2003 Subaru Legacy

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2000 Subaru Legacy GT

This 2000 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2004.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 6.5
Pros:
  • Richer styling than before
  • Bit more low-end torque
  • Stiffer body
Cons:
  • Notchy, loose feel of 5-speed
  • Rear windows go down two-thirds way
  • Tinny feel and sound to trunk lid

Why would someone want a sporty minded 4-door with a 4-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive? Who knows? But Subaru is ready, nonetheless, with its GT and GT Limited sedans that offer an improved ride and new styling for the 2000 model year.

To Subaru, the auto world must look like a series of unexplored niches. That's how the company's Outback wagon started. Now, the Subaru Legacy GT sedans are finding their way into a snug niche where only one other automaker—Audi—offers a sporty-minded, 4-cylinder car that has the added feature of all-wheel drive.

New in many ways
The Legacy GT cars are improved for the 2000 model year with a noticeably stiffer structure, richer look, more low- to mid-range torque and added safety features.

Yet, the starting manufacturer's suggested retail price plus destination charge—while perhaps a bit higher than some might expect for a Subaru—is nearly $3,000 less than the starting price for a 2000 Audi A4 with all-wheel drive. And the Legacy GTs come quite well equipped with even the base model stocked with standard air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, and an 80-watt AM/FM stereo with cassette player.

"This all-new GT marries our full-time all-wheel drive to a sporty, fun-to-drive package," said George T. Muller, president and chief operating officer of Subaru of America Inc. "This combination of performance with all-wheel drive represents yet another `best of both' approach from Subaru."

Slightly bigger package
The 2000 Legacy GT models are slightly larger on the outside than they were in their previous generation. Subaru added 0.8 inch to the wheelbase and three inches to the overall length.

But curiously, the trunk shrunk 0.2 cubic foot to 12.4 cubic feet. The competing Audi A4's trunk offers 13.7 cubic feet of space.

The 2000 Legacy GT also lost 0.4 inch of rear-seat legroom, down to 34.2 inches. But that and front-seat legroom of 43.3 inches is still more than what is in the A4.

The Legacy GTs do look better proportioned now, and styling of the GT Limited, in particular, seemed to grab the attention of several young drivers during my test drive. A couple even raced to catch up with me to get a second look at the white test car. Note that rocker panels on the sides are among the standard features on the Limited that appeal to young car buyers.

Headlights are larger for 2000. They provide more lighting on the road as well as a more upscale look.

A chrome-accented grille is bigger than before, dressing up the GTs and helping airflow into the engine.

Rides more tightly
But I was mostly surprised at how much more solid the ride felt in the test 2000 Legacy GT Limited compared with the previous generation of Legacy GT. There's a noticeable tightness to the ride now, and the car handled well in the slalom with an ease I hadn't expected.

Subaru explains the Legacy GTs are built on a more rigid platform, which makes for more stable handling. Part of the rigidity comes from a new ring-shaped reinforcement system in the body. The automaker said this new, steel cage-type design also improves crash protection.

Front suspension remains a MacPherson strut configuration. The rear now has a multi-link arrangement. All GT sedans ride on standard 16-inch tires. But brakes, though standard with an anti-lock system, don't seem quite at the ready in the Legacy GTs as they do on the autobahn-running Audi A4s.

Same engine, but it's revamped
Subaru's GT sedans have the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine as before. But for 2000, Subaru worked to improve low- to mid-range torque.

Among the changes, Subaru switched from double-overhead-cam cylinder heads to a single overhead cam. While this might seem like a step back, the move actually makes room for a straighter intake port and new tumble port design.

Horsepower remains at 165 at 5600 revolutions per minute, while torque is up four lb-ft to 166 at 4000 rpm.

You can tell . . .
Sounds like a small improvement in power, doesn't it? But driving the Legacy GT—especially one with a 5-speed manual transmission as in the test car—gives you a different sensation, one of more than just a slight power gain.

Subaru said if you lay the old engine torque curve against the new one, you actually find that in some spots, you're getting substantially more torque. For example, this is true at 2400 rpm, where torque is now up by 30 percent from before, and it's up 50 percent at 3250 rpm.

In comparison, Audi's entry-level A4 with its 1.8-liter turbocharged four has peak torque of 155 that's available in the 1750 to 4600 rpm range. Maximum horsepower is 150 at 5700 rpm.

The Audi still provides quicker "oomph," in my view, and the GT isn't the quietest car to drive. The 5-speed also is notchy in its feel and motions. But the Subaru has made some good gains in its drivability despite the fact the GTs now weigh some 210 pounds more than before.

Improved interior
Inside, there's a cleaner, more business-like look. Though "GT" is on the badge, this car isn't stuffed with gaudy sport stuff.

Fake wood is standard but not too bad looking. Leather seats are standard on the uplevel Limited. So are front-seat side airbags—appearing for the first time this model year at Subaru.

In addition, all three riders in the back seat get five-point seatbelts and head restraints. But rear-seat windows only go down about two-thirds of the way, and the trunk lid doesn't have a fabric lining, so there's a tinny sound when you open and close the trunk.

Subaru and its all-wheel drive
Like all the cars in Subaru's lineup, the GTs come standard with all-wheel drive that doesn't require the driver to do anything to activate it.

For 2000, however, Subaru offers two all-wheel-drive systems for the first time. One comes standard with the manual transmission. It's basically the same, continuous all-wheel-drive system of previous Subarus and uses a viscous coupling center differential to split power 50/50 front and rear in normal driving. Power is adjusted front and rear when slipping occurs.

The new system, standard with the 4-speed automatic transmission, also uses sensors to determine when weight shifts in the vehicle, say, for example, to the rear during acceleration. At these times, the system automatically sends additional power to the rear wheels where the heavier weight can help boost traction.

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BB04 - 7/30/2014 2:35:01 PM