The Subaru Outback brings together the best of two worlds. This car exists in two forms: a station wagon based on another vehicle, the Subaru Legacy (aka Liberty), and a hatchback based on the Subaru Impreza, called the Outback Sport.
As the name suggests, Subaru marketed at the Outback as a family-friendly SUV for off-road and adventure use. To strengthen that image, Australian actor Paul Hogan of the Crocodile Dundee fame became the face of the Outback brand.
The Outback (based on the Subaru Legacy) is still being produced and is currently in its sixth generation. The Outback Sport (based on the Impreza), on the other hand, ran for three generations until 2011. In a way, it lives on in the form of the XV Crosstrek, based on the fourth-generation Impreza.
The Subaru Outback (Legacy-Based)
First Generation (1994-1999)
The first generation of the Legacy-based Subaru Outback has the same underpinning as the second-generation Subaru Legacy wagon. Because of this, it also started with the same 2.2-litre engine with an output of 97 kW and 186 N⋅m of torque.
A few years later, an updated 1996 version of the car was produced and marketed as the 'World's First Sport-Utility Wagon'. It had a raised suspension for more ground clearance and a raised roof. Subaru did this to keep up with changing tastes among buyers who, at the time, wanted more durable wagons. The engine was the same, but buyers had the option of a bigger 2.5-litre engine putting out 166kW of power instead.
Second Generation (2000-2004)
When it was time for the second generation, the Outbacks were made longer and wider than before. Subaru introduced its first 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, the EZ30. It had an output of 162 kW and 289 N⋅m of torque.
Third Generation (2005-2009)
Based on the fourth-generation Subaru Legacy, the third-generation Outback gave buyers two engine options, the 2.5-litre (166kW) and the 3.0-litre (162 kW and 289 N⋅m).
This version had a slightly larger wheelbase, and also had more length than the previous generation.
Fourth Generation (2009-2014)
For its fourth generation, the Outback again got its underpinning from the fifth-generation Subaru Legacy. Physically, it was slightly wider and taller as previous models, but it wasn't as long.
Most notably, the fourth-generation Subaru Outback came with the option of a more powerful engine, the 3.6-litre EJ36 (191kW of power, 350 N⋅m of torque). However, the 2.5-litre engine was still available with the base model.
Fifth Generation (2015-2019)
The fifth-generation Subaru Outback was based on the sixth-generation Subaru Legacy.
Aesthetically, it was given a 'more Outback' look, leveraging the popularity of the Outback brand. It was also positioned as the best of both worlds, bringing together the best of passenger cars and SUVs into one vehicle.
By this fifth-generation, the Outback was considered a 'crossover' SUV, with a bigger wheelbase and body. This new categorisation was due partly to its larger engine, the 3.6-litre EZ36 engine with an output of 191 kW and 350 N⋅m of torque.
Sixth Generation (2020-Present)
The sixth and current generation of the Subaru Outback came out recently in mid-2019. It maintains a body style similar to the previous generation but with some significant changes.
Firstly, this is the first Outback to be built on the Subaru Global Platform, which is stiffer. Also, switching over to the modern platform means it can now evolve with the times and potentially use environmentally-friendly powertrains like hybrid or electric.
In keeping up with the times, the interior of the sixth generation received a more modern, sleek look.
The base model has a 2.5-litre engine with an output of 129 kW and 235 N⋅m of torque.
The Subaru Outback Sport (Impreza-Based)
The Subaru Outback Sport was based on the hatchback Subaru Impreza and was only made available in North America. Primarily, it was designed to be the more rugged version of the Impreza and was highly recognizable by its exterior which was painted in a unique two-tone style.
First Generation (1994–2001)
The first generation came with all-wheel-drive and disc anti-lock brakes for both its front and back wheels. Its base model came with a 1.8-litre engine (with an output of 81 kW and 149 N⋅m of torque) accompanied by a manual transmission.
On its exterior, it came equipped with mud flaps and a roof rack which fit perfectly with its image as a sporty adventure vehicle.
Overall, it was more affordable and more tailored towards younger buyers.
Subaru had its marketing efforts well-coordinated no doubt. While the actor Paul Hogan was the Outback's face, the actor representing the Outback Sport portrayed his 'nephew'. This marketing strategy aimed at the younger demographic, for which Subaru designed the car.
Second Generation (2001–2007)
The second-generation Outback Sport was based on the Subaru Impreza of the same generation. The second generation saw it carry the EJ22 2.2-litre engine with an output of 106 kW and 202 N⋅m of torque.
Transmission-wise, the 2004 model came with both manual and automatic transmission with electronic controlled all-wheel-drive.
Third Generation (2007–2011)
The third-generation Outback Sport was based on the third-generation Impreza.
It carried a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with an output of 127 kW and 230 N⋅m of torque and came with a standard all-wheel-drive.
2011 saw the discontinuation of the Outback Sport.
Subaru discontinued the Outback Sport as the Subaru Impreza entered its fourth generation, replacing it with the XV Crosstrek. This latest model had a more modern exterior and an even higher suspension lift, proving to be even more successful than the Outback Sport.
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- Rasyad 'Ray' Hasbollah