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2023 Subaru Outback vs. 2023 Toyota Rav 4

Comparison between 2023 Subaru Outback and 2023 Toyota RAV4

1. Introduction

The global car market is teeming with a variety of three-row SUVs, with the 2023 Subaru Outback and the Toyota RAV4 being a close comparison. The eight-passenger 2023 Outback is primarily an updated version of the vehicle from the 2022 model year. The seven-passenger 2023 RAV4, however, is the first of its kind. Being that this is a first edition vehicle, it is perhaps more appropriate to compare it to the 2022 Subaru Outback, as the 2023 models for both vehicles have yet to be released. This comparison will primarily focus on features the base level trims for each vehicle, evaluating their performance data, interior design and comfort settings, safety features, and their associated costs. This comparison would likely yield different results using the higher tier trims for both vehicles, but for this case, we shall consider the "Base" trim for the Outback, and the "LE" for the RAV4. (Edwards & Brumbelow2023)

1.1. Overview of the 2023 Subaru Outback

Both Subaru Outback and Toyota RAV4 are two of the best compact SUVs that will be launched in 2023. Here are some reviews and specs on both vehicles. We'll start with the 2023 Subaru Outback. With a starting MSRP of $26,945, this vehicle is the perfect family car. It is spacious enough to seat 5 people comfortably and comes with 4 trims: base, premium, limited, and touring. It is equipped with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and for the higher trims, a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine. Some additional specs are Hill Descent Control, X-mode which enhances your AWD traction in rugged terrain, and the towing capacity for 2.5i is 2,700 lbs and 3.6R is 3,000 lbs. Some additional exterior and interior features would include retractable roof crossbars, power rear gate with height memory functions, and 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback and much more. With an MPG of 25/32, this would be a great car for long trips because of its good fuel economy and safety. The 2023 Subaru Outback is sure to be a comfortable and convenient vehicle to drive for the family car experience. With interest rates expected to climb through 2017, many automakers are offering 0 percent financing. Subaru is one of them; however, this option is only available for certain models. Now would be a good time to pick up a brand new vehicle such as the 2023 Subaru Outback.

1.2. Overview of the 2023 Toyota RAV4

Going all the way to the pavement is no longer the only option for RAV4 drivers. The RAV4 engine and drivetrain now offer an increased towing capacity, up to 3,500 lbs. With the option of a brand new suspension and drivetrain called "Adventure grade," the new RAV4 is designed for light off-roading and increased performance in harsh weather and road conditions. Despite these changes, the RAV4 does keep its AWD-i system, and optional AWD is still a choice for any RAV4.

Starting at the heart of the vehicle, the engine, the 2023 RAV4 has a choice of two engines: a 2.4L 4-cylinder motor and a 3.5L V6. The smaller 2.4L engine is designed for better fuel economy, and the expectation is 23 MPG (combined) for FWD. In recent tests, it is believed that the 2.4L engine exceeds those hypotheses. The larger V6 offers 269 hp and has become the choice for many RAV4 buyers. Both engines feature increased performance and economy with the RAV4's new 6-speed automatic transmission.

The Toyota RAV4 was the first compact crossover SUV to come out of the Toyota factories, and in recent years, it has become one of the top-selling vehicles in the USA. The 2023 RAV4 carries on with the compact crossover theme, but there are many changes to the vehicle since the first generation of RAV4 rolled off the production line in 1994.

2. Performance and Powertrain

For both 2023 models, the powertrain has been taken into consideration. With the past generation, the Outback and RAV4 each offered a variety of engine choices and hybrid models. The 2023 Toyota RAV4 is anticipated to stick with the gasoline and hybrid options, while the 2023 Subaru Outback is expected to continue with the four and six-cylinder gas options. Since their new designs are pretty recent to the market, there is little information on performance and powertrain at this time. The new Toyota RAV4 is equipped with a four-cylinder engine paired with an 8-speed transmission. This is the same engine as the Camry and is capable of producing about 200hp. With the Outback boasting 300 horses from its recent six-cylinder, it is expected that this model would only improve in performance. The RAV4 hybrid is a worthy competitor to the Subaru, with fuel efficiency being a main focus for Subaru, Toyota should be looking to use this to attract some customers away. The 2023 Toyota RAV4 is anticipated to have additional power and performance output than the past models, with the traditional gasoline models getting an improved V6 with a 270hp engine and also retaining the four-cylinder option. The six-cylinder model will suit the RAV4 well, with the past generation not having this feature. Toyota has recently halted production of the Camry and Solara six-cylinder models and will therefore use the six-cylinder RAV4 to replace these customers. It is unclear if this will be offered in a hybrid model, it would seem the best choice for Toyota as it transitions to future hybrid models. At this time, the details for the 2023 Subaru Outback engines are simply speculation. With only six-cylinder and four-cylinder models likely being offered, the focus is likely to increase fuel efficiency and power from engines. (Pielecha et al., 2023)

