The pleasant surprise
Prepare to be surprised in a pleasant way, especially if you aren’t familiar with the latest GT version of the Subaru Legacy. This mid-size sedan never really made a big impression on me right up to the minute that I set eyes on our burgundy metallic test mule with its taught body panels and where-can-I-buy-those 18-inch mag wheels.
Yes, I love the look of this car. Somebody accused the front end of being a little too busy, but I would defend busy more than I would boring. Does that make sense? The puffy wheel arches and sleek profile with its chrome window surrounds lead to a more restrained rear end that has a whiff of Lexus GS about it. This, you will surely agree, is not exactly a bad thing.
The Legacy’s doors open with just a touch (keyless entry) and reveal a wonderfully spacious and well-equipped cabin. Comparisons with mid-size evergreens like 3-series and C-Class were quickly dismissed as I realised that my 6ft2 driving position still left ample of legroom for rear passengers. 5-series and E-Class, beware.
Subaru’s luxury sedan doesn’t quite match the Germans in terms of build or material quality, but comes with the mandatory list of executive toys. Climate control, Auto Xenon lights, hill start assist, 6-CD mp3 changer, premium audio system, AUX input, multi-function steering wheel, electric seats and mirrors, electric windows and parking brake.
The only absentees appeared to be navigation, Bluetooth and parking aids, but at least I had a two-way glass sunroof to fiddle around with. Furthermore, the back and front seats turned out to be utterly comfortable and equally long distance worthy. The self-levelling Xenons are superb night-time companions, as is the cruise control and adjustable instrumentation with its amusing consumption dial.
Even small gripes like the imitation brushed metal plastics and automatic gearbox couldn’t curb my enthusiasm for the top-end Legacy 2.5 GT Premium; there are three more versions with 2 litre and 2.5 litre engines plus manual or CVT gearboxes available, but most people will want to sign up for the turbocharged and intercooled 2.5 GT.
This will allow them to operate what is essentially the motor from the Impreza WRX, a 195kW 2.5 litre Boxer (horizontally opposed) 16-valve 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. The 350Nm engine delivers its 265hp through a 5-speed automatic gearbox to all four wheels.
Said gearbox has three distinct modes of operation, “I” for intelligent and economical driving, “S” for more hurried applications and “S#” for severely urgent matters. All this is transmitted to the road via Subaru’s Symmetrical All Wheel Drive System with variable torque distribution and Subaru Intelligent Drive.
So great was my admiration for this car that it took two test days and someone else’s opinion to realise that the Legacy’s Boxer engine sounds rather uninspiring. Gone is the harsh thump-thump of the Impreza WRX, replaced by a restrained and metallic whirr so smooth that it could even pass for a straight four.
In my defence I would like to point out that the eager power delivery and brutal acceleration of this power plant had impaired my judgment. Even with a bigger body and an autobox this engine will propel the Legacy GT to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 245km/h. With routine driving it should sip 10.6L/100km and emit 250g of CO2/km.
And just in case you were also worried about this automatic gearbox baloney in a Scooby, let me assure you that it does a near-perfect job. The three modes differentiate themselves well in everyday traffic, but full throttle will override everything in return for wide-eyed forward thrust.
While, um, testing the Legacy GT on Sir Lowry’s, then Franschoek and finally Helshoogte Pass I did discover that on corner approaches the left (downshift) paddle beeped at me frequently because the preceding gear would still have exceeded the redline. Six gears might’ve been better, but then again, whichever gear I was in served up plenty of power. At any revs.
Surely I need not mention that the Subaru “All We’ll Drive” System delivers grip levels that beggar belief? Considered the spacious and comfortable interior, decent equipment levels and aggressive looks, then factor in the superb power and handling at a price of N$439 000. And now, try to find a competitor that matches this combination.
Tough one, isn’t it? It also comes with a 3 year / 63 000km maintenance plan and a warranty for 3 years or 100 000km. I’m not implying that you should immediately replace your current mid-size luxury sedan with a Legacy, nor buy one blindly, but if you’re shopping in this category I beg and plead you to just take one for a test-drive. Like I typed, a pleasant surprise.