Ever since the 2005 model year, only the Subaru Legacy-based station wagon has worn the Outback name. That makes it tough to recall that not only did Subaru sell Legacy Outback sedans (through 2004, although by that time the Legacy badges had been dropped from the Outback wagon) but Impreza Outbacks as well. This isn’t as confusing as Oldsmobile selling three unrelated models badged as Cutlasses at the same time, or Toyota calling the Tercel a Corolla Tercel for a few years, but it’s a bit of automotive history that can be illuminated via a junkyard visit. Because you’ll find examples of just about every vehicle Subaru built during the last 25 years in every Denver junkyard, it didn’t take me long to find this Acadia Green Impreza Outback here.
The Impreza Outback wagon had been around since the 1995 model year, becoming the Impreza Outback Sport in 1997. All North American Subarus went to all-wheel-drive for 1997, so the Impreza and Legacy Outbacks became more outdoorsy-looking at that point, to distinguish themselves from the non-Outbacks.
While the advertising for this car called it just the “Outback Sport” (to distinguish it from the Legacy Outback), the Impreza name appeared on the rear bumper and in all the documentation.
This sort of airport-gate-carpeting pattern became very popular on cars that were supposed to appeal to young people during the late 1990s. You’ll see similarly busy fabric in Volkswagens Jetta Trek Editions and Plymouth Expressos from around the same period.
I’ve always admired Subaru’s hood scoops of this era. This one appears to have been lifted from the Japanese-market WRX.
This 2.2-liter boxer-four made 137 horsepower. If you wanted the 150-horsepower 2.5 engine in an Impreza in 1998, you had to buy the RS Coupe.
With the 5-speed manual transmission in a 2,835-pound car (the current Impreza doesn’t weigh a whole lot more, which is unusual in our era of Model Bloat), the 1998 Impreza Outback Sport was quick enough to be fun. The automatic version was… well, not quite as much fun.
This appears to be a genuine 1990s Jack in the Box antenna ball.
When pursued by baddies in a RAV4, the Outback Sport had you covered.
In Japan (or at least when driving a Japanese-market Impreza wagon in America), you could strap on your New Balance driving sneakers, slam the automatic shifter into D, and blow the doors off a ’62 Pontiac Catalina whose driver doesn’t even know there’s a race happening. Here we go!