2005 Subaru Legacy Expert Review:Autoblog
The sky was grey and rain started to drizzle down as the Atlantic Blue Subaru Legacy GT pulled up and the Mustang GT departed. I figured it was appropriate that I get the AWD sedan just in time for some dreary weather. After all this is Subaru's bread and butter even if this new model is an attempt at moving upmarket to the entry-level luxury sedan.
Unfortunately as the rain came down harder our lot was full so I had to resort to parking the Subaru on a nearby street. I found a spot just big enough on one side of a fire hydrant yellow curb. I squeezed in with only six inches hanging over the yellow. However, I was kissing the bumper of a black Dodge Durango behind me. I checked out his situation and he had plenty of room to get out behind him so I went back to work.
When I returned to the car I found a giant loogie (sp?) on the driver’s side window. This was also the side that the sidewalk was on so a passing car could not have been responsible for it. I’m guessing the Durango owner left it as a thank you for parking so close. At first I was angry but I must say this is an excellent way to show your displeasure, and definitely much better than keying a car for example. It doesn’t leave any permanent damage and is a strong statement of your displeasure for another motorists poor parking.
Oh am I supposed to be writing about the car? Besides the interior being somewhat ruffled for having only 2,000 miles on it I’m impressed. This is actually the same vehicle I drove at the rally a few weeks ago so I’m somewhat familiar with it already. The same attributes I looked favorably on then remain. The leather is of high quality and has that new luxury Japanese car smell. A Momo steering wheel and STi pedals add some rally goodness and there is plenty of sweet turbo power underneath the small hoodscoop. The color could be better and I think in black this would be a sexier looking ride.
After driving the new Mustang for a week I’m glad I moved to something reasonably sporty afterwards. I’m getting into a Suzuki Reno next week, and as good as the economy car might be, my withdrawal would be much worse if I was driving that right after the Mustang. At least now I’m looking forward to a rainy weekend.
There is much to like about the new Subaru Legacy GT. In the most general of terms you have the nicest interior seen on a Subaru to date. A powerful and smooth acting 2.5 liter turbo 4-cylinder engine that is basically the same powerplant you find in the monstrous WRX STi. And the AWD handling and low ride height make the sedan feel more like a sports car. A sports car you can drive confidently in bad weather too.
That’s what make the Legacy a must drive if you’re shopping for a sedan in this range like the equivalently equipped
Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Mazda 6. The roughly $26,000 base price for the GT is high. Deck it out in the Limited
trim like our tester with leather, sunroof, 6-CD changer and you’re at $28,595. But it is still under the $30,000 mark
and on par with a similarly equipped Accord V6.
But before I get into the pros and cons there is the one tried and true Subaru hallmark you have to consider foremost when addressing this car, All Wheel Drive. If you live above the Mason Dixon line or in any snowy locale the grippy AWD system of the Legacy GT moves it to the top of the shopping list. Sure FWD vehicles handle snow and bad weather well, but you’ll be a lot more worry free with AWD.
And then there is the sweet sweet turbo. The stick is a bit rickety and first gear and reverse are troublesome at times to select, but the feather light clutch and responsive turbocharge kick will excite commuters that want a bit of punch in their sedan. After driving the new STi and Legacy GT back to back a few weeks ago I knew that the STi was MUCH faster but the Legacy offered smoother acceleration. And that’s what you want in a sedan that you can actually drive to a business meeting and not look like you’re trying to recapture your youth.
Drivers ride low to the ground and I still haven’t found a comfortable seating position. Like many Japanese cars, the pedal position doesn’t seem set up properly for my size 11s. But it’s not a make or break after the first few days. I can still get the clutch going fast enough to run through the gears in the manner this car asks for.
The Legacy GT is mighty quick, corners well and tops all the comparable import sedans in performance. As far as the interior, looks and equipment we’ll tackle those in the days to come.
Read Day 1.
