced a redesigned 2020 Legacy mid-size sedan with new styling, updated engines, and a revised interior, but outward changes are so subtle you’d be forgiven for mixing up the new 2020 with this 2019 model. So why write about a 2019 Legacy when the 2020 is already on the way? Subaru retailers still have new 2019 models available, and these can be had for very good deals.

According to CarCostCanada at the time of writing, you can save up to $3,000 in additional incentives on a 2019 Legacy, and that’s over and above any further discount you manage to personally procure. A first step would be to visit CarCostCanada where you can learn about pricing details, including trims, packages and individual options, while you can also find out about rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The Legacy’s rear view is attractive, especially this Sport trim that includes sill extensions, a rear diffuser and larger alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Subaru refreshed its Legacy mid-size sedan for the 2018 model year, and therefore this 2019 version remains unchanged. The model tested for this review was in mid-range $31,695 Sport trim, which sits above the base $24,995 2.5i CVT, $28,295 Touring, and $29,795 Touring with Subaru’s EyeSight package of advanced driver assistive systems, which includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, rear proximity warning with reverse automatic braking, blind spot detection, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, but Sport trim (that comes standard with EyeSight) is still more affordable than the $33,795 Limited 2.5i and $36,795 Limited 3.6R (also standard with the EyeSight package).

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Nice Legacy Sport details include LED headlights, fog lamps, and 18-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The “2.5i” and “3.6R” designations refer to standard and optional engines respectively, with the latter having been discontinued for the 2020 Legacy and Outback crossover wagon, incidentally, replaced by the more potent 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder introduced in last year’s Ascent mid-size SUV. Compared to this year’s 3.6-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder, which is good for 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque, the new four makes 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, while the base 2.5-litre four-cylinder found in this Legacy Sport and all other Legacy trims, which produces 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, gets 90 percent of its components replaced for 2020 resulting in an additional 6 horsepower (for 182) and 2 lb-ft of torque (for 176), a nominal difference off the line yet noticeable at the pump.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The LED headlamps come standard on Sport trim and above. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The 2019 Legacy 2.5i achieves a claimed 9.3 L/100km on the highway, 7.0 in the city and 8.2 combined compared to 8.8 city, 6.7 highway and 7.7 combined for the new 2020 base engine. Comparing 2019 Legacy 3.6R fuel economy to the new 2020 2.4i is even more dramatic, with the outgoing engine managing an estimated 11.9 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 10.3 combined rating and the new version achieving 9.9 city, 7.3 highway and 8.5 combined. The Legacy’s standard all-wheel drive means its base powertrain isn’t quite as thrifty as its mostly front-wheel drive competitors, but the differences are nominal, while both its old 3.6R and new 2.4i are much more efficient than the Camry’s available V6, for example.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Sport trim includes exclusive 18-inch machine-finish alloys with black-painted pockets. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Rather than delve too deeply into the differences between the new 2020 Legacy and this current 2019 model, I’ll touch on a few key issues as part of this road test review and keep some of the other details for a future review of the redesigned car. As noted in the beginning of this review, styling updates are so minor I’d hesitate calling it a refresh. In fact, Subaru Canada doesn’t mention anything about styling in its 2020 Legacy press release, an unusual tack, but I imagine this is good news for those who liked the previous design, and should help this current sixth-generation model maintain its resale/residual values. I find both models handsome enough and sportier looking than some rivals, while Subaru clearly isn’t trying to woo would-be buyers with anything too extroverted, like Toyota is with its new Camry XSE.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The Sport gets these stylish satin-silver mirror caps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Legacy’s wallflower appearance may be one reason its sales are so low, the 1,298 units Subaru sold after Q3 2019 just a hair over 11-percent of the 11,579 Camrys delivered during the same nine months. Still, it’s not last, the Legacy outselling Kia’s Stinger, Mazda’s 6, Honda’s Clarity plug-in, Buick’s Regal, Volkswagen’s Passat, and the same German brand’s new Arteon four-door coupe, while coming very close to Kia’s Optima. This leaves it eighth out of 14 challengers, which really isn’t too shabby. Then again, the Legacy’s numbers pale in comparison to Subaru’s own Outback that sold 7,756 units over the same three quarters, the tall crossover wagon basically the same car under the skin.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The 2020 model gets a slightly revised set of LED taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Fortunately, sales success doesn’t necessarily reflect how good or bad a given vehicle is, and other than being slightly smaller than most of its mid-size sedan rivals, it shows no disadvantages. Subaru has an enviable record, achieving “Best Overall” brand status in Consumer Reports’ latest 2019 Annual Report on Car Performance, Reliability, Satisfaction and Safety, not to mention tied in the “Best Road Test Score Mainstream” category with Chrysler. Subaru was above average in J.D. Power’s latest 2019 Vehicle Dependability Study too, albeit below average in the same organization’s 2019 Initial Quality Study. This said the 2019 Legacy was rated best for “Mid-Size” sedan consumers in Vincentric’s latest “Best Value In Canada” awards, as did the Outback in its segment.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
Sport trim is finished very nicely for a mid-range model. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

