Car Test   R0358
 
October 2003
First Drive Subaru Legacy
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.5i Sports Tourer
One thing’s certain - the Legacy won’t die of over-exposure. Unlike the loud-mouthed, rally-bred Impreza WRX, it’s the more retiring member of the Subaru family. And, although it doesn’t sell in big numbers, it consistently seems to delight the customers it does find.
  
   This fourth-generation estate car (or Sports Tourer in the latest lingo) may bear more than a passing resemblance to the outgoing one, but the lighter, wider body conceals numerous subtle revisions. Unchanged, however, is the dual-range (ie 10-speed), four-wheel drive transmission that combines outstanding grip with the grunt of the three horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ engines. The 147mph 3.0R, in particular, is indecently quick for a bulky load-lugger.
  
   Mind you, the 2.5 litre is no sluggard when revved, but, like the less lively 2.0, it doesn’t fully get into its stride much below 3500rpm. Consequently, the driver is no stranger to the somewhat notchy gearchange. These are smooth and revvy engines, but avid Scooby fans will lament the taming of the exhaust’s characteristic burble by a ‘constant pulsation’ system.
  
   Revisions to the suspension and steering have fine-tuned a chassis that we’ve always thought highly of, anyway. Apart from a touch of float at speed on undulating surfaces, the two-litre’s comfortably absorbent ride is one of the best in the estate car business. The 2.5 feels similar, but, being on a lower-profile, 45-Series tyres, it exhibits a little more bump-thump over broken tarmac. Nevertheless, the tyres, combined with the all-wheel drive, never feel remotely like surrendering their grip of the road, so the car always feels well balanced and securely planted. It’s a pity, though, that the light steering isn’t more communicative through the now-smaller wheel.
  
   Even ‘about average’ front occupants want to sit as far back as they can, but the seats are both comfortable and supportive and the driver has excellent all-round vision – especially when the head restraints are removed. Multi-purpose stalks control much of the action, while the remaining switches in the angled centre console are within easy reach.
  
   There’s a new, improved look to the restyled interior. It’s meticulously trimmed and carpeted, and made light by an extra large sunroof with a tip-up front pane. Slide into the comfortably angled back seats, however, and you’ll find that, while headroom and foot space are quite good, average knee- and legroom are no better than in superminis such as the VW Polo or a Citroen C3. A poor do for a Volvo V70-sized estate car.
  
   The Sports Tourer does, nevertheless, closely mirror Volvo’s load area dimensions; in other words it’s wide, long and easy to load, but short on depth below the pull-out load cover. Easy-release catches allow the backrests (with the head restraints in place) to drop on to the cushions. This means that there’s no barrier against shifting cargo, but longer loads can extend to the front seatbacks.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • illuminated ignition keyhole
  • load cover blind locates quickly and easily
  • three sets of roof lights
  • shopping bag hooks in load area
  • storage compartment under load floor
and GRIPES
  • steering wheel lacks reach adjustment
  • dials in 2.0/2.5 not as bright and clear as 3.0R's
  • indicators 'tick' too quietly
  • rear head restraints don't lower flush with seatbacks
  • 'space-saver' spare wheel
VERDICT
The Legacy Sports Tourer makes a strong case for itself with its well-engineered chassis providing an excellent ride and agile handling, with the bonus of all that four-wheel drive traction. Legroom within the classier cabin is somewhat compromised by the generous load space, however, and derv devotees will be disappointed at the lack of a diesel option. Nevertheless, this is a characterful estate of considerable capability, and, with Subaru’s bulletproof build quality, ownership should prove totally painless in the long run.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 2457cc, horizonatally opposed 4-cylinder petrol; 162bhp at 5600rpm, 166lb ft at 4400rpm; belt-driven single overhead camshaft per bank, 16 valves
drive 5-speed manual; dual-range permanent 4-wheel drive. 23.3mph/1000rpm in 5th
suspension front: independent coil spring/damper struts with lower arms, anti-roll bar
rear: independent multi-link with coil spring damper struts, anti-roll bar
wheels/tyres 7J alloy with 215/45R17W tyres (Bridgestone Potenza on test car); temporary-use (steel) spare
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with standard ABS and electronic brake force distribution
0-62mph* 9.2sec
official mpg§ 24.6/43.5/34.0
maximum speed* 128mph
CO2 emissions 198g/km
* maker's figures  § urban/extra urban/combined

THE LEGACY RANGE
size and type large, 4x4 mid-to-premium priced saloon, estate (Sports Tourer) and Outback   trim levels entry level, S, SE, Outback, R
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/2.0 litre/135bhp, 4/2.5/162, 6/3.0/241
diesel: none
  drive 2.0/2.5: 5-speed manual; full-time (dual range) 4-wheel drive with centre differential. 4-speed stepped automatic optional.
3.0: 5-speed stepped automatic with sequential manual override
notable features available flat-four/six-cylinder engines, permanent 4-wheel drive with high and low ratios, breakaway pedals, twin tanden electric sunroofs, wiper de-icers. Outback: raised suspension, self-levelling rear suspension


SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
  in centimetres (x)
  steering
   
  easy to park/garage?
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