2.1. Engine options and specifications

With all of these engine and transmission changes, all these models promise higher quality and efficiency in both power and economy. This will help in upgrading the towing capacity, perhaps to the same 1500 kg as the previous RAV4, as well as more torque for if you do take your car off-road. With all these engines, it is very clear that there is a lot of development to utilize the best economy with the best power and traction. This development with technology in engines has become a key part of the development and production of all vehicles in today’s era.

Now for the Hybrid, this uses the same AWD-i system as other hybrid Toyota vehicles. This will allow for maximum traction when needed from 30 km/h to the speed where the hybrid, or AWD standard model, will not have a limit at speed of when to use the AWD system. The hybrid model is promising to be the top seller for the new RAV4.

Coming on to the 2019 Toyota RAV4, this is priced starting at $25,500, so a fraction cheaper than the Outback. There is a new engine for this model, which is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Dynamic Force engine, producing 203 horsepower and 184 ft/lb of torque. This engine is mated to an 8-speed direct shift automatic transmission (this transmission is in all AWD models). This RAV4 comes in either All Wheel Drive Gas models or as a RAV4 Hybrid. The AWD only comes in automatic and has the multi-terrain select, which will allow the driver to select between (MUD & SAND, ROCK & DIRT, and NORMAL) to give maximum traction in whatever the conditions may be.

So let’s get into what makes both of these vehicles go: the engines. Firstly, with the 2019 Subaru Outback, this starts at around $26,345. The base engine is the 2.5-liter flat-four Boxer engine, which produces 175 horsepower and 174 ft/lb of torque. This engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which then delivers power to all four wheels. There is now direct injection, which makes 90% of the engine’s torque available from 2500-4500 rpm. This engine now provides 5000 lb of towing; perfect for if you need to pull that little something extra on your road trip.

2.2. Fuel efficiency and range

Because some potential buyers use their cars for outdoor activities, fuel efficiency and/or towing capacity can be an important consideration. The four-cylinder engine option for the Outback now has 33 MPG highway and the 3.6L six-cylinder model can tow up to 2700 lbs. The CVT transmission features an updated electronic logic resulting in more responsive and smoother acceleration. The Outback features an 18.5-gallon fuel tank and provides a maximum range of more than 600 miles per tank. The RAV4 has two different engine options that affect fuel economy and towing. The standard 2.5L four-cylinder has a 2,000-pound towing capacity and a 24/31 MPG while the 3.5L six-cylinder model can tow up to 3,500 lbs with a 19/27 MPG. So, the four-cylinder Outback has a greater towing capacity and better fuel economy than the smaller engine RAV4. However, the six-cylinder RAV4 has a greater towing capacity with a slight edge in fuel economy. Both of these vehicles have something called "hill start assist" or "hill start control". This system, upon release of the brake pedal when stopped on a hill, prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards. The Outback comes with an "X-Mode" system that works in tandem with the all-wheel drive to provide better grip on slippery surfaces and a Hill Descent Control that works to maintain a constant speed when traveling downhill. Most RAV4 models come with FWD with an option to add AWD. This on-demand 4WD system will switch from FWD to 4WD when it senses slippage and also allows for a 50/50 distribution of power for increased traction when needed. However, the V6 models that have 4WD come with a different system that reverts to a full-time 4WD with a 40/60 torque split and has the added ability of a locking feature to lock the differential providing an equal 50/50 torque distribution.