Sometimes when I get into a test vehicle with low miles, like this under 2000 mile Legacy GT, I'm amazed at the abuse it's taken by other writers. Maybe I'm too new to the game but when I'm testing a vehicle I feel like I'm borrowing it from someone and should treat it like I'd treat my own car. That doesn't mean in a week I'm going to wash it or anything, but I clean out the trash before it's picked up etc.
Well the Legacy has already gotten a large pen mark on the driver's side door. I'm sure that was just an accident by a journalist taking notes. But the driver's seat is also damaged.
The plastic casing around the bottom has popped off. It is easily popped back into place but it pops back out routinely now. I’m not sure if this speaks to the build quality of the Subaru or the destruction that can be laid on it by other journalists.
Damage aside, the interior of the Legacy GT Limited is quite pleasant. I’d rank it very close to the Accord but maybe a step below the Acura TSX, probably its main competitors. There are innovative aspects like the armrest that elevates for more comfort and overall the leather and materials are very nice to the touch.
The stereo is excellent. However, bass sounds very artificial and has a strange resonance through the front seats. You feel it in your back while seated. I’d guess that’s because the rear speakers are in the doors and not behind the rear seats. I believe that the latter setup is always more beneficial for car acoustics since the driver spends the majority of the time in the car, not rear passengers. The six-disc changer loads quickly and offers a midrange audio control that I always like. A very easy layout is also nice. I love being able to use controls without having to look at the owner’s manual.
My main beef with the car, besides the ugly taillights, is the fact that the rear seats don’t fold flat. Doesn’t every car have this feature by now? What good does the pass through in the armrest do besides making skis fit? It’s especially egregious since there are now speakers to get in the way back there. Heck you could almost make the thing a hatchback like the Mazda6 and add a huge amount of utility here. I guess that would take might take away from Outback sales but that’s doubtful. The trunk is plenty large for just a trunk but you can always use fold flat seats.
I’d also like to see automatic windows up and down for both front windows and not just down for the driver’s side. This is another “must” in a car like this. But the few annoyances aren’t enough to detract from the overall quiet cabin and exhilarating driving feel.
As the bad weather sets in on Chicago I'm really bummed the super stable AWD Legacy GT is leaving the garage. Especially since I have a long haul tonight out to the suburbs. Despite all the great performance and nice ride the Legacy didn't knock me off my feet but it still has plenty going for it.
It is a terrific vehicle. Everything I’ve mentioned over the past few days still holds up. The speed, minimal turbo lag, sharp cornering, light clutch, low ride height and quiet cabin make it an excellent driver’s car. You could drive it everyday and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
The interior is substantial enough to compete with the others in its class and the controls and layout are well done. What’s my problem you may ask? I just never totally relaxed in the driver’s seat. The cramped driving position had my thighs too close to the steering wheel even though it was tilted as far up as possible. My left foot originally seemed cramped underneath the dash while shifting. But I had an epiphany and realized that the thick (half inch at least) all-weather floor mats on top of the standard carpet floor mats actually took up significant room my toes could’ve used.
People in the back won’t be so lucky. There is about an inch of room underneath the front seats so rear passengers will have to hope the driver is at least as short as I am (5’10) to have acceptable space for their own feet. All the leather seats are comfortable on the short drives I took in my week in the car. I’m not sure how they’d hold up for longer drives as they are a tad firm.
My main problems were the little annoyances like an unlock button on the key fob that required multiple pushes to unlock all the doors, the power window with only an automatic down function for just the driver’s side, no fold down rear seats and poor mileage. The computer only read an average of 14 mpg in the city where I did all of my driving except for a 30-mile trip on the highway. I am a little happier with the back end now after following an Acura TL this morning to work. The rear lights on that are too small and the larger Legacy stoppers seem more appropriate in size (apologies for the stock image here of the rear, camera issues).
And none of those annoyances would really prevent me from considering the Legacy GT as potential purchase. But they certainly make you think twice about it and will warrant more drive time with that powerful turbo engine to sway opinion.
