<a class=2005 Subaru Outback" hspace="4" src="http://www.weblogsinc.com/common/images/7436666121254290.jpg?0.8297720872580488" width="160" align="right" vspace="4" border="1" />Congrats to Steven J. Denfeld for his review of his 2005 Subaru Legacy Outback XT Limited getting voted a runner up! I love the Subaru WRX Sti. The mighty warrior from Subaru has all the right ingredients with which to light this enthusiast's fire. Problem, this enthusiast has been blessed (cursed) with a wife and two very fine children. Yes, the dreaded Family Life once again shows it's handiness at shunting a Driver's dreams smack into the hedge.

When my wife and I decided our (somewhat) trusty Ford Contour ? a vehicle purchased as a compromise to the used 300ZX I really wanted, due to the coming child ? was no longer big enough or safe enough for our budding family, we struggled to define exactly what kind of car we should aim for. The choices ranged all over the map. Perhaps a full-size truck? I liked the Nissan Titan. What about a mid-size wagon? How about a mini van, or the ubiquitous SUV?

Well, we looked at the Honda Pilot, drove the Honda Odyssey, twice and checked out the Nissan Pathfinder. I had also looked at, but not driven the Volvo S50 wagon. There were many others that were on my list to see, but after looking at my buddy?s new ?05 Outback 2.5i, I decided a trip to my local Subaru dealer was in order.

Thus, the next week when I drove my wife down to the Subaru dealer, I immediately walked over to the nearest XT model I spotted, knowing that my friend?s 2.5i engine was a bit, ah?less than exciting. I proceeded down the line of cars until I found a Garnet Red Metallic model with a 5 speed manual. Yeah, now we?re talking my language. I had taught my wife how to drive a stick with the Contour and was not about to see that become wasted effort.

The drive was revelatory. Simply put, the XT, with it?s 250 hp turbocharged H4 is a rocket. This car is Audi S4-quick, another car I greatly admired, and desired. After a minimal amount of turbo-lag, that turbocharger came on line, and I was instantly transported into another realm of performance. I have driven many BMW?s over the past few years, with the 745i and the 645Ci convertible being the standouts. I love those BMW?s and the driving moments behind their wheels are etched into my memory in a powerful way. While driving the Outback XT, I was experiencing the same emotion as in the Germans.

The H4 motor was much quieter, and smoother than I expected. The quality of fit and finish was of a level fully befitting a $30k car. The features, while not having the more advanced offerings that one might find on an Acura or Infiniti were still inclusive. Most of the goodies are there, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, the full compliment of air bags and many others. Also present was a wonderful panoramic dual-pane moonroof. Finishing out the very well designed and distinctive interior were comfortable electrically-adjustable seats and a 6-disc sound system.

I noticed a few annoyances, such as a rear suspension that hits the stoppers a bit too easily, although it takes a mighty dip in the road to do it. Also, with the big moonroof, the dome light is sited well back in the car, above the rear seats, thus allowing for limited illumination for the front seats. Why Subaru didn?t wire the front map lights into the system for moonroof-equipped cars I?ll never know. The brakes could be stronger, but are in no way horrible. Lastly, the lack of rain-drip rails above the side windows causes surprise, and a wet arm when opening the glass in the rain.

At first, what I thought might be understeer has turned out to be very neutral handling. With familiarity, I have found the steering to be very smooth and adjustable mid-corner. The car, while being a tall, suv-like wagon can be driven with considerable hustle at will.

While it would win no track days the Outback XT offers admirable, spirited performance while allowing it?s owner the option of taking to the wooded trails, rally-style with fistfuls of opposite-lock, praising God your wife didn?t let you get the minivan.

I have actually heard of many people trading in their Sti?s for Legacy GT?s and Outback XT?s. Now, having owned my XT for six months, with not even a hint of a problem, I understand why. I didn?t really want an Sti that bad did I?

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