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Subaru Legacy

2003-10-20 14:56

The Subaru Legacy 2.0 GT sedan. Other sedan pictures, and the wagon, on our galleries - see link below.

John Oxley

What's more, with new European-styled looks, a better interior, and a hot drive train, it gets rid of Subaru's "ugly duckling" image, replacing it with a svelte and sophisticated package that it is hoped will lift the Japanese company to new levels.

Two engine packages are available - a 2.5-litre normally aspirated 121 kW flat four, and a 2-litre turbo flat four producing a scintillating 180 kW.

As with the previous Legacy Subaru's celebrated symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is retained for all models, and there are both sedan and station wagon versions, as well as manual and automatic gearbox options - a total of six Legacy models in all.

Increased strength is a keynote of the new models - they are 14% more resistant to twisting forces, and have 5% more resistance to bending than the previous versions, and both front and rear suspension mountings have been significantly stiffened too.

Better ride

This results in a more comfortable ride while improving handling and steering precision, while reduced weight aids braking and fuel economy, with, depending on the model, between 70 and 100 kg having been shed, much of this due to increased use of lightweight aluminium.

The new Legacy is built on a 2 670 mm wheelbase, which is 20 mm longer than the previous model. The overall length of the sedan increases by 60 mm, and the station wagon by 40 mm. Width goes up by 35 mm, and the front track of both body styles increases by that same amount, while the distance between the rear tyres increases by 30 mm.

The bigger footprint adds stability at speed and contributes to the Legacy?s presence on the road, while the fashionably long rear overhang and high tail endow the sedan with a strong wedge profile. The sedan's drag coefficient is a slippery 0.28 (wagon 0.30).

It is also more spacious than before, thanks to the increase in wheelbase and width.

For example, front shoulder room has increased by 9 mm, and front elbow room by 11 mm. Luggage space remains generous, with boot capacity of 433 litres for the sedan, and 459 litres for the touring wagon with the luggage cover in place.

Retract the wagon's cover into its lightweight aluminium sheath and the volume increases significantly, and when you fold the 60/40 rear seat flat there is 1 649 litres of space to play with, and a usable luggage length just shy of 2 metres.

Folded seats

With the rear seat folded the luggage cover is designed to slot into a space under the boot floor, where there is an additional 11 litres of storage space. Sedans feature a ski-hatch for loading long items

The interior sees new styling, with modern soft-touch materials used on the dashboard, plus metallic-type framing on the centre console to alleviate what might otherwise be a bland look. Instrumentation is placed in a hooded binnacle directly in front of the driver, and comprises a 260 km/h speedo and as revcounter flanked by fuel and water temperature gauges.

All models are well-equipped, and feature high-performance 215/45 tyres on 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, height and lumbar adjustment for the driver?s seat, climate control, front-loader CD/tuner, central locking, electric mirrors and windows, cruise control, multifunction driving computer, front and rear cup holders, and in the case of the wagons, roof rails and a high quality luggage cover.

There are Isofix mounting points for child seats, "catcher" reinforcing points at the bottom of all doors to prevent intrusion in event of a side impact, active headrests, and an updated design on Subaru?s Ring-shaped Reinforcing Frame, which has resulted in major improvements in side impact protection.

ABS with electronic brake force distribution is standard, now combined with a new vacuum booster design which results in a more solid pedal feel and quicker performance.

We've saved the best till last - the all-new design.

Gone is the "goggle-eye" look of the previous Legacy, and in its place a European style that is smooth and refined, with the lights showing the fashionable "hawkeye" look suggested first by the BMW 3 Series.

Exterior mirrors boast high-visibility integrated LED turn signals, and all models feature dual chromed tail pipes, at either end of the rear bumper.


Subaru is moving head-on against some pretty stiff opposition with the new cars, notably, at the bottom end of the range (Legacy 2.5 AWD manual), facing up to such cars as the Honda Accord 2.4 Type S, the Volvo S60 2.4, Audi A4 2.4, and Mercedes C240 Elegance, so it has to put its virtues out on display.

Firstly, pricing undercuts all but the manual Honda, albeit with a big difference in power output (121 kW versus the Honda's 140 kW).

However, the Subaru has more torque (226 Nm versus 220 Nm) and this largely negates the power difference in terms of overall driveability.

Against the German and Swedish cars, however, the power disadvantage is insignificant, but on pricing the Subaru has distinct advantages.