3. Interior Features and Comfort

The Toyota RAV4 has earned high marks for its interior design and functionality. Inside, RAV4's dash is utilitarian and well designed, with all controls within easy reach of the driver. The center stack is ergonomically tilted toward the driver, and it features large dials for easy adjustment of climate functions. The instrument panel is easy to read, and like the center console, it's streamlined and unobtrusive. The steering wheel (standard on RAV4 Limited and optional on RAV4 Sport) features controls for the audio system and Bluetooth wireless technology, another convenient feature for the driver. All RAV4 models come with a 7-inch Pioneer unit that features AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA playback and six speakers. This Pioneer unit also allows for Bluetooth connectivity and USB and auxiliary ports, while also being upgradeable to add navigation. An optional JBL system adds premium speakers and will be offered on the RAV4 Limited. A new feature called EV Mode, which allows for pure electric operation at low speeds for up to 1 mile, may affect audio and climate performance. If equipped with all the bells and whistles, the RAV4 will have an unmatched combination of versatility, function and sound in its segment. A 12V power outlet has also been added to the third-row models. This new system will include remote start from the Smart Key, and cloud-based services with an available App Suite. The App Suite utilizes the existing data connection to bring services like Bing to search for destinations, iHeartRadio for music, and Pandora internet radio, and will also have access to over 750,000 supportive points of interest. Each RAV4 will come equipped with Entune Audio. Subaru has yet to release its full specifications on the Outback's audio and entertainment capabilities, however, they have claimed that the standard system will include AM/FM stereo with HD Radio, single-disc CD player, and a 6.2-inch multi-function touch display. An available upgrade includes a premium audio system with eight speakers and a Harman Kardon amplifier and GreenEdge technology, powering off a 576-watt equivalent amplifier. Subaru's provided HU/CM4525 Head unit is pictured on the right. The Outback will also be capable of running the Subaru STARLINK smartphone integration, which allows for hands-free operation and access to information through the touch screen or voice recognition. STARLINK will also provide immediate access to customer care and diagnostic information. A Media Hub with iPod connectivity and control is also included, as well as an auxiliary audio jack, and a USB port. Subaru's entertainment system is looking to parallel Toyota's new system, however, it still lacks some potential app services. Both new audio systems indicate a strong improvement over previous models.

3.1. Cabin space and seating capacity

The 2023 Subaru Outback provides a more spacious interior in comparison to the 2023 Toyota RAV4. Rear seat comfort is a different story. The Outback claims to offer 39.5 inches of rear seat legroom and 39.1 inches of rear seat headroom. The headroom is under the impression that the rear seats are taller when in fact they are shorter and in the rear lower portion of the Outback. To test out rear seat comfort, I placed the driver's seat into my preferred driving position (I'm 5'9") and then proceeded to sit in the rear with a friend. We both agreed that the RAV4's rear seats were more comfortable and offered more support. This is more of a subjective point, and depending on rear seat passengers of varying shapes and sizes, there would be different responses. Both the Outback and RAV4 offer 60/40 split fold-down rear seats as well as reclining rear seats. The Outback's leather seating surfaces and woodgrain pattern accents (optional or on Limited models) make for a more luxurious look and feel inside the Outback, which contrasts the sportier interior of the RAV4. Head to head in a battle for seating capacity, the RAV4 seems to have edged out the Outback. Both the Outback and the RAV4 offer seating for up to five passengers. The RAV4 offers more front head and legroom, and the Outback offers more rear head and legroom. Looking over the numbers, it would initially appear that the RAV4 offers overall more room. The Outback's rear seat dimensions are only slightly larger than the RAV4's, though significantly larger cargo and passenger volumes of the Outback listed later in this article suggest that the Outback makes better use of the space inside. Note as well that my tests were conducted between the Outback and the five-passenger RAV4. The RAV4 offers third-row seating on certain models but at the expense of the sliding second row and with considerably less room. Also, some customers may find the third row to be unnecessary, and in fact, the third-row RAV4 has been known to take the rear seat legroom and comfort tradeoff a bit too far.

