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The Complete Subaru Buying Guide: Every Model Explained


August 2, 2019 Buying Guides By

There are only a handful of automotive brands with a fervent, fierce base of owners — and Subaru definitely deserves a spot on that list. One of the smallest  Japanese automotive brands, Subaru originally came to market in 1950s Japan producing small, affordable “people’s cars” just after the Second World War. The company would later expand its presence and burnish its reputation in the automotive industry by venturing into one of the most grueling forms of motorsport: rally racing. It was here that Subaru proved itself to the world: With its turbocharged flat-four boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive, the Subaru Impreza was practically invincible on any road surface. AWD quickly became a staple across (almost) the entire lineup; for this reason, Subies have become a  coveted vehicle in areas with variable climates, like New England and the Pacific Northwest.

When the Subaru Impreza WRX came to the US in the early 1990s, it was welcomed with open arms, proving that there was a market for fun, affordable compact cars. With the success of the WRX, Subaru expanded its lineup into the Forester, Legacy, SVX and Outback models, many of which are still going strong today.

Subaru doesn’t have a traditional alphanumeric naming systems like Lexus or Cadillac, instead, like Porsche and Lincoln, each model uses a more traditional name. Vehicle designations also include engine size (in liters of displacement) and package monikers. “Standard” models are the most affordable, with the least features. “Premium” includes all base-level features and can include upgraded safety systems and interior and exterior amenities. “Sport” variants vary little from Premium, but receive sport-inspired internal and external visual upgrades. “Limited” exampples includes many of the Premium items, with added higher-spec features such as Harmon Kardon audio systems, upgraded lighting and nicer interior materials.  Subarus badged “Touring” are fully loaded and include details like full leather interiors and the highest quality Harmon Kardon audio setups.

Subaru Terminology

CVT: Continuous Variable Transmission
Boxer: An engine with its cylinders mounted horizontally with each bank in opposition to the other. Helps lower a car’s center of gravity.
STARLINK: Subaru’s safety and security services, which include Automatic Collision Notification, Lane Keep Assist, forward and rear emergency braking intervention, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Recovery and the added convenience of Remote Services. It also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Starlink is standard on all Subaru models.
EyeSight: Subaru’s automotive safety system that handles the adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure warning and sway warning with lane keep assist.
WRX: World Rally Experimental.
STI: Subaru Tecnica International. <odels that have the STI designation are among the highest=spec products offered by Subaru and include performance-tuned engines, transmissions and suspensions.
Symmetrical AWD: Subaru symmetrical AWD system consists of a longitudinally mounted boxer engine coupled to a symmetrical drivetrain with equal length half-axles. Symmetrical AWD is standard on all Subaru models except the BRZ.
DCCD: Driver’s Control Centre Differential, which allows the center differential locking of the WRX STI to be adjusted to alter its handling.
SI-DRIVE: Subaru Intelligent Drive is an advanced engine management system with driver-selectable modes tailored to suit various driving conditions and the whims of the driver.
X-MODE: Helps to maintain traction and control over the vehicle on low traction surfaces.
VDC: Vehicle Dynamics Control with Active Torque Vectoring, which helps provide sharper, more stable handling by monitoring steering and braking inputs to help keep the vehicle on the intended path.
StarDrive: Subaru’s moniker for plug-in hybrid technology.
Lineartronic CVT: Unlike a traditional automatic transmission, Subaru’s Continuously Variable Transmission uses two hydraulic adjustable pulleys connected by a chain-link and a stepless gear ratio that allows the engine to run in its optimal powerband at all times. While this technology allows a fully automatic transmission driving experience, a clutchless manual shifting mode with paddle shifters is available on many Subaru models.

Buying Guide

BRZ

The Subaru BRZ was developed in partnership with Toyota, and shares a platform with the Toyota 86. It is the only car in the Subaru model lineup with rear-wheel drive and features a 205-horsepower 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine with an choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission. To capture that sports car feel, the BRZ features a sport-tuned suspension, quick steering ratio and Torsen limited-slip differential.

