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 bigger heavyweights than the Subaru Outback and the Toyota RAV4. These cars have long, storied histories with many 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 car for the intrepid outdoorsman and a safe option for a family car.
The Toyota RAV4 feels better on the typical roads you travel 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.
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, but it 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 will fill up if you go on a long trip.
The other feature 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 safety marks, has all-wheel drive, and 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 shift towards SUVs away from sedans. The 2022 RAV4 is sporty and looks sharp and modern. Toyota has loaded the RAV4 with many standard features at no additional cost, even if the interior remains a little pedestrian. Toyota’s latest safety technology comes standard, including 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, and the dashboard is very busy with a lot of lights and flashing information that can 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 offers 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 the fuel efficiency. If you don’t mind spending 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 offers 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 will depend on how you want to use the vehicles. The RAV4 has better fuel economy and horsepower for regular driving and performs better on average commuter roads. However, if you want to use your car more adventurously, the Outback will outperform the RAV4. The Outback’s all-wheel drive and rugged body do much better in a camping or remote road setting than the RAV4. However, if you only plan on commuting with it, the RAV4 is 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, including the ultra-expensive Wilderness package, can get quite pricey at its top-tier levels. The RAV4 maintains its affordability across most trim packages and is consistently more affordable than the Outback at almost every level. If the price concerns you, the RAV4 will be much easier to stomach than the Subaru Outback.
Edge: Subaru Outback
Subaru and Toyota regularly vie for the title of the most reliable car company. They are old companies based out of Japan and have always prided themselves on reliability and durability. However, the Subaru Outback is regularly labeled the most durable car on the road. The commonly referenced claim touted by Subaru is that 97% of all Outbacks remain on the road after 10 years which is longer 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 more reliable in the long run.
Edge: Subaru Outback
The Subaru Outback is not only safer than the RAV4, but it is also one of the safest cars on the road. The Outback gets perfect safety marks from IIHS, which is a phenomenal feat that does not happen often. The RAV4 gets good safety ratings but 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 unsafe, 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 vehicles have to say about their drive and performance.
Subaru has never been known for its engines, and that remains true even this year. One of the biggest complaints from drivers is that the base model engine is too 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 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 being unable 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 it whines and chugs in certain situations. 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 that driver assistance technologies come included and are easy to use right from the get-go. Many people like the new look of the 2022 RAV4 as well. 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 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 smaller and zippier and rides better on roads and highways. Either car is a great long-term choice for a commuter, adventurer, or family. Now all you have to do is choose.
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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)