3.2. Technology and infotainment systems

The Subaru Outback comes well-equipped from the base trim, featuring big tech on the big screen and all the right connections, so much so that there are only two different optional packages to choose from for those who might not be satisfied with what comes standard. The RAV4 offers quite a bit of tech even in the base trim, it's just not as snazzy-looking, and you'll need to climb up a few rungs to get some of the fanciest features. (Stoner et al., 2024)

All of these features are operated via touch input save for the 7-inch multi-info display in the Toyota, so if you're averse to smudging up the screen with fingerprints, you might appreciate that Toyota offers optional Amazon Alexa capabilities for those who prefer voice commands.

The Subaru Outback features a standard 11.6-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with near-field communication for automatic connection, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and an available 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. The RAV4's top tech features include a 9-inch touchscreen, a 7-inch multi-information screen, Verizon-powered Wi-Fi Connect, and an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system.

In the standard and higher-tier trims, the technology available in the 2023 Subaru Outback and RAV4 are very similar. Some examples of standard and/or available features that can be found in both of these vehicles are: a wireless phone charger, a digital rearview mirror, a heads-up display, a large-sized infotainment touchscreen with navigation and up-to-date software, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a premium audio system, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

3.3. Interior quality and comfort

The Subaru is available with a dual sunroof, significantly lightening and opening up the interior. A similar option in the RAV4 only offers a fixed rear glass panel. Although the feel inside both vehicles is of a good standard, the overall material and finish quality of the Outback interior exceeds that of the RAV4.

An area of quality inside the car that essentially defines the category is the feel of materials used to build the interior. In terms of interior, it feels spacious and bright with plenty of window space. Both vehicles offer a feel that quality materials have been used in construction, with soft-touch plastics and cleanly styled dash layouts. Both vehicles also offer optional leather interior and wood grain trim, which is highly suited to the upmarket feel of a vehicle from this category and should provide a big resale point in the future for vehicles that remain in good condition.

Between front and rear seat comfort and thoughtful seat design, Subaru takes this category by a considerable margin. Both the Outback and RAV4 feature a 60/40 folding rear seat and reclining rear seat, though the Outback's cargo volume is slightly more.

The RAV4, like the Outback, offers seating for 5. However, Toyota has done an impressive job in reclining the front and rear seats to create a layout that feels more like a minivan than an SUV. This adds to the feeling of space in the RAV4. However, the feeling of space that the RAV4 offers is undone by its severe lack of rear legroom, a result of shortchanging rear passengers to provide a more equal distribution of room. Despite having good headroom, the RAV4's rear seats receive criticism for being too low, reducing comfort over long trips.

The interior of an automobile is where drivers and passengers interact with their vehicles. It goes beyond simply the materials that define the categories of comfort, quality, and space. In terms of driver and passenger space and seat quality, the Outback's tall stance pays dividends in terms of overall cabin space, with plenty of head and leg room for both driver and passenger, even tall adults. The Outback offers seating for 5 and has been described by critics as form-fitting and supportive, both in the front and rear. It offers a good blend of comfort and support for long journeys without an overly soft feel that can lead to premature discomfort for the driver and passengers.

4. Safety and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

The Subaru comes standard with adaptive cruise control, lane centering and steering assist, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert, rear seat reminder, rear seat belt reminder, high beam assist, and front view monitor. Onyx edition XT and Touring XT come standard with driver focus distraction mitigation, new to the vehicle for 2023. Adaptive lighting is standard on Limited and Touring XT models. Lastly, the Touring XT comes standard with Subaru's new smart reverse throttle management which will apply the brakes if it senses an obstacle behind the vehicle. No other competitor offers this feature on a production vehicle. Outback achieved the highest possible safety rating from IIHS with a TOP SAFETY PICK+. This rating applies to vehicles with specific headlights built after April 2022, as Outback received acceptable ratings with its standard headlights and is scored much better when equipped with front steer responsive head lighting. Due to this, limited and touring trims with adaptive lighting will have superior crash test ratings. 5 stars from NHTSA and an overall 5-star rating from JNCAP. The RAV4 comes standard with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam assist, lane departure warning with steering assist, road sign assist, and lane tracing assist. For select trims, front and rear parking assist with automatic braking, and intelligent clearance sonar with rear cross-traffic braking is now available. Due to being at the end of its lifecycle, RAV4 is still rated for crash test ratings with 2019-2022 models. Although receiving good ratings on IIHS crashworthiness testing, RAV4 no longer has either a TOP PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, as those ratings are specific to the current year of production and not held by the 2019-2022 models. It is still noted that 2019-2022 models have good ratings but consumers should pay attention to crash test ratings for model year 2023. Despite outdated safety ratings from IIHS, the star safety system, advanced technologies in Toyota Safety Sense, and great ratings in consumer reports are reasons why the RAV4 still remains a popular choice for a safe and reliable vehicle.

