New car reviews

2005 Subaru Legacy

Sweet sixteen and never been kissed

By Lou Ann Hammond, Sat, 15 May 2004 08:00:00 PDT

Hard to believe the Legacy is that old, but she is. The Legacy has about the same legacy as every other young girl. Adorable and original when young, but when she turns sixteen all of a sudden the boy next door is looking at her in a different light.

Subaru is capitalizing on their new-found stardom as a sporty car. Not only have they changed their look to appear more European, notably BMW-ish or Audi, but they have also done market research on colors and what they mean in relation to sporty versus luxury.

According to Masaki " Mas" Fukushima Subaru has paid special attention to the sporty feel and look of this vehicle. The instrument panel has been changed from the long curvaceous look to the sporty " I'm a serious racer" BMW shape. Once again, the Japanese have followed in the footsteps of the Europeans for a sportier exterior and interior feel. A more interesting point was when Mas asked me what color the interior of my car was. Beige, I replied. Mas informed me that beige is a luxury color, not a sporty color. Indeed, we were sitting on sporty black, and my Lexus luxury vehicle was beige.

The length of the sedan has been shortened by two inches and the wagon by three, while the wheelbase has grown an inch to 105.1. According to Subaru, the interior head- and legroom are up slightly. Both models have generous room for four, although it's a tight fit for three Americans in the back. You could fit three Mas's in there easily though. Mas looked to be about six foot, so there is plenty of headroom. The front seats were certainly comfy with no backache after 5 hours of driving. The top-quality materials such as the nylon headliner, grained dash, and the brushed pewter trim add substantial style. There's a switch that powers the rear seatbacks up or down from the back, for those moments when you've got a kid in one hand and three grocery bags in the cart.

Launched as an '04 model in Europe and Japan the new Legacy is for sport-sedan buyer who want something bigger, more luxurious, and less rowdy than a WRX STi. Subaru sees it's competitors as Acura and Volvo. They offer the vehicle in two models, a sedan and a station wagon. Subaru has reduced the weight of the car by over 200 pounds by its use of aluminum in the hood, bumpers, and sunroof pieces. The top-of-the-line performance model is spearheaded by a DOHC 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that puts out a raucous 250 horsepower that is mated to a reinforced five-speed manual or an optional 5-speed electronic direct control automatic with lockup torque converter The four-cylinder horizontally opposed engine that mounts low in the chassis is a reworked version of the 2.5-liter engine now working in the Forester.

The base model is a SOHC engine that produces 168-hp output with a 5-speed manual or an optional 4-speed electronic direct control automatic with lockup torque converter. The turbo model has a paddle-shifting option on the five-speed automatic and comes with 17-inch wheels mounted on rubber measuring 215/45, with 16-inchers on the base cars. A functional hood scoop feeds cool air to the 2.5 GT's intercooler, and distinguishes the exterior of this performance model from the standard Subaru Legacy.

According to Takao "TK" Saito, Chairman, President and CEO of Subaru of America, "Subaru's all-wheel drive is the best in the business. Innovation is the landmark for Subaru. No other manufacturer is as totally committed to all-wheel drive as we are." Saito goes on to explain, "Subaru's all-wheel drive is in the middle of the car. You go straight from the engine to the all-wheel drive. Others aren't in the middle and they need a connecting rod to go from the engine to the all-wheel drive. The less parts that need connecting, the better a mechanical device works."

The Symmetrical AWD system uses a viscous-coupling locking center differential that equally distributes power between the front and rear wheels.Subaru has three configurations for their all-wheel drive systems;5-speed automatic Variable Torque Distribution (VTD. Enhanced VTD with four pinions for greater durability. The engine torque is monitored via internal vehicle LAN system for more responsive and precise control. It sends more power to the rear wheels than the fronts under normal conditions but continually adjusts the split as traction conditions are needed.4-speed automatic is active all-wheel drive. Engine torque and individual wheel speed sensors are now monitored. It has great balance, steering that is light and progressive, and an absence of oversteer owing to the all-wheel drive. It was great fun to toss around. It should cause concern for a lot of pricier cars5-speed manual has continuous all-wheel drive. This controls power disbursement to the wheels.

Underpinning the redesigned 2005 Subaru Legacy is a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a rear multilink arrangement. Four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS are standard on all models, the 2.5 GT gets the larger front rotors and vented rear discs. The Legacy 2.5i is equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, while the Legacy 2.5 GT comes with five-spoke 17-inch alloys shod with Bridgestone's P215/45 rubber.

Standard equipment includes, cruise control, power windows, power door locks with keyless entry, power mirrors, air conditioning and a CD player. Also included on every 2005 Subaru Legacy are side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, and active front head restraints. The 2.5i limited adds leather, a power sunroof, a CD changer and dual-zone automatic climate control. On station wagons, the power sunroof has two panes of glass covering the front and the rear seats, but only the rear section opens.

The Legacy 2.5 GT adds projector beam headlights, side mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, electro-luminescent LED gauge lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated sport seats, heated exterior mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, a trip computer and a 120-watt sound system with an in-dash CD changer. The 2.5 GT Limited includes leather, power adjustable front seats and a power sunroof.

It's not news when I say that the Japanese are very studious and technical. I'm not usually the person that cares about the nuisances of safety. After the first 15 minutes of Masuda-San explaining the thickness of the crumplezones in the front of the car I could feel my eyes glazing over. With the pointer stick he was explaining that one side of the crumplezone had three different thicknesses. As I was just about to shut him out he pointed to the other side of the same crumplezone. The thicknesses were different on the same piece of steel. Making a mental note that he must have given the numbers in the wrong sequence we go through the rest of the technical briefing.

Thirty minutes later as the briefing is ending I call Masuda-San over and ask him why the difference. I expect him to say that, indeed, he had made a mistake and the numbers were the same on both sides. Not the case. He explains that the reason the drivers outside crumplezone was weaker than the drivers side inside crumplezone was that if a car hits that area, the whole body caves inward, allowing the body of the car and the pedals to cave into the casing, not push into the inside of the car where the passengers are sitting.

After the safety class we drove the five-speed manual around the racecar circuit in Las Vegas. The Legacy revs easily and accelerates eagerly. It has moderate understeer and the suspension is compliant. We were driving the turbocharged version and as is the case with most turbochargers this one had some lag-time. Lag-time is the time needed for the turbine to reach its full throttle from an intermediate rotational speed state. The duration of a turbocharger's lag depends on many factors among which its inertia, airflow efficiency, back pressure. If you're thinking of using this as a rally car or a race car you may want to buy an off-market kit called bang-bang or ALS (Anti-lag system).

Subaru has taken a vehicle that had great potential in its infancy into adulthood with a promise of a long live.

Subaru is readying a new Legacy-based 7-passenger crossover, code-name OOX, for fall 2005, to compete with the Lexus RX 330 and the Acura MDX.

 


2005 Subaru Legacy sedan and station wagon


The red crumplezones are different thicknesses for

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