New Car Review: 2003 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Sedan


2003 Legacy GT

SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

    There is more to Subaru than the Outback and WRX. Although 
those extremes of the company's offerings get most of the media 
attention, there is also a solid middle ground between the pioneering 
car-meets-SUV crossover Outback and the rally-car-tamed-for-the-
street WRX. It's called the Legacy, and it is the core of the Subaru 
line in more ways than merely product placement. The Legacy is the 
basis for both the Outbacks and the new Baja.

    Legacys are available in both sedan and wagon form, and the 
lineup has been mildly restyled and readjusted for 2003. The basic 
models are the value-priced L and the sportier and more-equipped 
2.5 GT. New this year is a ``Special Edition Package'' for the L that 
incorporates equipment from the 2.5 GT. The 2003 2.5 GT has 
inherited most of the upscale features of last year's 2.5 GT Limited 
model. As before, it has a sportier look, backed up by firmer 
suspension tuning and a standard limited-slip rear differential. 2.5 
GTs equipped with the optional automatic transmission now have 
Subaru's most advanced all-wheel drive system, called ``Variable 
Torque Distribution,'' or VTD.

    The Legacy 2.5 GT is a car for a more mature customer than a 
WRX, but ``mature'' here does not equate to ``sedentary.'' Let's just 
say a little older, a little mellower, and needing a touch more room 
and comfort in a car. The GT still has superb all-wheel drive 
handling and traction, as I found during my week with one. The new 
automatic keeps the car's character intact, and it has far more 
character than the typical family sedan.

APPEARANCE: All Legacy models have freshened front styling this 
year, in the form of a revised grille and front bumper fascia. These 
are not particularly obvious, in keeping with the Legacy's character. 
Its shape is a conservative blend of rounded shapes and edges with 
angular accents, particularly noticeable in the high shoulder line and 
character lines incised into the hood. The 2.5 GT has standard 
foglamps and ``aero kit'' lower side cladding to show its sporty 
character, augmented by an available small rear spoiler.

COMFORT: The Legacy 2.5 GT is Subaru's premium sports-luxury 
sedan, or wagon, and is aimed at an older customer than the WRX. 
Its interior style and appointment level reflect this. Trim is 
woodgrain, not aluminum-look, although the instruments are now 
metal-bezeled. Leather-trimmed upholstery is standard fare, with 
heated front seats. The driver's seat is power-adjustable, and very 
comfortable and supportive. That, an adjustable steering wheel 
contoured for the optimum hand position, and instrumentation aimed 
at the driver make for a good driving environment. But the Legacy is 
meant for more than just the driver and front passenger. The rear 
seat offers more room than is found in the smaller European luxury 
performance sedans, with almost as much as in the popular mid-
sized sedans. As in most cars, two adults fit comfortably, with a 
third a bit cozy. There are plenty of useful interior storage spaces, 
and the trunk is quite large.

SAFETY: The 2003 Legacy's ``Ring-Shaped Reinforcement'' body 
structure provides a high level of protection in collisions. All seating 
positions have three-point safety belts. Four-wheel antilock disc 
brakes are standard, and all-wheel drive ensures optimum traction in 
all conditions.

ROADABILITY: Anyone out there who thinks all-wheel drive 
(AWD) is only for winters in the snow belt, think again. It works 
just as well on dry pavement in the sun belt, and anything in 
between. Because of the different clienteles for various models, 
Subaru has three AWD systems. ``Continuous All-Wheel Drive'' in 
manual transmission models is a mechanical system with a static 
50/50 power split that uses a viscous-coupling center differential to 
redistribute torque as needed. ``Active All-Wheel Drive'' in middle-
line automatic models has an electronically-managed continuously 
variable transfer clutch and is set up for a front-drive bias. The 
``Variable Torque Distribution'' system in premium automatic 
models, including the 2.5 GT, has an electronic control system that 
integrate inputs from the engine and transmission computers to 
decide how to control torque transfer. It also uses a viscous limited 
slip rear differential to direct power to the rear wheel with the most 
traction. With this system, and its standard sport-tuned suspension 
and low-profile tires, the 2.5 GT has good grip and nimble handling. 
It is solid and stable on the road, and is definitely a cut or three 
above your basic-variety mid-sized family sedan when the road or 
conditions get interesting.

PERFORMANCE: Like all non-WRX four-cylinder Subarus, the 
Legacy uses the Phase II 2.5-liter engine, a single-overhead cam per 
bank horizontally-opposed design that helps keep the car's center of 
gravity low for better handling. It delivers power in a linear fashion, 
and although the maximum 165 horsepower is made at 5600 rpm 
and maximum 166 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, good low-rpm torque 
allows the four-speed automatic to work efficiently. 
``SPORTSHIFT'' manual-shift mode allows the driver to over-ride 
the automatic, for a more engaging driving experience when desired. 
The standard five-speed manual transmission offers an improvement 
in performance, which should be balanced with the traffic 
convenience of the automatic. 

CONCLUSIONS: The Subaru Legacy is not just another generic 
mid-sized sedan.

SPECIFICATIONS
2003 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Sedan

Base Price			$ 24,795
Price As Tested		        $ 26,675
Engine Type			single overhead cam 16-valve 
                                 horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder
Engine Size			2.5 liters / 150 cu. in.
Horsepower			165 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			166 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			4-speed electronically-controlled 
                                 automatic with ``SPORTSHIFT''
                                 manual-shift mode (5-speed manual
                                 standard)
Wheelbase / Length		104.3 in. / 184.4 in.
Curb Weight			3420 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        20.7
Fuel Capacity			16.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P205/55 HR16 Bridgestone Potenza RE92
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
                                 antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /  
                                  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 27 / 22
0 to 60 mph				est. 9.5  sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)		0.31

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
 transmission with SPORTSHIFT manual-shift
 mode and VTD All-Wheel-Drive			$ 1,000
Rear spoiler					$    325
Destination charge				$    525
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