Subaru introduced the Outback to the same markets where the company marketed the Legacy, using the name Outback, except in Japan, where it was known as the Legacy Grand Wagon — then renamed Legacy Lancaster in model year 1997; then renamed again in 2005 as the Legacy Outback.
The name Outback derives from the remote, arid areas of Australia. Australian actor Paul Hogan served as spokesman for the Outback for several years.
The popular British car program Top Gear declared the Outback, along with the Ford Mondeo, as the best car of 2007 in their awards ceremony at the end of Season 10.
The Outback was available in Japan from 1995 as the Legacy Grand Wagon, and in the US and Australia as the Legacy Outback, a trim package with normal ground clearance but an "SUV look" with two-tone paint and fog lights. For MY 1994, the Legacy wagon was available as the Alpine Sport and Sun Sport, which were Value Option Packages included on the "L" trim level wagon, and graphics denoting the option package installed. The exterior was designed by Olivier Boulay, who was hired by Subaru on a short-term basis. It became a separately-marketed line in the United States in 1996. At this point it gained Outback-specific changes included unique bumpers (with large driving lamps incorporated into the front bumper), tweed-like seats and door panel inserts, taller tires with more aggressive tread, and a slightly higher ground clearance.