New Car Test Drive
All-new design brings refinement and power.
The Subaru Legacy has been thoroughly redesigned for 2005. It's bigger than previous-generation models and comes with new styling and new interiors. The 2005 Legacy wagons and sedans are roomier, more comfortable and more contemporary than before. They look sleeker and more contemporary. They handle better and feel more refined, benefits of a more rigid chassis and wider track. They're sportier, too, with a powerful new Legacy GT model added to the lineup.
Equipped with all-wheel drive and a 250-horsepower turbocharged engine, the Legacy GT attacks mountain roads like a sports car. It boasts a seemingly perfect balance of ride and handling. Around town and on the highway it offers a nice, smooth ride and handles bumpy sections particularly well.
No mid-size sedan inspires more confidence on a wet road than the Subaru Legacy. The Legacy wagons are eminently practical and two-thirds of all Legacy buyers choose them. Subaru continues to offer all-wheel-drive as standard equipment on every vehicle in its product line.
Long a cult favorite in inclement climes, Subaru is gradually stretching beyond its traditional base in geography, performance and pricing. The company wants shoppers to think of Subaru as a premium entry in its class. To this end, it's polishing its quality and technical credentials. The 2005 Legacy 2.5i and 2.5 GT go a long way toward achieving these goals. They are more sophisticated and more refined than before. While continuing to offer the utility, safety, performance, and reliability loyal Subaru customers expect, the new models are more stylish, offer more performance, and exude more emotion than previous models.
The 2005 Subaru Legacy comes in sedan and wagon body styles. All come with variations of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the latest evolution of Subaru's slick, full-time four-wheel-drive system. Two four-cylinder engines are available (but no six-cylinder).
The 2.5i models come with a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic ($1000). The automatic come with a semi-manual feature called Sportshift.
The 2.5 GT models get a 250-horsepower version of the same engine turbocharged and intercooled. The GT models come with a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic ($1200). The automatic comes with Sportshift, while the manual has been reinforced to handle the extra horsepower.
The base Legacy 2.5i sedan ($20,995) and 2.5i wagon ($21,995) come nicely equipped: air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; cruise control; six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; trip computer; power windows, locks and mirrors; and carpeted floor mats. Upholstery is a tweed-look fabric. The wagon has a 60/40 split, fold-down rear seatback; cargo light; carpeted cargo area; and retractable cargo cover. Exterior-wise, the wheels are 16-inch alloys with R-rated all-season tires, and the foldable mirrors and side ground effects are painted to match the body. The wagon gets a rear spoiler and roof rails.
Moving up to the 2.5i Limited sedan ($24,445) 2.5i Limited wagon ($25,645) adds upgraded front disc brakes, a power driver's seat; a cold-weather package; an in-dash, six-disc CD changer; power moonroof; dual-zone automatic air conditioning; leather trim on the seats and wrapped around the steering wheel, hand brake grip and shifter knob; and halogen foglamps. The moonroof on the wagon is a dual-pane design, with a tilt-up front panel and a retracting rear section.
The 2.5 GT sedan ($25,995) and GT wagon ($26,995) come with cloth upholstery; sporty front seats; a Momo-brand, leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel (with integrated, Sportshift buttons when the automatic is ordered); turn signals integrated into the outside mirrors; dressed-up door sills; 17-inch alloy wheels; Z-rated all-season tires; and larger brake discs, with vented rear rotors.
The 2.5i GT Limited sedan ($28,495) and wagon ($29,695) get perforated leather upholstery; a power driver's seat; a four-way power passenger's seat; and a moonroof.
All Legacy models come with a full array of safety features, comprising dual-stage frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and full-coverage side curtain airbags. The front seats have active head restraints. Antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) are standard across the line.
