But there is another model
in the range worthy of note that tends to sit in the shadows of its stablemates
– the Legacy. The latest version was revealed at the Frankfurt motor show,
at the time CAR was testing a hot derivative that was not on the stand…
Recent Imprezas apart, Subarus generally don’t have striking looks and
the Legacy has probably been the most nondescript. But the company has shown
its design intent by luring away stylist Andreas Zapatinas from Alfa Romeo,
and the first production model to receive his influence is this fourth generation
Legacy. OK, so there is nothing mind-blowing about the shape, but it is handsome
and manages, at last, to exude some presence. Especially in black…
More especially with a menacing scoop on the bonnet and a low-slung front air
dam, as sported by our test car. Meet the 2,0 GT, a potent new derivative of
the traditional Legacy line-up. All-wheel drive and boxer motors are a given
with Subarus, but for the first time locally we get a model with a hot version
(and there are many) of the 2,0-litre flat four under the aluminium bonnet.
Not the fire-snorting 195 kW unit from the Impreza WRX STi, but something close…
As we have stated, the new Legacy looks good, retaining the distinctive small,
integrated third side window. The grille has a full width chrome bar that constitutes
the only bit of “flash” on the car. Smoked glass headlamps scalloped
into the bumper are more stylish, but before you say “looks a bit like
a BMW”, take a look at Zapatinas’ Alfa 147… Indicators
mounted in the exterior mirrors do resemble Mercedes-Benz, though. The GT has
slightly flared sills, but there are no aero appendages at the back. Twin big bore exhausts look impressive.
Subaru’s trademark frameless windows take a little getting used to. They
are different, make the door lighter, but place great demand on sealing. However,
the windows only “pop” at really high speeds. Inside is the usual
underscored cabin architecture. From the waist down, it is all black, including
the leather upholstery with perforated inserts. Above the waistline, it is light
grey, and the test car had a tilt/slide sunroof to further brighten the environment.
The facia is straightforward and functional, but with two items worthy of special
mention. First is the sound system, a McIntosh radio/six CD front-loader unit
featuring an amplifier, a dozen speakers plus a sub-woofer. Sounds great, but
the console unit, with gold coloured edges, looks slightly at odds with the
rest of the facia design. Second is the instrument cluster actuation. Turn the
key and the red outer rims of the gauges plus all the warning indicators light
up, then the red pointers illuminate and, in unison, sweep from left to right
and back in a Ninja-like action, before, finally, the ice-white graphics appear
to complete the display. Ah so. Incidentally, in a panel at centre top is a
display giving time and the selected trip computer readout, plus a “bright”
button that instantly intensifies the instrument lighting irrespective of the
Air-con with an auto mode is standard, along with powered windows, three-point
seatbelts and adjustable head restraints (“active” in front) for
all five passengers, a single central courtesy lamp, dual map lights, bins in
the front doors, a compartmentalised non-lock facia cubby, and an illuminated
vanity mirror in both visors. The floor console has a cubby/armrest that is
too far back to be really useful, and under a sliding lid a pair of drink holders
with hopelessly weak container-retaining flaps. The handbrake lies on the edge
of the console close to the driver’s thigh. For rear passengers there
are pop-out dual drink holders in the floor console, and a foldaway centre armrest.
The rear seat is fixed, but there is a ski-hatch into the big (352 dm3) boot.
The driver has a leather-covered rake-adjustable Momo steering wheel, electric
seat adjustment including cushion height/angle, cruise control on a column stalk,
an impact-absorbing left-foot rest, and floor-mounted releases for the boot
and fuel flap. Electrically adjusted exterior mirrors are fitted, but although
large, the range of vision is inadequate: a couple of the test team had “moments”
due to the blind spot.
Subarus are hardly ever over-endowed with features: it is the mechanicals that
receive most of the attention. The company’s engineers continue to refine
their “symmetrical all-wheel drive” approach, and for the new
Legacy it started with widening the body so front and rear tracks could also
be widened, increasing the wheelbase, and specifying bigger wheels and tyres
(17-inch alloys with 215/45s on the GT), all to help improve the car’s
dynamic qualities. In addition, the powertrain has been lowered and tilted to
improve impact absorption, reduce NVH by optimising the propshaft angle, and
lower the car’s centre of gravity. A lot of lightweight material has
gone into the vehicle’s construction.
Providing the motive power is a turbocharged and intercooled 2,0-litre boxer
motor pumping out 178 kW at 6 000 r/min and 309 N.m of torque at 4 800 with
a little help from quad cams, four valves per cylinder, and AVCS variable valve
timing. The turbo is a twin scroll unit with a titanium impeller to reduce lag.
Our only complaint is that the usual Subaru flat-four beat is missing: the engine
does not sound special at all. Nonetheless, coupled with a five-speed Sportshift
direct control auto transmission, power delivery is strong and seamless.
Sportshift has been developed by Prodrive, the company responsible for Subaru’s
WRC programme. The system “reads” the driver’s intentions
and adapts the ‘box’s electronic control’s software mapping
accordingly, but also offers sequential manual override, either by a conventional
shifter or buttons on the steering wheel’s horizontal spokes. Sadly,
the buttons do not fall easily under the thumb, which detracts from their convenience.
However, we achieved some impressive performance figures: 0-100 km/h in 7,24
seconds, standing kilometre in 28,28 seconds at 183,5 km/h, and an averaged
top speed of 243 km/h.
The GT tag is valid, then, but we were surprised to find the ride and handling
to be so relatively soft and compliant. Expecting the suspension to be sportscar
firm, the reality was a luxury saloon-like suppleness that initially felt too
soft when pressing on along winding roads, but came to be appreciated with familiarity.
It certainly did not detract from the characteristic Subaru poise and balance.
A quartet of people could travel a long distance over all manner of roads without
being shaken – the seats are very comfortable – but will be stirred
by the swiftness of the journey. If called upon, the ABS brakes are powerfully