2021 Volvo V90 vs. 2020 Subaru Outback

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/10/21

The V90’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Outback doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

Both the V90 and Outback have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The V90 has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Outback’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Volvo V90 offers optional built in child booster seats. They’re more crash worthy than an added child seat because of their direct attachment to the seat. Subaru doesn’t offer the convenience and security of a built-in child booster seat in the Outback. Their owners must carry a heavy booster seat in and out of the vehicle; V90 owners can just fold their built-in child seat up or down.

The V90 has standard Automatic Braking After Collision, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Outback doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The V90 offers an optional 360° Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Outback only offers a rear monitor.

Compared to metal, the V90’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Subaru Outback has a metal gas tank.

Both the V90 and the Outback have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front and rear seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems and rearview cameras.

Warranty

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The V90 comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Outback’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The V90’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the Outback’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Volvo pays for scheduled maintenance on the V90 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. Volvo will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Subaru doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Outback.

Reliability

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To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the V90 has a standard 800-amp battery. The Outback’s 620-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

The battery on the V90 is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the V90’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The Outback’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

Engine

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The V90 T5’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 68 more horsepower (250 vs. 182) and 82 lbs.-ft. more torque (258 vs. 176) than the Outback 2.5i’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder. The V90 T6’s standard 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder produces 56 more horsepower (316 vs. 260) and 18 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 277) than the Outback XT’s standard 2.4 turbo 4-cylinder.

As tested in Motor Trend the V90 T6 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder is faster than the Outback 2.5i 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder:

V90

Outback

Zero to 60 MPH

6.1 sec

8.7 sec

Quarter Mile

14.6 sec

16.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

94.6 MPH

86.1 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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Regenerative brakes improve the V90’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Outback doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

The V90 has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Outback doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Volvo V90 higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Subaru Outback (3 to 7). This means the V90 produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Outback every 15,000 miles.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the V90’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Outback:

V90 T5

V90 T6

Outback

Front Rotors

12.7 inches

13.6 inches

12.4 inches

Rear Rotors

12.6 inches

12.6 inches

11.8 inches

The V90 stops much shorter than the Outback:

V90

Outback

60 to 0 MPH

110 feet

132 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the V90 has larger tires than the Outback (255/40R19 vs. 225/65R17).

The V90’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Outback Base/Premium’s standard 65 series tires. The V90’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the Outback Onyx Edition XT/Limited/Touring’s 60 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the V90 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the Outback Base/Premium. The V90’s optional 20-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels on the Outback Onyx Edition XT/Limited/Touring.

Suspension and Handling

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The V90 offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The Outback’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The V90 has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Outback doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the V90’s wheelbase is 7.7 inches longer than on the Outback (115.8 inches vs. 108.1 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the V90 is 1.9 inches wider in the front and .9 inches wider in the rear than on the Outback.

The V90 T6 AWD Inscription handles at .88 G’s, while the Outback Limited XT pulls only .75 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The V90 T6 AWD Inscription executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 2.1 seconds quicker than the Outback Limited (26.3 seconds @ .67 average G’s vs. 28.4 seconds @ .62 average G’s).

Chassis

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The V90 is 8 inches shorter in height than the Outback, making the V90 much easier to wash and garage and drive (lower center of gravity).

Passenger Space

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The V90 has .9 inches more front hip room and .9 inches more rear hip room than the Outback.

Cargo Capacity

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A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the V90 easier. The V90’s trunk lift-over height is 24 inches, while the Outback’s liftover is 28.4 inches.

The V90’s cargo area is larger than the Outback’s in almost every dimension:

V90

Outback

Length to seat (2nd/1st)

45.4”/78.3”

42”/75”

Min Width

43.3”

43.3”

Servicing Ease

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The V90 uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Outback uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

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The V90 has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Outback doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

Unlike the driver-only memory seat and mirrors in the Outback Limited/Touring, the V90 Inscription has a passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat and outside mirror angle and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The V90 offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Outback doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The power windows standard on both the V90 and the Outback have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the V90 is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Outback prevents the driver from operating the rear windows just as it does the other passengers.

The V90’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Outback’s standard rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

If the windows are left open on the V90 the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can also lower the windows the same way. The driver of the Outback can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The V90’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Outback’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are optional on the V90 to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Outback doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The V90 has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Outback doesn’t offer headlight washers.

The V90’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Subaru only offers heated mirrors on the Outback Premium/Limited/Touring/Onyx.

The V90 Inscription offers optional massaging front seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging seats aren’t available in the Outback.

The V90 has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Outback Premium/Limited/Touring/Onyx.

Both the V90 and the Outback offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the V90 has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Outback doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Volvo V90 has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. Wireless charging costs extra on the Outback and isn’t available on the Outback Base.

The V90’s optional Park Assist Pilot can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Outback doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

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The V90 is available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations. The Outback doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Recommendations

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The V90 was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2018. The Outback has never been an “All Star.”

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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