Port-installed accessories include a rear spoiler for the sedan ($380); moonroof air deflector ($73); rear cargo tray ($75); and various configurations of rear cargo nets ($42 to $68) for the wagon; an air filtration system ($85); subwoofer/amplifier ($273); all-weather floor mats ($55); short-throw shifter for the manual transmission ($339); Momo shift knob (manual: $97; automatic: $112); and a metal pedal pad set (manual: $165; automatic: $141).
Despite a host of changes to its appearance, the 2005 Legacy is clearly a Subaru. The new Legacy looks sleeker and more contemporary than previous models.
The lower corners of the grille have been tucked inward, yielding an elongated, more elegant hexagonal shape. Bold, projector-type headlights dominate sculpted, BMW-like openings, which also house the turn indicators and running lights. Small, intense foglamps bracket a wide air intake molded into the lower fascia below the front bumper. Rounder sides give the body a fuller-looking shape. More deeply etched character lines in the hood add perceived motion and emphasize the 2005's slightly wider track. The hood scoop feeding air to the turbocharger is understated, but obviously functional.
The 2005 Legacy's incrementally longer wheelbase and 2 inches of added overall length allow more of a wedge shape, led by a lower, more sloping hood. The horizontally opposed, or boxer, engine is mounted low, allowing for a low hood and low center of gravity. A-pillars rise smoothly out of the front fenders over a nicely arched glasshouse, trailing down into BMW-like C-pillars. Bustle-like hindquarters finish with a gradual taper inward, easing the passage of air into the car's wake. Body-colored door handles hinge upward and are more tightly styled into the door panels.
The back end is seriously concave, with a better-integrated bumper fascia. Taillights are larger, more than mildly reminiscent of the Honda Civic, and now bracket the trunk lid, which houses a less angular license plate opening. Chrome dual exhaust tips on the GT models poke out beneath arched cutouts at each corner, hyping the Legacy's sporty aspirations.
The interior of the 2005 Legacy has been completely redesigned. It's quieter, less busy, with more expanse of unbroken, softly textured dash. The center stack, housing the stereo and climate control panels, is finished in a rich, matte metallic look, with the stereo controls properly positioned above the climate control knobs. Our only complaint is with the stereo's tuning function: Where there should be a tuning knob is a round, PDA-type rocker button dedicated to selecting the sound source, while tuning must be done by depressing either end of a rocker lever beneath the volume knob and waiting while the tuner dutifully scrolls its way through the frequencies. At the top of the center stack is a covered storage bin between two, well-proportioned air registers. The large, round, easy-to-read speedometer and tachometer are braced by fuel and water temperature gauges.
Door panels are accented by the same matte metallic trim surrounding longitudinal insets housing door pulls and window buttons below bright metal-finished door handles.
The GT's front seats are easily up to the capability of the car, with decent bottom and side bolsters to contain occupants during rambunctious motoring. The seats in the 2.5i are more in tune with commutes and long-distance drives. Head and hip room is accommodating, but adjusting the front seats for six-footers leaves rear seat legroom cramped. The rear seats in Legacy models are adequate, with relatively flat seat bottoms and a low seating position without a lot of leg room. The center head restraint on the rear seat is fixed in the sedan and adjustable in the wagon.
Pedals are well placed, if not especially conducive to heel-and-toe downshifts. The steering wheel rim is thick and contoured for comfortable and confident grip at the recommended 9-and-3 positions. The shift lever falls readily to hand. Shifts in the manual, while not exactly rubbery, could be a bit more precise, and downshifting with confidence takes some practice. The Sportshift gate is where it should be, toward the driver; push the shifter forward for upshifts, pull back for downshifts.
The sloping hood makes for improved forward visibility. Good-sized rear quarter windows minimize the blindage from the C-pillars. Thin sails leave room for an expansive backlight (rear windscreen) that fills the rearview mirror.