Body Style: Coupe

Models:

  • BRZ Premium
  • BRZ Limited

Engines:

  • 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder

Base MSRP:  $25,795

Impreza

The Subaru Impreza is Subaru’s entry-level vehicle, and comes in hatchback and sedan configurations. Featuring a 152-horsepower 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder, it is available with a five-speed manual transmission or CVT automatic.

Body Style: Sedan, Hatchback

Models:

  • 2.0i Sedan / 5-Door
  • 2.0i Premium Sedan / 5-Door
  • 2.0i Sport Sedan / 5-Door
  • 2.0i Limited Sedan / 5-Door

Engines:

  • 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder

Base MSRP: $18,595

Crosstrek

The Subaru Crosstrek can be affectionately described as a more off-road-suited version of the Impreza, with nearly all the same features and amenities. What sets the Crosstrek apart is a higher ride clearance of 8.7 inches, beefier tires and 18-inch wheels. The Crosstrek can be optioned with a Lineartronic CVT or six-speed manual transmission, and is powered by a 152-horsepower 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder. The Crosstrek Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid making a total of 147 horsepower, and can be charged off a 120-volt outlet or 240-volt charging stations.

Body Style: Crossover / SUV

Models:

  • 2.0i Standard
  • 2.0i Premium
  • 2.0i Limited
  • Hybrid

Engines:

  • 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder
  • 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder with two electric motors and 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Base MSRP: $21,895

WRX / STI

This fifth-generation iteration of Subaru’s most iconic vehicle falls squarely into the sports sedan category. The WRX features a 268-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine, quick-ratio steering, a sport-tuned suspension, switchable traction control system and active torque vectoring. True driving enthusiasts will appreciate the top-spec WRX STI, which features a 305-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder, short-throw six-speed manual gearbox, Brembo performance brakes, lightweight 19-inch wheels, Recaro racing seats and a driver-controlled center differential.

Body Style: Sedan

Models:

  • WRX
  • WRX Premium
  • WRX Limited
  • WRX STI

Engines:

  • 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder
  • 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder

Base MSRP: $27,195

Forester

The Subaru Forester is a small SUV widely loved by families and casual overlanders alike. The Forester features a 174-horsepower 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder engine with a Lineartronic CVT transmission, 8.7 inches of suspension travel and a spacious interior cargo area. For more off-road focused enthusiasts, the Forester comes with X-MODE and SI-DRIVE in Sport, Limited and Touring trims.

Body Style: Crossover / SUV

Models:

  • Standard
  • Premium
  • Sport
  • Limited
  • Touring

Engines:

  • 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder

Base MSRP: $24,295

Outback

The Subaru Outback has been the best-selling Subaru model over the past couple of years. There are two engine options: a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder or a 246-horsepower 3.6-liter six-cylinder boxer engine. Both engines utilize a Lineartronic CVT transmission. The Outback is also capable of towing up to 2,700 pounds in either engine configuration. A new model using a turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer four instead of the six-cylinder model will be arriving shortly.

Body Style: Station Wagon / Crossover / SUV

Models:

  • Standard
  • Premium
  • Limited
  • Touring

Engines:

  • 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder
  • 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder

Base MSRP: $26,345

Legacy

The Legacy is Subaru’s midsize sedan. It is available in two engine configurations: a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder or a 256-horsepower 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder. Both engine configurations come standard with a Lineartronic CVT Transmission. A new model is arriving shortly.

Body Style: Sedan

Models:

  • 2.5i Standard
  • 2.5i Premium
  • 2.5i Limited
  • 3.6R Limited

Engines:

  • 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder
  • 3.6-liter boxer four-cylinder

Base MSRP: $22,545

Ascent

In 2018, the Subaru Ascent introduces a midsized three-row SUV back into the Subaru lineup. All configurations come standard with a 260-horsepower turbocharged 2.4liter four-cylinder boxer engine paired with a Lineartronic CVT transmission. The Ascent can seat up to eight people and tow up to 5,000 lbs.

Body Style: Crossover / SUV

Models:

  • Standard
  • Premium
  • Limited
  • Touring

Engines:

  • 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder

Base MSRP: $31,995

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