2005 Subaru Legacy
This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2009.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Subarus once were frumpy, underpowered cars with nothing much more than ruggedness, frugal gas economy and 4-wheel-drive systems going for them.
That all changed in the 1990s as Subarus became more refined and the automaker's Outback crossover model did a fair job of combining features of a station wagon and small sport-utility vehicle.
Into Big Leagues
All get slicker styling, more features, added power and slightly larger exterior dimensions.
I drove the Legacy GT sedan and mechanically identical GT wagon—not the Outback, which is in the crossover or "hybrid" vehicle market and wasn't available for immediate testing.
The 2004 Legacy GT sedan and wagon were generally above-average, but were seriously handicapped by bland styling, a plain interior and only a 165-horsepower 4-cylinder engine.
Lots More Power
That fourth-generation line contains the lower-level Legacy 2.5i sedans and wagons with a 168-horsepower engine that has Subaru's traditional Porsche-style horizontally opposed piston design for a compact size. The 2.5i is fine for many Subaru buyers, but a little slow during highway performance.
The GT sedan has especially sharp, aerodynamic styling with a pronounced wedge body shape that gives it a European high-performance look—not that the wagon isn't also handsome. Even the hood scoop of both versions is functional, feeding air to the intercooler for more horsepower.
Tailpipe tips that extend from the dual-muffler exhaust system through bumper cutouts add a sporty flair.
The wheelbase (distance between axles) of the Legacy has been increased from 104.3 inches to 105.1 inches and overall length is up about two inches from the 2004 model. The unitized body structure is stiffer for a more solid feel and improved ride and handling, and a modified suspension also helps out here.
The GT sedan is $26,245, with the Limited version at $28,745. The GT wagon, which offers more cargo room, lists at $27,245, with the Limited version costing $29,945.
While slower, with less precise handling, the lower-line 2.5i sedans and wagons are fairly well equipped and go from $21,445 to $25,895.
Loaded With Equipment
Safety items include anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags.
The GT's engine is a detuned version of the engine in Subaru's ferocious 300-horsepower WRX STi rally-style sedan, which is less refined than the Legacy GT. The wagon's performance is nearly identical to that of the sedan because the wagon is only slightly heavier.
Both versions have decent room for four 6-footers, although some taller occupants might wish for more rear seat head room.
The sedan has fixed rear seatbacks, but there is a pass-through area from the trunk to the rear-seat area.
The sophisticated GT engine features dual overhead camshafts, variable valve timing and a compact design for a low center of gravity and sharper handling.
A 6-speed manual gearbox would be nicer, but Subaru used a 5-speed unit partly to hold down costs. The new automatic is a big improvement over the 2004 4-speed GT automatic. It has faster shifts and a manual-shift feature that cuts down on turbo lag.
Fuel economy of the GT is in the high teens in the city and about 25 mpg on the highway. The 168-horsepower engine on the less exciting Legacy 2.5i gets a few more miles per gallon.
Subaru gave the GT more balanced handling by trimming weight from both ends of the car, with an aluminum hood, lighter bumpers and movement of the battery farther back in the engine compartment—besides giving the wagon an aluminum tailgate.
Cutting weight at the ends of a car helps to concentrate more mass near its center of gravity, which enhances handling.
The ride is comfortable, and the GT has larger 17-inch wheels with wider 45-series tires for better grip. It also has larger front brakes and vented rear brakes for shorter stopping distances.
The leather-wrapped MOMO steering wheel has a nearly perfect size, and the electroluminescent gauges are easy to read under a variety of lighting conditions. Audio and climate controls are large and within easy reach of a driver.
Body color mirrors with integrated turn signals can be folded against the side window glass to prevent damage in tight parking spots.
The 2005 GT sedan and wagon are good enough to compete with higher-priced European sports sedans and wagons, which is something nobody was predicting a few years ago.