The bottom portions of the door panels hold fixed map pockets, limiting flexibility of use. Front and rear seats get two cup holders. There's a net for magazines attached to the front seatback. The center console isn't especially commodious, but it has an auxiliary power outlet for cell phones, leaving the lighter outlet in the base of the C-stack for a radar detector. The sedan's trunk is fully finished, with its gooseneck hinges enclosed to prevent inadvertently smashed groceries. The station wagon cargo area boasts two covered storage bins.
Driving the new Legacy is enjoyable. It's more agile than last year's model. No, it's not a sports car, but it is the most responsive, best handling Legacy yet, sufficiently so to keep up with and sometimes embarrass many an aspirational sports sedan on winding roads. Driving the turbocharged Legacy GT on a mountain road brought out the racer in us, accelerating hard out of the corners, down the straightaways, braking hard for the next corner as we set up for the next apex. Throw in some rain and the Legacy GT is unbeatable by anything in its class.
Extensive use of aluminum in the hood, bumper beams and suspension components, and high strength, hydroformed steel, combined with a more compact engine design, cut some 200 pounds off the curb weight. It also concentrated more of that weight toward the car's middle. Less weight is better and moving some of the weight rearward are good things. Dropping the engine in the chassis by about an inch and redesigning the rear suspension lowered the center of gravity. All of this, together with the wider track, make for an agile, lively car on a winding road.
The GT model has strong power (250 horsepower), making it fun to accelerate out of corners. Turbo lag is minimal, and once it spools up, the engine develops strong torque as it climbs rapidly and smoothly to redline, taking the car to an indicated 140 mph.
The 2.5i models benefit from a slight power increase (3 horsepower) over last year's models along with reduced weight. This makes them quicker than before. The manual transmission makes the best use of the engine's 168 horsepower.
The suspension soaks up road bumps and joints, with a bit more resonance (vibration) from the 17-inch wheels than the base 16-inch wheels. Washboard pavement in corners unsettles things enough to notice, but not enough to slow down. The Legacy is stable, though at very high speeds we noticed it was susceptible to cross winds and turbulence generated by 18-wheelers. Brakes in the various models are up to their powerplants' potential, with the top-of-the-line GT Limited well deserving of its high-performance componentry. The brakes are easy to modulate. Winding down a mountain road in Southern California, we found the brakes, suspension and engine in the GT wagon easy to coordinate, allowing for smooth driving that didn't upset our passengers. Little wind noise intrudes at highway speeds, save for around the seal around the moonroof when the undershade is retracted and from roof rack crossbars.
The all-wheel-drive system in the Legacy models differs in technical details by drivetrain: When fitted with the manual transmission, the all-wheel-drive system uses a viscous coupling, a locking center differential that splits the engine's power between the front and rear wheels; if the tires at one end begin to slip, the system sends more power to the other end; optimally, the split is 50/50, but power transfer can reach 100 percent to either end under extreme conditions. The four-speed automatic is matched with an electronically managed, continuously variable transfer clutch that distributes the power where it's best used, but no more than 50/50. The five-speed automatic transmission brings with it the most technologically advanced of Subaru's all wheel-drive system, the VTD, for Variable Torque Distribution. An electronically controlled, continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch manages the power distribution through a planetary center differential. Under normal conditions, the VTD splits the power 45/55 front/rear to give the GT more of a rear wheel-drive feel, but adjustments, to a maximum of 50/50, are made as road conditions dictate. All of these systems give the Legacy a sure-footed feel and greatly improve grip and handling stability in slippery conditions.
The new Subaru Legacy is refined, polished, powerful, agile. It's fun to drive and has a smooth, pleasant ride. It's equipped with state-of-the art active and passive safety features and boasts better-than-respectable fuel economy.
Subaru Legacy 2.5i sedan ($20,995), wagon ($21,995); 2.5i Limited sedan ($24,445), wagon ($25,645); 2.5 GT sedan ($25,995), wagon ($26,995); 2.5 GT Limited sedan ($28,495), wagon ($29,695).
Options As Tested
Sportshift automatic transmission ($1200); California PZEV emissions ($200).
Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited sedan ($28,495).
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