The popular Subaru Outback is one of our favorite SUVs, so our interest was piqued when it debuted with a new face in Japan. Normally that means we in the U.S. would see the refresh on American-market Outbacks in a few months, repeating a pattern that we saw for the 2021 update of the Forester. However, this time might be an exception to the rule.
That’s because the Outback flipped the script by premiering in the U.S. before its Japanese counterpart. Remember, American Outbacks are built at Subaru’s plant in West Lafayette, Ind., while Japanese Legacy Outbacks are built locally in Gunma Prefecture. (Side note: In the U.S. the name was shortened to just “Outback” at the turn of the century, but in Japan the Legacy, uh, legacy lives on where it is still called the Legacy Outback). The sixth-generation U.S. Outback went on sale in late 2019 as a 2020 model, but the same car didn’t debut in Japan until February 2021.
The Japanese Outback is a more evolutionary update. The black cladding on the front remains contained around the chin area, whereas on U.S. versions they rise up to the headlights and angle back down like snake fangs.
We reached out to Subaru and asked if this look might appear on U.S. shores, but a spokesman replied, “We can’t comment on future product.”
Seeing as how the U.S. Outback received its serpentine facelift for the 2023 model year, one that carries over to 2024, we think it’s unlikely we’ll see the Japanese version here. The Legacy Outback’s refresh also adds the angled cladding over the wheel arches and an updated rear identical to ours. Both of these we saw in in the 2023 update.
It’s a shame not to have Japan’s option, as not all of us want our cars to look angry, especially with a friendly brand like Subaru. On the other hand, extra cladding looks appropriate on an off-road oriented model like the excellent Outback Wilderness, a trim that Japan doesn’t get. It’s a classic grass is greener situation, but in this case we might come out on top.