This is especially so when we move on to the top models, the 2.0 GT AWD versions.

They punch out no less than 180 kW - beaten (by 4 kW) only by the Volvo S60 2.3 T5, and way above the power outputs of the Audi A4 3.0, the BMW 330i and the Mercedes C320.

On pricing only the Volvo comes close, but, like the others, it doesn't benefit from having the Subaru's all-wheel-drive.


  • Subaru Legacy 2.5 AWD manual R252 000; SportShift R264 000.
  • Subaru Legacy 2.5 AWD Touring Wagon manual R263 000; SportShift R275 000.
  • Subaru Legacy 2.0 GT AWD SportShift R315 000; Executive R357 000.
  • Subaru Legacy 2.0 GT Touring Wagon SportShift R326 000; Executive R366 000.
  • A note on pricing. There are only minor increases between the old and new models, and Subaru aims to keep it that way.

    "Three models - the 2.5i AWD manual; 2.5i AWD SportShift AT 4; and 2.5i AWD Touring manual, have gone up by 0.012% (R50) and the 2.5i AWD Touring SportShift AT 4 by 0.127% (R350).

    "The small increases are in keeping with Subaru SA's price holding policy which has seen a total increase of just over 10% in the past 35 months compared to a motor industry average of some 40 percent," says Teresita van Gaalen, executive director of Subaru SA.


    The 2.5 models get a frontloader CD/radio versus a six CD cassette/radio on the GT versions; leather upholstery is standard on all Executive models, perforated on the cushions and backrests, while other models get cloth; the GT also gets an electrically-operated glass sunroof with an interior cover; the GT also gets enlarged brakes (taken from the Impreza WRX STi).

    The 2.5 SpeedShift (automatic with sequential manual shift) models have a four-speed gearbox, while the 2.0 GT SpeedShift versions get a 5-speed with steering wheel buttons in addition to the normal central gearlever.

    No performance figures are cited for the 2.5 models, but Subaru SA claims 0-100 km/h (at high altitude) of 7.6 seconds for the 2.0 GT auto, with a top speed of 242 km/h. And those figures effectively sideline ALL its price opposition!

    On the road

    There's no doubt these are exciting vehicles to drive.

    Naturally the normally-aspirated 2.5 versions are more sedate than their turbo brethren, but they are solid performers that hold their own as far as acceleration and top speed are concerned - and excel when it comes to cornering and ride qualities.

    In fact one of the benefits of an all-wheel-drive system is that the suspension - shock absorbers and springs - need not be as firm as with a two-wheel-drive car to achieve the same levels of grip and handling.

    Indeed, only by utilising advanced (and expensive) electronics can a two-wheel-drive come close to the grip you get when all four wheels are driven.

    As far as the interiors are concerned Subaru has managed to get rid of much of the "cheap plastic" look of the previous Legacy, and the inside is clean, untrammeled, and modern - although some people found it a trifle bland.

    Space is definitely improved against the previous versions, and these new cars can also hold their own against their competition - though they're NOT as spacious as one motoring magazine proprietor tried to convince us at the media conference.

    The GT is a horse of a different colour.

    The discreet air intake on the bonnet sort of gives the show away, but the BMW 330i owner who wanted to take our road space hadn't seen it, and in fact never did as we easily accelerated away from him, into the first of a series of tight bends, and away!

    The Legacy just squats down as you enter a bend and you drive through with nary a whisper of tyre squeal, or chassis nervousness.

    In fact, it's so safe that you can take the car to limits you might not previously have thought possible on open roads, without scaring yourself or your passengers.

    And when you have to stop, those big brakes haul the speed down in a way only competition-honed stoppers can.

    On the plus side - excellent build quality, comfortable ride, predictable handling, good looks, good value for money.

    Negatives: The auto 'box is slow to respond in kickdown, and if you want to get the best out of the car its preferable to use the manual option. And there's some high-speed corkscrew from the Station Wagon on long undulating straights.

    All Legacys carry the Subaru 3-year/100 000kms warranty.

    Prices are inclusive of the Subaru Owner Reward Programme offering 3-year/63 000 km maintenance-free motoring through the All-Wheel Drive Plan; the Roadside Emergency Assist Plan; and the Legal and Map Assist Plans - as well as a year's free membership to the highly sought-after Barloworld Lifestyle Club with its access to huge discounts.


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