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Designed with the North American market in mind, the Subaru Outback wagon provides many popular SUV traits without the associated drawbacks. Based on Subaru's midsize Legacy, the Outback comes standard with all-wheel drive, a raised suspension for better ground clearance, and special interior and exterior styling details.
There have been four Outback generations. At its debut, the original Subaru Outback was pretty much the only vehicle of its type and was an instant hit with consumers. More recent iterations lost a bit of an edge as other automakers came up with similar crossover wagons and SUVs at the start of the new millennium, but the latest fourth-generation Outback is more like a crossover SUV than ever. New or used, the Outback is a strong contender for shoppers interested in a car that provides plenty of everyday versatility with the type of all-season capability needed for frosty climes.
Used Subaru Outback Models
The current, fourth-generation Subaru Outback was introduced for 2010. There have been no significant changes since then.
The third-generation Outback was produced from 2005-'09. There were several trim levels: base 2.5i, 2.5i Special Edition, 2.5i Limited, 2.5 XT Limited, 3.0 R, 3.0R Limited and 3.0R L.L. Bean Edition.
For power, 2.5i trim levels had a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that made 170 hp. The XT level upgraded to a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine with 243 hp. The 3.0 R model came with a 3.0-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder (H6) good for 245 hp. All-wheel drive was standard across the board.
Models with either of the 2.5-liter engines could be equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic was available on 2.5i models, while 2.5 XT models got an optional five-speed auto. The 2.5i Limited models were four-speed automatics only, and the H6 came only with the five-speed automatic.
If you're shopping for a used model of this generation, there are a few items to note. An Outback sedan was offered from 2005-'07. Additionally, all Outbacks prior to the 2008 model year lacked a telescoping steering wheel and auxiliary audio jack. Horsepower figures were lowered for 2007 due to revised SAE standards, but actual performance was not affected. The luxurious L.L. Bean trim levels were discontinued after 2008, replaced by a single 3.0 R Limited model, and stability control also became standard.
In reviews, this third-generation Subaru Outback received praise for its standard all-wheel drive, long list of features, strong turbocharged engine, above-average build quality and balanced ride and handling dynamics. While it didn't quite have the off-road capabilities of a true SUV, it could take on light-duty terrain without complaint. Negatives brought up in reviews typically centered on the vehicle's smallish backseat and the sluggish response from the automatic transmissions.
The second-generation Subaru Outback (2000-'04) was also available as either a sedan or a wagon. In its first year, this model was available in base and Limited trims, and had a 165-hp, 2.5-liter engine. The following year, Subaru introduced the L.L. Bean Edition and the VDC trim levels. These featured the more powerful 212-hp six-cylinder engine.
Compared to the current car, the second-generation Outback is a bit smaller and not quite as refined or capable. Subaru made minor improvements to this generation during the years, but none are significant enough to make any particular model year stand out. In Edmunds.com road tests, reviewers liked its standard all-wheel drive and car-based comfort. Some felt that the four-cylinder models were underpowered, however, and that it was eclipsed by newer competition in its later years.
When the original Subaru Outback model debuted in 1995, it was little more than a trim package on the Legacy wagon. In 1996, the Outback (officially known as the Legacy Outback for this generation) gained its raised suspension, large foglights, SUV design cues and optional 155-hp 2.5-liter engine. Further improvements during successive years included the addition of a leather-lined Limited model, dual sunroofs and powertrain refinements. As the Outback was one of the first crossover wagons to be designed, consumers interested in this type of vehicle from the late 1990s will likely find it to be quite suitable, especially compared to SUVs from the same period.
If you are looking for newer years, visit our new Subaru Outback page.