No doubt interior quality gave the Legacy a leg up with the various third-party analytical firms’ rating programs, its premium-like padded composite dash top and instrument panel stitched across its lower edge with a classic Subaru blue thread, while that blue stitching also trims the inside rim of the leather-clad sport steering wheel, all the armrests, and the leather-like bolsters of the otherwise light grey textured fabric seats. Additionally, some very authentic-looking glossy carbon-fibre inlays accent the instrument panel and door uppers, butting up against some attractive satin-silver metallic trim, while gloss-black and matte-finish black composites join yet more satin-finish and chromed metal accents. Subaru details out both front and rear door uppers in the same luxurious padded composite as the dash, and wraps each A-pillar in fabric for an extra level of pampering and sound deadening.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
It might be on its way out, but the 2019 Legacy’s cabin still looks fresh and modern. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Despite the new 2020 model providing a fresh new interior highlighted by a massive 11.6-inch vertical display that looks like it’s been pulled right out of a Tesla (other than the new base model that makes do with a 7.0-inch touchscreen), this 2019 version still looks up to date. In fact, its 8.0-inch touchscreen (uprated from the 6.5-inch screen in the 2019 base model) looks pretty state of the art when compared to most competitors thanks to a large glossy black surrounding panel that juts out of the central dash as if it’s one big screen. The display itself provides a rich blue background complete with graphical stars, overlaid by colourful tablet-style tiles for each function. The backup camera is excellent, and includes dynamic guidelines, while on top of standard infotainment features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Subaru’s proprietary StarLink smartphone integration, other features include AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA plus satellite and Aha radio, a USB and aux port, SiriusXM advanced audio services, SiriusXM Travel Link, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and four-speaker audio, while Touring and above trims include the larger display plus another USB port and two more speakers.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
A sporty motorcycle-style gauge cluster bookends a large colour multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

If you want navigation, a better 576-watt, 12-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio system, as well as a heatable steering wheel rim, heated rear seats, leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels and more you’ll need to move up to the aforementioned Limited model, while features pulled up to my Sport tester from lesser trims include a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support (that did a pretty good job of lining up with the small of my back), cruise control, and heated front seats from the base model, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power glass sunroof, and fog lights from Touring trim, plus proximity-sensing keyless entry with pushbutton ignition and a 5.0-inch LCD multi-information display (within the gauge cluster) from the Touring model with EyeSight.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
A leather-wrapped sport steering wheel includes paddle shifters for more hands-on control. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Special Legacy Sport features include 18-inch machine-finish alloys with black-painted pockets, steering-responsive LED headlights, a glossy black grille surround, satin-silver side mirror housings, side sill extensions with chrome mouldings, and a diffuser-style rear bumper cap with big chrome-tipped tailpipes at each corner, but take note this value priced Sport model won’t be available with the 2020 redesign. The new car’s sportiest trim pulls its GT designation from the past, and suitably comes standard with the quicker 2.4i engine in a new Premier trim as well as a renewed Limited model.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The 8.0-inch colour touchscreen looks even bigger thanks to a large black surrounding background. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Once again Subaru’s renowned symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring comes standard, and makes a big difference to how this car drives in slippery and even dry conditions. Let’s not forget Subaru honed its symmetrical AWD system through decades of World Rally Championship contention and still produces the legendary WRX that brought home so many titles. The Legacy was rallied too, by the way, in Group A from 1989 through 1993, although its single race win during its final year was nowhere near as glorious as the Impreza’s three championships, yet how many other mid-size sedan nameplates even have one WRC win to their credit? To save you time looking it up, exactly none.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The large display provides a great view out of the Legacy’s backside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As you might expect, the Legacy Sport is amongst the mid-size sedan segment’s more enjoyable cars to drive, not specifically for its straight-line speed, which would really benefit from the WRX STI’s 310-horsepower mill, but it gets up and goes quickly enough for most peoples’ needs and similarly to other base drivetrains in this class, while its Lineartronic CVT makes for smooth sailing all the way from standstill to highway speeds and beyond. Subaru includes a set of paddle shifters to enhance the process, and while allowing for hands-on engagement via six preset ratios that feel fairly close to the stepped gears in a conventional automatic when not pushing too hard, the transmission doesn’t provide the type of snappy gear changes found in most conventional automatics. I used them more for downshifting, the process giving this CVT a sportier feel and the benefit of engine braking, while upshifting early can save fuel in a regular automatic, but I doubt it makes much if any difference with a continuously variable transmission.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The dual-zone automatic climate control system gets a nice, easy to use interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

