Crosstrek vs Outback: Which Is Best For You?

April 5th, 2024 by

2024 Subaru Outback Front View

Despite their bespoke styling, all crossovers are based on their brand’s conventional passenger car platforms, at least for brands that still have passenger car sedans or hatchbacks. The two big exceptions to this almost universal plan of having crossover bodies over car platforms are both found at Ewing Subaru of Plano. The Outback began as a raised version of the Legacy wagon. Over the years, it outsold the Legacy wagon in the US to the point that Subaru simply decided to have all their wagons be Outbacks. The Outback’s success prompted Subaru to apply the same formula to the Impreza, with the Crosstrek being a raised version of the Impreza Hatchback. Now that all Imprezas are hatchbacks, the similarity is even more apparent. In this way, the Outback and Crosstrek could be considered the most honest crossovers on the market. 

They are also among the best, as many automotive experts will validate.  Both have greater ground clearance than most competitors, weight distribution advantages, and long brand experience behind the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the effective X-Mode system, and Subaru’s overall engineering excellence. If you appreciate Subaru’s approach, the next question is: Which model is best for you?

2024 Subaru Outback Lineup

Does Size Matter?

Let’s start with the most obvious way to approach that answer. The Outback is one class size larger than the Crosstrek. More specifically, it is 3.3 inches wider, 3.3 inches taller, and while the wheelbase is three inches longer, the overall length is a good 15.5 inches longer. For front passengers, the difference in room is mainly negligible. Still, in the rear seats, Outback passengers get three inches more legroom, which can make a big difference in comfort for adults over long distances. A little over two inches in shoulder room can also make a difference with three passengers in the rear seat. The other area where size really matters is in cargo space, where the Outback’s 32.6 cubic feet behind the 2nd row is 64% greater than the Crosstrek’s 19.9. As expected, the Outback’s 75.6 cubic feet of maximum cargo space is also significantly greater than the 54.7 cubic feet of the Crosstrek. So the point of consideration here is how often, how many, and who will use the rear seat.  Are they adults or children? And will they, at times, bring plenty of stuff with them?

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Front Side View

Price Differences and Overlap

Obviously, with a larger size comes a more significant price, but there is some overlap between the two model lines. The Crosstrek has a starting MSRP of $25,195. The Outback starts at $28,895, just under the Crosstrek Sport Trim price, which is mid-way up the Crosstrek’s model line. The Crosstrek Limited’s MSRP of $31,095 – the highest model except for the off-road-focused Wilderness – is just $100 below the Outback Premium, which is one step up from the base model. This overlapping is likely why the Crosstrek has five trim levels while the Outback stretches to eight, with three upper XT models offering amenities not found on the Crosstrek.

2024 Subaru Outback Off Road Rear View


Here, you will also find differences and overlap. The Crosstrek engine on the Base and Premium trim levels is a 2.0-liter boxer-4 producing 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of peak torque.  It is connected to a continuously variable transmission that is common to all Crosstrek and Outback models. Sport, Limited, and Wilderness models have a larger 2.5-liter boxer-4 that produces 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. That same 2.5-liter engine with the same power specifications is in the first four of the Outback’s eight trim levels. Weighing on average about 345 fewer pounds than the Outback, the 2.5-liter Crosstreks can be expected to have a little brisker acceleration. 

The upper half of the Outback model line is powered by a turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer-4 that makes 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, which will easily outperform any Crosstrek model. 

2024 Subaru Outback Off Road Side View

Off-Road Ability

The off-road and stability hardware is very similar on both model lines. All models come standard with: 

  • Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system 
  • X-Mode
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Vehicle Dynamics Control
  • Active Torque Vectoring

Most trim levels of both model lines also have 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which is better than most of the competition in their respective classes. On the Crosstrek Wilderness model, the ground clearance is raised to 9.3 inches and rises to 9.5 inches for the Outback Wilderness. Both Crosstrek and Outback Wilderness are also equipped with dual-function X-Mode, which adds Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes, with the Outback adding low- and medium-to-high-speed functions. That said, the Crosstrek can be expected to have the advantage when things really get rough by being lighter and having both a shorter wheelbase and front and rear overhangs.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Front Dash View


Among the conventional trim levels, there is only a hair’s breadth difference between the fuel mileage of the two Crosstrek engines.  The 2.0-liter models get 27/34 on the city/highway, with the 2.5-liter models dropping just one mpg to 26/33. The Outback with the same 2.5-liter drivetrain differs little with 26/32. In this case, the efficiency case for the smaller car is not particularly strong. There is a wider gap with the upper half of the Outback model line in which the turbocharged engine brings in a city/highway figure of 22/29.

The raised ride height, larger tires, and heavier hardware of the Wilderness models lower their efficiency. The Crosstrek Wilderness is rated at 25/29 for city and highway, respectively, while the Outback Wilderness model is rated at 21/26.

Subaru Outback Front Dash View


Both models approach in-cabin technology nearly identically. Both the Base Crosstrek and Outback base models feature a dual 7-inch touch Starlink infotainment system with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. One step up on either model gets the larger 11.6-inch portrait-configured touchscreen with wireless smartphone compatibility.

The Crosstrek models start with 4-speaker audio systems on their base models and add two more speakers one step up. That first step also adds 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability for both models. A 10-speaker 432-watt Harman Kardon audio system is an option on the Crosstrek Limited and Wilderness, while a 12-speaker 576-watt Harman Kardon audio system is standard on all but the bottom two Outback trim levels. 

All Crosstreks and Outbacks come standard with the EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology, which includes:

  • Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Lane Centering
  • Pre-collision Braking
  • Lane Departure and Sway Warning
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Automatic Emergency Steering

You may already know which model best suits your needs and desires, but you won’t know until you come to Subaru of Plano and test both cars for yourself. Fortunately, you can’t go wrong either way.