Since 1995, the Fuji Heavy Industries has been producing a station wagon called the Subaru Outback. The original concept of Outback was developed by Subaru of America which was experiencing dwindling sales during the mid 1990s partially because of the absence of sport utility vehicle in the lineup which was on bloom. Subaru was not financially strong to manufacture an all-new sport utility vehicle, hence settled to introduce body cladding and a suspension lift to their popular Legacy wagon. The vehicle is named after the rugged areas of Australia as the Legacy Outback and promoted and advertised by brand ambassador, an Australian actor Paul Hogan in the North American market, suggesting that the vehicle is no less than larger truck-based sport utility vehicles.
The 4-wheel drive setup was available as a standard feature on all models of Outback and was the only available option at time.
Unexpectedly, the Outback happened to be a great success described by the Senior Vice President of Subaru of America, Mr. Tim Mahoney as “the Outback saved our company.”
In Japan, the Outback made its debut under Legacy Grand Wagon name. The name was changed with the release of 1997 model year to Legacy Lancaster. The Outback name became standardized all across the world in 2004 and its production began as a new individual model line (excluding Japan). Almost all the Outback models are based on the Subaru Legacy with an exception of Outback Sport or Impreza Outback which is based on the Impreza hatchback model.
First Generation (1995–1999)
The first generation Subaru Legacy Outback was introduced for the first time at the New York Auto Show in 1994. It debuted in Japanese market under Legacy Grand Wagon name in 1995. In Australian market it was marketed as Liberty Outback.
The Legacy Outback was in fact a trim package based on the Legacy wagon ‘L’. Both Legacy and Outback wagons were assembled at the Subaru of Indiana Automotive production facility in Lafayette, Indiana, United States. The Japanese Legacy Grand Wagon was renamed to Legacy Lancaster in September 1997. As of 1998, the vehicles were available in the market with both names, i.e. Legacy Grand Wagon and Legacy Lancaster. Both the models received a 2.5-L flat-4 DOHC engine rated at 10 hp (7.5 kW). In 1998, a limited production version called the Legacy SUS (where SUS stands for Sport Utility Sedan) in New England region of United States.
Second Generation (2000–2004)
The second generation Legacy Outback was introduced in 2000 and was derived from the third generation Legacy. The Legacy SUS was limited to North American market and was precisely readjusted with the Outback Limited package. The horizontal 6-cylinder was available as an option for both sedan and wagon body styles. The body style was also released in the Japanese market in September 1998 under Lancaster name. The Lancaster offered with 6-cylinder engine was known as Lancaster 6. The Lancaster name is not limited to Japan as it is also common in US, Canada, UK and Australia.
A 165 hp (123 kW) 4-cylinder DOHC boxer engine by SAE was standard on all Outback models. However, Subaru decided to return back to the SOHC engine in 1999 that offered maximum torque of 225 Nm (166 lb-ft) at lower rpm.
Third Generation (2003–2009)
When fourth generation Legacy introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show on October 22, 2003, the third generation Outback wagon was released. The 2004 models were powered by a 3.0-L H6 engine and were revealed at the Chicago Auto Show. The third generation Outback wagon had a ground clearance of 8.5 inch (220 mm).
The model codes used for Outback were identical to the Legacy Wagon, i.e. BP9 refers to the 2.5-L and BPE stands for the 3.0-L model. The US market received the top of the line trim level in the form of Outback L.L. Bean available with several features, such as GPS navigation, glass moonroof, H6, perforated leather seats, wood and leather steering wheel and a helping port on the stereo system for MP3 compatibility.
After the 2005 model, a new Outback version was introduced as Outback XT. It featured Subaru turbocharged 2.5-L four-cylinder engine sharing it with Impreza WRX. The engine was rated at 243 hp (181 kW) far better than the 2.5-L naturally aspirated engine which rated at 175 hp (130 kW). The XT version came with three different transmission options, i.e. 4-speed Auto-SportShift, 5-speed Auto-SportShift and 5-speed manual transmission.
Fourth Generation (2009-present)
In April 2009, the fourth generation Subaru Outback was launched at the New York Auto Show. This generation debuted in Japan a month later in May 2009. It is from this generation when the ‘Legacy’ moniker was discontinued from the name worldwide. Safety features are also improved for this generation, i.e. airbags are introduced for the driver and front passenger seats, side curtain airbags for front and rear seats and a knee bolster airbag for the driver and side bolster airbags for front seats on the outer edge.
The ground clearance has been increased for this generation model to 8.7 inch (220 mm). The introduction of continuously variable transmission (CVT) in this generation makes it the ninth of the Subaru model to have this transmission.