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February 1, 2012

Review: 2012 Subaru Legacy GT Sedan

When you put ‘Subaru’ and ‘turbocharged’ in one sentence, what often comes to mind is the WRX or its naughtier sibling, the WRX STI. Be that as it may, Subaru’s been turbocharging its boxer engines for quite some time now; seeing action in most of its line-up including the compact crossover, the Forester and mid-sized sedan, the Legacy. And before labeling the turbo engine and executive sedan pairing as a ‘mismatch’, it’s good to be reminded that Subaru, is one of the most focused car companies in the world. For decades, Subaru has been engineering the world’s most acclaimed sports sedans. Though most folks remember Impreza, the Legacy’s been at the game for much longer. It’s been in the sports sedan game for twenty years—and the latest one’s the best one yet.

From a single glance, you can immediately tell that there’s something special about the Legacy: the chunky and complexly designed lamps, the smooth yet angular body lines with bulbous fender flares; and of course, the pronounced hood scoop at the front.  It breaks away from the suppository-like styling of its rivals and goes unabashedly sporty, down to the standard 225/45 R 18 Bridgestone performance tires.

And yet, the Legacy GT isn’t just about good looks. Inside, the interior cocoons the driver in black leather, soft plastics and carbon fiber-grain accents. It looks techno-cool, like an Apple iPad mixed with premium Italian furniture. Everything inside the Legacy is decisively driver-centric: the three-spoke steering wheel, excellently bolstered seats and the easily readable instrumentation. Features such as automatic HID headlamps and rain-sensing wipers are welcome additions for utmost driver comfort and convenience. The new electric parking brake is a unique innovation that frees knee room up front, though it takes a while to get used to. Enlarged in every which way, the Legacy boasts of an interior room that keeps all occupants satisfied. The luggage compartment is also cavernous and is perfectly able to keep up with any activity from golfing to jet-setting with balik-bayan boxes.

The Legacy also contains all the prerequisite luxury features found in a modern mid-sized sedan and then some. The Legacy boasts power actuated seats for the front occupants (10-way adjustment with two-memory positions for the driver), dual-zone climate control with rear vents, a full featured audio system with seven speakers, a voice-activated Bluetooth hands-free phone system, a moon roof and aluminum pedals.

The racy interior leads to the presumption that you’ll do the driving yourself rather than leaving it to the chauffer. You definitely won’t regret it, since the Legacy is one great driving machine. Forget those overpriced, puny German ‘sports sedans’; the Legacy is the real deal. Like the Forester XT, the Legacy is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-4 engine.  Unlike the Forester XT though, the output on the Legacy has been bumped up to 265 horsepower, virtually matching other V6-powered executive sedan. But thanks to higher torque figure: 350 Nm, at a flatter torque curve: 2,400-5,200 rpm, the Legacy is rated to zoom to 100 km/h in a scant 6.2 seconds from a standstill. This highly capable engine is paired with a five-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

The sporty engine may seem like the perfect recipe for a raunchy driving experience, but thanks to Subaru’s SI-Drive, the Legacy behaves like you’d want it to. Left alone in ‘Intelligent’ mode, the Legacy is like a big-engined executive sedan. The SI-Drive actually cuts a bit of horsepower for the sake of a smoother driving experience and better fuel economy. As you switch it to ‘Sport’ though, the Legacy’s ECU, electronic throttle and transmission software is tuned to deliver faster responses using much more of the engine revs in the process. If you want the feeling of being pushed into the driver’s seat continuously, you can even select the ‘Sport Sharp’ setting. A weekend’s worth of driving lends the Legacy a fuel economy figure of 7.04 km/L—again, a close match to its V6-powered rivals.

Keeping all that power on the road is a job for Subaru’s legendary symmetrical all-wheel drive system. In the Legacy, a Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) system is used. This automatically sends power to the axle that needs the most grip. The MacPherson Strut/Double Wishbone suspension set-up is aided further by standard Bilstein shock absorbers. Normally, shocks like these will result in a crashy and uncomfortable ride, but the Legacy’s ride is firm but comfortable. The only weakness is on tackling uneven surfaces like cracked concrete at low speeds, which can get a bit bouncy.

Performance-oriented as it is, the Legacy, like the other cars in the Subaru line-up, is fitted with a complete array of safety features, enough to make it a Top Safety Pick by the US-based IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety). In fact, IIHS has bestowed a unique honor for Subaru: it is the only brand with all its vehicles recognized as a Top Safety Pick for two years in a row. The IIHS is notorious for having one of the toughest, if not the toughest, car safety standards in the world.

All these features and performance attributes could have easily cost a fortune, and yet, the Subaru Legacy is surprisingly affordable. At P 2.048-million, the Legacy is a dead-match for other Japanese executive sedans but offers much more in driving fun as well as all-weather security.

The Subaru Legacy has certainly gone a long way since its debuted in 1989. At the time, the design goal was simple: to come out with a car that competes with the best in the mid-sized sedan category. Since then, the Legacy has garnered accolade after accolade, praise after praise. And its rivals should take notice: the Subaru Legacy is now a serious contender in the sports sedan category, taking on not only the best of Japan, but the best of the world as well.

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