2023 Subaru Outback vs. Toyota Rav4: Which One Is Best For Me?
In the realm of mid-sized Japanese cars with good reputations, there are no two bigger heavyweights than the Subaru Outback and the Toyota RAV4. Both of these cars have long, storied histories with lots of lifelong fans. Each car is known for its reliability and excellent reputation on the road. But which one is a better fit for you?
The Subaru Outback gets top billing in the safety category. It has Subaru’s legendary all-wheel drive capabilities. It is a great adventuring car for the intrepid outdoorsman and a safe option for a family car.
The Toyota RAV4 feels better on typical roads you will travel on every day and has a handful of better metrics in performance. The RAV4 has been around for a long time, and it continues to impress with a bevy of safety features and standard options that are included at no additional charge.
This comparison will break down the specs, pros, cons, and comparisons between these two legendary cars so that you can make the best decision possible for yourself and your family.
At a Glance
Let’s look at the key points of each product.
Overview of 2023 Subaru Outback:
The 2022 Subaru Outback is technically classified as a crossover station wagon. It is not quite an SUV and not quite a sedan. The result is a spacious ride that sits off the ground at a pleasing height. The Outback is the flagship of Subaru’s patented all-wheel drive, which gives it a lot of extra grip on rough roads at the expense of gas mileage. The Outback is the poster child of safety, reliability, and style. Its iconic look has been a staple of the roadways for years.
The Outback has over 10 extra cubic feet of passenger volume compared to the RAV4. The Outback trades passenger volume for cargo volume. The cargo volume officially measures 32.5 cubic feet, which is decent but not great. It’s enough for a small family, but it will fill up if you are trying to go on a long trip.
The other thing that needs to be mentioned is Subaru’s boxer engine. It leaves a lot to be desired. The 2.5-liter engine only puts out 182 horsepower and feels very sluggish on the road. That is especially true if the Outback is weighted down. It does its job well, but it doesn’t do anything flashy or with any sort of speed or power.
Sluggish engine aside, the Outback is a legendary station wagon for a reason. It gets perfect marks for safety, it has grippy all-wheel drive, and it is a good mix between a sedan and an SUV. It is the ideal vehicle for a family or adventurous person looking for a solid ride that will last a decade or more.
Overview of 2023 Toyota RAV4:
The RAV4 is Toyota’s small SUV. It has become extremely popular in recent years as consumer trends drift back towards SUVs away from sedans. The 2022 RAV4 is sporty and looks sharp and modern. Toyota has loaded the RAV4 with a ton of standard features at no additional cost, even if the interior remains a little pedestrian. Toyota’s latest safety technology comes standard, which also includes driver assist, even in the base model. The included features add value to an SUV already available at a great price.
While the RAV4 looks good on the outside, the inside feels a little dated. The touch screen occasionally lags, which is frustrating for the user experience, and the dashboard is very busy with a lot of lights and flashing information that can actually be a distraction in some circumstances. The base model doesn’t come with the Toyota V6 included, and the upgraded RAV4s benefit from the V6 configuration.
Toyota does offer the RAV4 in a hybrid which is a nice option for people to consider. RAV4 already gets good gas mileage for an SUV, and the hybrid only adds to that fuel efficiency. If you don’t mind spending a little more on a modern hybrid, it is available with better gas mileage and some neat upgrades.
Overall, the 2022 Toyota RAV4 is a great value. It doesn’t rock the boat with frills and features, but it does offer a lot at a fair price. It has good safety ratings, a lot of cargo capacity, and a reputation of excellence backed by the largest car company on the planet.
How Do They Compare In Key Areas?
Edge: It Depends
How you rate the performance of the RAV4 and the Outback compare is going to depend on how you want to use the vehicles. For regular driving, the RAV4 has a little bit better fuel economy and horsepower. The RAV4 will perform better on average commuter roads. However, if you want to use your car in a more adventurous fashion, the Outback will outperform the RAV4. The Outback’s all-wheel drive and rugged body will do much better in a camping or remote road setting than the RAV4. But if you only plan on commuting with it, then the RAV4 will be a little better.
Edge: Toyota RAV4
The RAV4 has a cheaper base model and cheaper upper-tier models than the Subaru Outback. The Subaru Outback can get quite pricey at its top tier levels, including the ultra-expensive Wilderness package. The RAV4 maintains its affordability across most of its trim packages and is consistently more affordable than the Outback at almost every level. If price is a big concern for you, the RAV4 will be much easier to stomach than the Subaru Outback. However, at the base model, they are similar in price, but the RAV4 is still cheaper.
Edge: Subaru Outback
Subaru and Toyota regularly vie for the title of the most reliable car company. They are both old companies based out of Japan and have always prided themselves on reliability and durability. That being said, the Subaru Outback is regularly labeled the most durable car on the road. The commonly referenced bit often touted by Subaru is that 97% of all Outbacks remain on the road after ten years which is higher than any other make and model of car. The RAV4 is still a reliable car, and Toyota is a reputable brand known for long-lasting machines, but the Outback is just that much more reliable in the long run.
Edge: Subaru Outback
The Subaru Outback is not only safer than the RAV4; it is one of the safest cars on the road. Period. The Outback gets perfect safety marks from IIHS, which is a phenomenal feat that does not happen very often. The RAV4 gets good safety ratings, but it struggled in the Side Crash test, where it only received an acceptable rather than the top rating. The RAV4 also scored just marginal in seat belt reminder warnings. The RAV4 is not an unsafe car, but it cannot keep up with the Outback’s perfect safety rating.
What Drivers Say
Let’s take a look at what other real users of these rigs have to say about their drive and performance.
Subaru has never been known for the output of its engines, and that remains true even this year. One of the biggest complaints from drivers is that the base model engine is simply slow. It does not get up to speed quickly, and it can have a hard time passing on the interstate, which some drivers have found extremely frustrating.
However, drivers enjoy the roomy interior and the high clearance. The upgraded suspension and vehicle height put you a good step above the most common obstacles without making the car too tall or too high. It strikes the perfect balance. The car crawls over unpaved roads and slides in perfectly to campsites where drivers never worry about getting stuck or not being able to pack enough things for a weekend away.
It may sound strange, but one of the biggest complaints about the RAV4 is the sound of its engine. Many drivers say that the engine is too loud and that in certain situations, it whines and chugs. These are not complaints you often hear about modern cars, but the engine is loud enough to warrant notice by multiple people.
Noisy engine aside, drivers have raved about the RAV4’s above-average fuel economy. Drivers also like the fact that many driver assistance technologies come included and are easy to use right from the get-go. Many people really like the new look of the 2022 RAV4 as well. It is a pleasing car to look at. While the Outback hasn’t changed its look in many years, the newest RAV4 looks modern and fresh.
The choice between the Outback and the RAV4 very well might come down to your intentions for the vehicle. The Outback is roomier and has all-wheel drive, which is perfect for long trips and camping. However, the AWD system hampers its performance and fuel economy. The RAV4 is a bit smaller and zippier and rides better on typical roads. Either car is a great long-term choice for a commuter, adventurer, or family. Now all you have to do is choose.
- Toyota Rav4 vs Subaru Forester: Which One’s Best for Me?
- Toyota Highlander vs. Rav4: Which One’s Best for Me?
Featured Image Credit: Image Credit: (Left) 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness (United States) front view (Gold Pony, Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0) (Right) New Toyota RAV4, (Guillaume Vachey, Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0 Universal)