2020 Subaru Legacy, Outback earn IIHS safety picks

Joe Lorio

The redesigned 2020 Subaru Legacy sedan and Outback wagon both earned kudos from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the news was not equally good for both models.

The Legacy sedan walked away with the highest award, Top Safety Pick+. The Outback was one rung down, a Top Safety Pick. Sadly for the Outback, the previous, 2019 model had nabbed the TSP+ score.

Why the difference in the Legacy and Outback? In a word: headlights.

The IIHS structures their awards around several elements: crash tests, crash-avoidance systems, and headlights. Both Subarus aced their crash tests, earning Good results for the entire battery of tests (small and moderate front overlap on both sides, roof crush, side-impact, and head-restraints). Their standard EyeSight accident-avoidance automated emergency braking systems also performed well, successfully avoiding crashes at 12 and 25 mph, netting Superior ratings. (The pedestrian-detection function similarly earned a Superior rating, although pedestrian detection doesn't count toward the IIHS total score.)

Headlights have to earn a Good rating in order for a car to qualify for TSP+; headlights deemed merely Acceptable limit a car to a maximum TSP award. Headlights that are Marginal or lower knock a car out of TSP contention.

The Legacy's optional curve-adaptive headlights were deemed Good, while those same headlights in the Outback were only Acceptable, resulting in the different awards for the two models. For both cars, the base headlights also were Acceptable, meaning either model with the standard headlights would be a TSP (except that the IIHS grants a single model only its higher-level award).