2004 Subaru Legacy

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2003 Subaru Legacy

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Top-line 2.5 GT trim is lower-priced substitute for some European sports sedans.
Pros:
  • Fun to drive
  • Roomy
  • Standard all-wheel drive
Cons:
  • Average highway acceleration
  • Back windows don't lower all the way
  • 2.5 GT needs more-potent engine

The Legacy 2.5 GT sedan is the highlight of Subaru's 2003 all-wheel-drive sedan and station wagon line and is an alternative to costlier European sports sedans.

New Legacy trims get a slightly fresher look with a new front bumper and fascia featuring a revised grille. The Legacy 2.5 GT's fascia integrates the standard projector-beam foglights. And the entry Legacy L trims get body color door handles, side moldings and exterior mirrors for a cleaner look.

Standard All-Wheel Drive
The sturdy, economical Legacy models are assembled in Indiana and are the only ones in their price range to feature standard full-time all-wheel-drive systems, which are a major Subaru selling point. Legacy L trims now have an AM/FM stereo with a single-disc CD player and a standard keyless entry system, along with minor items such as silver gauge trim rings.

As with the $19,495-$21,095 L trims, the $24,795-$25,695 2.5 GT trims come with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that generates 165 horsepower and can be hooked to a 5-speed manual gearbox or 4-speed automatic transmission.

Standout Trim
Legacy L trims are decent compact cars, but the 2.5 GT is the standout trim, although it would benefit from a more-potent engine. The L trims can be had with a Special Edition Package that adds equipment from the 2.5 GT, including a power sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels and halogen foglights.

The Legacy 2.5 GT replaces the 2002 Legacy GT and GT Limited trims, which means it's very well equipped. Features inherited from the former GT Limited include leather seats, front side-impact airbags, dual-mode heated front seats and heated outside mirrors.

New equipment for the 2003 2.5 GT includes an 8-way power driver's seat, 100-watt AM/FM/weather band stereo system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and seven speakers. There also are a leather-wrapped steering wheel and newly designed alloy wheels.

The remainder of the 2.5 GT equipment is carried over from the 2002 model year. It includes a sport-tuned suspension and a viscous limited-slip rear differential for extra traction.

The 2.5 GT is so well equipped that a $1,000 4-speed automatic transmission is among its few options. Standard items include air conditioning, keyless entry system and power door locks, windows and a moonroof for the sedan. (The wagon trim has dual moonroofs.) There's even a new windshield wiper de-icer.

Moving Upscale
Such equipment levels show that Subaru, like Volkswagen, is going more upscale to generate a better image and larger profits.

No Legacy looks like a head-turner, but the 2.5 GT is the sexiest Legacy—especially the sedan. It has a purposeful European sports sedan appearance with such items as aerodynamic ground effects styling, which consists of lower add-on body panels. There's also special upholstery and interior trim.

Advanced All-Wheel Drive
Subaru is well known for the efficient full-time all-wheel-drive systems put in all its models. Order the 2.5 GT with the automatic transmission and you get Subaru's most advanced all-wheel drive system, called Variable Torque Distribution (VTD). You also get a new Sportshift feature that allows precise manual gear shifting.

Subaru introduced VTD all-wheel drive on its popular 2001 Outback H6-3.0 VDC 6-cylinder model and added it to the rally/race-bred 2002 Impreza WRX automatic transmission model—a major hit with car buffs.

The manual transmission allows the 2.5 GT to deliver faster acceleration. The rugged Porsche-style engine calls for lots of revs for the best performance; it's thus best suited to the manual gearbox for less drivetrain power loss—although the responsive automatic transmission does a decent job.

No Fireball
However, the 2.5 GT is no fireball with either transmission, although it has a special final-drive ratio that allows slightly better acceleration.

Performance is lively to 60 mph if you let the engine rev to its limit after moving off the line. But the 65-75 mph passing time is just average because a 2.5-liter engine without hot rod equipment can do only so much in a vehicle that weighs approximately 3,400 pounds.

The Legacy L trims are pleasant, but the 2.5 GT sedan is the most fun. Steering is quick, handling inspires confidence and the all-independent suspension provides a supple ride. Stopping distances are short with the standard anti-lock brakes.

The 2.5 GT's 55-series tires on 16-inch wheels are fairly wide, but wider tires on 17-inch wheels would enhance handling and braking. Subaru apparently doesn't want to make the 2.5 GT too sporty because it then would step on the toes of the automaker's hot rod WRX.

Roomy
There is impressive room in the quiet interior, which has woodgrain patterned-trim in the 2.5 GT. The Legacy easily seats four tall adults. However, rear windows don't lower all the way, which can be a drawback with a family car.

Although firm, the front seats are supportive. And there are easily read white-on-black gauges and fairly smooth controls. The steering column is tilt-adjustable to allow drivers of different sizes be more comfortable.

The sedan's roomy trunk has a large, wide opening, although the lid has space-eating manual hinges and an unfinished interior look. The slightly longer Legacy wagon has significantly more cargo room.

The Legacy underhood area is surgically neat, with easily reached fluid-filler areas.

Collision Protection
A "Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frame" body structure with front and rear crumple zones provides protection in a variety of collisions—including frontal, offset, side and rear. Adding to peace of mind is a 3-year-36,000-mile roadside assistance program.

If a BMW, Mercedes or Audi sports sedans seem too costly, the Legacy GT sedan is worth a close look. And the other Legacy models might pleasantly surprise those who never thought to visit a Subaru showroom.

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BB02 - 7/22/2014 12:50:27 AM