While it might be somewhat difficult to believe now, back in the waning years of the 20th century, before gas prices began to reside permanently north of the four dollar a gallon mark, the vast majority of the American motoring public was infatuated with three- and four-ton four-wheel drive truck-based vehicles known as sport-utility vehicles (SUVs).
Designed originally to carry the family and cargo on excursions deep into the forest where paved roads were few and far between, SUVs were marketed as representing a lifestyle of adventure and excitement. The reality however, was that most of these vehicles were being used to transport kids to soccer matches, and moms to malls—all while unnecessarily guzzling gallons and gallons and gallons of gasoline.
Additionally, based on trucks, those early SUVs drove like trucks. They were heavy, handled poorly and were difficult to park. Further, their elevated ride height made them difficult to get into and out of. Eventually manufacturers came to realize what consumers were really after in this type of vehicle was a high seating position, lots of cargo space, all-wheel drive, and the image.
Subaru was one of the first manufacturers to manifest this realization into a viable product with the Outback. It got the fuel economy of a midsize sedan, handled pretty much like a car, and with its 7.3 inches of ground clearance and all-wheel-drive powertrain, the Subaru Outback was perfect for traversing soft roads and driving confidently in inclement weather—without imposing the costs of driving a gargantuan truck-based SUV.
Subaru introduced the first Outback station wagon in 1994, as a derivative of the second generation Subaru Legacy. At first, the Outback was merely a trim line of Legacy, but by 1996, Subaru got serious about it with a raised suspension system, ancillary lighting instruments and more SUV-like design cues. To date, there have been four generations of the Subaru Outback offered.
This buyer's guide picks up with the second generation of the Outback, launched in model year 2000.