4.1. Standard and available safety features

Subaru has always been known for their safety features. For 2023, Subaru offers their new "DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System." This system uses an infrared camera and facial recognition technology to identify signs of driver fatigue or driver distraction. This system will feature a head-up warning display to alert the driver. If this system proves to work effectively, this could be a new safety feature for all car manufacturers to consider using. For now, the Outback will have this as an option for the Onyx Edition XT and standard on Limited and Touring trims only. Another new safety feature is the "e-Active Shift Control" for the continuously variable automatic transmission version of the Outback. This system will shift the transmission to neutral if the driver inadvertently presses the throttle and brake pedals at the same time. Once the pedals are released, the vehicle will shift back into the drive or reverse gear position.

4.2. Crash test ratings and reliability

As for crash avoidance and mitigation rating, the Toyota RAV4 secured the highest rating of Superior for vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention and an Acceptable rating for Pedestrian front crash prevention. As a result, the Toyota RAV4 was able to secure the Top Safety Pick Award for 2023. In terms of crashworthiness rating, the Toyota RAV4 received a Good rating for all crash test types that have been evaluated, including the Moderate Overlap Front Test, Small Overlap Front Test, Side Impact Test, Roof Strength Test, and Head Restraints and Seats Test. This is similar to the Outback, which also received these ratings. Both the Subaru Outback and Toyota RAV4 have achieved excellent safety results, providing drivers with confidence and a lower risk of injury in various driving conditions.

Subaru Outback's crashworthiness has not been evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for the 2023 model year. However, the previous model year (2022) of the Subaru Outback received a Good rating for all crash test types that have been evaluated. These include the Moderate Overlap Front Test, Small Overlap Front Test, Side Impact Test, Roof Strength Test, and Head Restraints and Seats Test. The vehicle also received a Superior rating for Front Crash Prevention. Subaru has stated that the 2023 Subaru Outback is expected to achieve the same safety results.

4.3. Advanced driver assistance technologies

The Subaru Outback features its EyeSight driver-assist technology as a standard in all trims with an automatic transmission. It provides pre-collision braking and throttle management, lane keep assist and lane departure prevention, and lead vehicle start alert. Lane change assist and blind-spot detection with rear-cross traffic alert and reverse automatic braking are also available as optional features. An additional safety feature, the DriverFocus distraction mitigation system uses an interior camera to monitor the driver and alert them if the system detects signs of driver fatigue or distraction. All 2023 Toyota RAV4 trims are standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver-assist technologies. Like EyeSight, this technology bundle includes features like a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and road edge detection with sway warning. Full speed range dynamic radar cruise control is also a feature with this technology bundle. High-level XLE and above trims of the RAV4 also include blind spot monitor with rear-cross traffic alert and front and rear parking assist with automatic braking. In a direct comparison of the available safety features across all trim models of each vehicle, the RAV4 clearly has a larger variety of driver-assist technologies and standard safety features. However, the value of each feature can be subjective based on the opinion of the buyer. Therefore, the ADAS features quality category is rated a tie between these two vehicles.


Edwards, M.A. and Brumbelow, M.L., 2023, September. Relationship of Whiplash Injury Metrics and Crash Pulse Severity to Injury Claim Rates. In International Research Council on the Biomechanics of Injury (IRCOBI 2023). ircobi.org

Pielecha, I., Cieslik, W., & Szwajca, F., 2023. Energy Flow and Electric Drive Mode Efficiency Evaluation of Different Generations of Hybrid Vehicles under Diversified Urban Traffic Conditions. Energies. mdpi.com

Stoner, J., Stuart Sheldon, I. I., & Wahba, R. E., 2024. Validation of Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Equipped Vehicle Acceleration Modeled in HVE. edccorp.com

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