New Car/Review

1997 SUBARU LEGACY OUTBACK

By Matt/Bob Hagin

subaru

SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 24,195
     Price As Tested                                    $ 26,240
     Engine Type                        2.5 Liter Flat-4 w/MPFI*
     Engine Size                                 150 cid/2457 cc
     Horsepower                                   155 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               155 @ 2800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  103.5"/67.5"/183.9"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3245 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      205/70R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            21/27/25          
     0-60 MPH                                       10.7 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     18.2 seconds @ 76.1 mph


     * Multi-point fuel injection

(Subaru has been a long-time favorite with American drivers who must face the rigors of harsh weather. Last year Matt Hagin got a chance to drive a Subaru Legacy Outback during Northern California's ski season and came away impressed. His father, Bob, who prefers the open highway, limited himself to watching Crocodile Dundee, Subaru's spokesman, put one through its off-road paces in television commercials.)

BOB - Matt, those latest Subaru Outback TV ads are more fun to watch than most of the sitcoms that clutter up the airways. Having Crocodile Dundee outrun and outsmart "bad guys" was a stroke of advertising genius and maybe they should turn those ads into a weekly adventure show. Everybody loves a hero and Paul Hogan plays the role perfectly.

MATT - This Outback wagon is really one-of-a-kind, Dad. Its not built on a truck chassis, but it's lots more rugged than the typical grocery-getter station wagon built for city streets. It features a slick all-wheel-drive system that applies 90 percent of the driving force to the front wheels under normal dry-pavement conditions, but when the road gets wet or icy, the four-speed automatic transmission, anti-skid brake system and a viscous limited slip coupler work together to apply equal power to the front and rear wheels.

BOB - It must work that way on dirt and gravel roads too, Matt, because that's the kind of road Hogan covers when he out-corners those two mean-looking guys in the commercial. To make the Legacy Outback able to plow through the rough-stuff without grinding off the undercarriage, the Subaru engineers raised the body by jacking up the MacPherson struts more than an inch and installing 205/70 tires on 15-inch rims. This combines to give the Outback a total ground clearance of just under eight inches. The engine is pretty impressive, too. It's a 2.5 liter twin-cam flat-four "pancake" that puts out 155 horses without using a a turbocharger. The only other new car I know of that uses a pancake engine is German, has the engine in the rear and costs almost $70,000. And for a while there, I thought that the conventional station wagon design was going the way of the phaeton, but I guess that companies like Subaru have found a niche for the Suburbanite's Delight.

MATT - Station wagons are still around, Dad, although they're small cars now. Subaru has brought more wagons into the U.S. than any other importer for the past 13 years and judging by their popularity in the Northeastern and Northwestern sections of the country, Subaru and its station wagon will be around for a long time. I'm not really hot for the fancy trim that goes with this Limited version of the Outback, though. Somehow the vision of Crocodile Dundee crashing though the Australian underbrush in a vehicle sporting leather upholstery, gold trim fixtures and imitation woodgrain interior pieces doesn't fit the image.

BOB - Those heated front seats and outside mirrors don't fit either, Matt, but they're handy in cold Vermont weather or the on the chilly streets of Seattle in winter. Subaru really had cold climates in mind when it developed the Legacy Outback and even equipped the engine with a built-in electric engine warmer for when the temperature dives.

MATT - We had last year's version of the Legacy Outback during ski season and Tom and I took it up to the resort area during a brutal snowstorm. Frankly, I felt lots safer in the Outback than I did in a regular sports/utility vehicle. It's lower and not at all slippery on icy roads. The Outback has a couple of inches more headroom than the regular Legacy wagon, so putting on ski togs inside the car is easier, too. The only drawback was that you can't open the rear hatch fully with long skis strapped to the factory ski rack.

BOB - One of the small extras that I like on the Outback is the pair of additional 12 volt power ports. I can understand the one on the dashboard since it's a convenient place to power-up a laptop computer or a cellular phone but I can't understand the one back in the cargo area.

MATT - That's easy, Dad. After he's run the bad guys into the river, that's where Crocodile Dundee plugs in his tea pot while he's taking a break from shooting those commercials.

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