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.
In September 1997, the Japanese Legacy Grand Wagon was renamed Legacy Lancaster though 1998 cars retained the Grand Wagon nameplate along with the new Lancaster plate. The JDM Grand Wagon and Lancaster were only available with the DOHC 2.5 liter engine, receiving a 10hp (7.5kW) improvement in 1998. Hood scoops found on some Outback sedans and wagons are non-functional as Subaru did not install the turbo into any first generation Outback vehicles sold in the USA. Some Japanese-spec Grand Wagons came with digital climate control, plaid seat upholstery, a dual-range manual transmission and a Momo black leather steering wheel.
Subaru sales had been declining up until that point in North American market. With the help of clever marketing, a trim level called the Outback intent on making the Subaru a more capable multi-terrain vehicle offered an affordable and fuel efficient alternative to the popular SUVs that were outselling Subaru's traditional offerings.