A CVT’s design can help smooth out a vehicle’s ride as well, and it may very well do so for the Legacy Sport that provides comfort first and foremost. Its ride quality is truly superb, yet the car holds its own through the corners as well thanks to a well-sorted fully independent MacPherson strut front and unequal length (short/long arm) double wishbone rear suspension setup, not to mention 225/50R18 Goodyear Eagle LS all-seasons connecting car to pavement. It really feels confidence inspiring when pushed through tight, fast-paced curves, while it’s just as adept at darting in and out of congested traffic or widening its gait on an open freeway.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The Legacy’s CVT is highly efficient, but not the sportiest transmission in the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The comfortable driver’s seat should provide ample adjustability for most body types, my short-torso five-foot-eight frame having no problem reaching the top of steering wheel when its tilt and telescopic column was extended all the way rearward. This means my seat was set farther back than most people my height would, but this didn’t hamper rear seat legroom enough to cause any problem.

Sitting directly behind, I had nearly 12 inches between my knees and the backside of the front seat, plus room enough to completely stretch out my legs when my winter boot-shod feet were positioned underneath. Likewise, I had plenty of space to each side, allowing a comfortably wide armrest with dual integrated cupholders to be folded down in between, while about three inches was left over above my head, which means a six-foot-plus rear passenger should fit quite comfortably in back. As far as rear seat amenities go, two USB charging points are offered, but only the centre dome lamp provided light for those wanting to read a conventional book.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
These comfortable sport seats are quite supportive too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The trunk is quite spacious at 425 litres (15 cu ft), and features the usual 60/40-split rear seatbacks that can be released by pull-handles under the bulkhead. I’ll make my usual plea for a centre pass-through or better yet, a three-way 40/20/40 rear seatback split, so skis can be placed down the middle while both (potentially heated) rear window seats can be put into use, because this would make the Legacy an even better snow shuttle than it already is. This said, not many challengers in this class offer the rear-row flexibility I’m looking for, so it will hardly be a deal-breaker, other than causing yet more buyers to look to the mid-size crossover SUV sector for their next ride.

2019 Subaru Legacy Sport
The rear seating area is very accommodating. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So there you have it. Even the outgoing 2019 Legacy is well worth your attention, especially for those needing or wanting four-wheel traction as winter approaches, the only other cars in this class to offer standard all-wheel drive being the new Altima, Stinger and Arteon, but the latter two are actually four-door coupes targeting a near-luxury demographic, with the Optima and Passat serving the convention mid-size sedan buyer. Buick’s Regal makes AWD optional, but it’s a much pricier alternative too. There’s a good argument for Subaru’s rally-proven Symmetrical AWD over any others, and many of its additional attributes, including all the industry accolades noted earlier, make the Legacy an intelligent alternative in a Canadian market that’s preparing for a snowier than normal 2019/2020 winter, or so says The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Not being forced to chain up mid-winter is reason enough to choose AWD, and the Legacy is a smart choice.