What Car Will Replace the Subaru Outback?

I know it, you know it, and if your window looks out into a street, you’ll probably see one. The Subaru Outback—perhaps even the Forester or the Crosstrek. Subarus are a symbol of Bend.

When looking at the stats, the data will say that the most popular car in Oregon is either a Toyota RAV4, Tacoma or a Ford F-150. But those are just really the generic “American” cars that are popular nationwide. America loves pickup trucks, even though the people who buy them should actually buy an SUV and the beds of their trucks will never see a two-by-four. The Subaru SUV is a native species to this part of the world. So, what is going to replace it in the future?

To name a successor, it’s important to identify the core reasons why they are so popular. The first and most widely acknowledged reason is the Subaru’s off-road capability. The capabilities are simple: all Subaru models (except the BRZ) have all-wheel drive (AWD.) The feature doesn’t cost extra as with most other brands. People do want AWD in Bend, even though, as Top Gear proved, it isn’t exactly necessary. 

That feeds into perceived capabilities. People want AWD in their cars because they want the idea of security through AWD. Some even resort to purchasing AWD badges to make their vehicles seem “tougher.” Subarus and other cars that want to seem off-roady have plastic black cladding on the sides, specifically on the wheel arches because they look cool. They are theoretically there for shielding the vehicle’s paint from rocks. 

It’s a general trend in the car industry: people buy the highest-spec cool-looking off-road version so it looks like it can drive up Mount Everest. Many of those who buy the “wilderness” edition do so because of the cool yellow accents and the roof rack, not so they can drive out into the forest. If you do use an off-roading-designed car properly, good on you. 

Another reason behind their popularity is their affordability. Sure, some people have $100,000 to spend on a new car, but even for upper-class Bend, that’s not a reasonable budget. It’s what the Fiat 500 was to post-war Italy: an affordable car that fit the style and needs of the population.

Recently, many Rivians have begun popping up all over town. Although they are sturdy vehicles, prices start at 80 grand. It suffers from the problem that all other big luxury electric vehicles (EVs) face: everybody who wants to buy one has already done just that. However, Rivian just recently released the R2, which is very similar to the R1 (the original model) and will start at $45,000 when it hits the market in 2026. 

The obvious solution to what will replace the Subarus is another Subaru. And yes, Subaru has made an EV, but suffice it to say, it isn’t good enough. Put plainly, the Subaru Solterra is decidedly plain. It was developed jointly with Toyota because neither could be bothered to make a renewable-energy model on its own. The range, charging and other features are quite uncompetitive at its starting price of $44,000 and especially bad at higher trim prices of 50,000+. 

The better car to get would be either the VW I.D4 if you’re looking to spend around $40,000 or less. The Kia EV6 is another good choice for those who are able to spend closer to $50,000 for better range, charging and generally a more premium feel. The ID.4 starts at $38,000 vs $44,000 for the Solterra. Granted, the I.D4 doesn’t have standard AWD, but because of the much lower starting price, the addition of AWD brings it about parallel with the Subaru. 

But, what will the people of Oregon want? They need something cool yet affordable, with offroading capabilities yet practical. My prediction is that Rivian will be the new dominant force. Rivian already has a strong presence here. When the R2 comes out, that will give people a more affordable option and they’ll want to buy it, as the R1 series has become more ubiquitous and will become an aspirational item. People will desire the Rivian experience, and there will be one at a price they can afford, admittedly in a couple of years. At that point, the R1 will have been on the market for long enough that the used market will have them for more reasonable prices. 

Regardless of that, they’ll have some pretty heavy competition from the likes of Volkswagen’s “Scout” (a new brand rumored to produce vehicles similar to Rivian, big, chunky electric SUVs) Tesla and Kia. Rivian has gone past what 99 percent of past EV startups achieved; they’ve successfully sold thousands of cars. When the R2 comes out, those will certainly be crowding our streets.