SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide
Although Subaru may be best-known for its innovative and now much-copied Outback "sport-utility wagons," the company makes other types of vehicles as well. One is the Legacy GT Limited, a very Subaru take on a compact sports sedan with near- luxury overtones.
Anyone in the U.S. who thinks that "Subaru" and "sports sedan" are mutually exclusive is excused for thinking so. Here, Subaru has been eminently successful selling Outbacks, and, before them, functional, sturdy all-wheel drive wagons and sedans that have gained an almost cultlike following in the snowier parts of the country. In Europe and on the far side of the Pacific Rim, Subaru is well-known for successful rally cars. World Rally Championship events are not the gentle time-speed-distance "rallies" of American sports car clubs. They are brutally long, difficult events run on all types of surfaces and in all weather conditions. The rally cars are based on production cars, specially modified but essentially unchanged. Although Subaru's current WRC racers are based on its smaller Impreza (hence the Impreza 2.5 RS), earlier versions were developed from the Legacy.
So, if a sports sedan needs competition heritage to be "real", the Subaru Legacy has plenty. And, the car itself is essentially all new this year, with a more rigid chassis structure, new rear suspension, and redesigned engine. It is offered in value-priced "L", sporty "GT", and sport-luxury "GT Limited" trim levels. All have a 165-horsepower, 2.5-liter "boxer" four-cylinder engine, fully-independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and, most importantly, the Subaru all-wheel drive system.
My recent week with a new Legacy GT Limited highlighted its abilities and comfort. It's larger and heavier than the Impreza 2.5 RS, with far more comfort and luxury features. The smaller RS competes primarily with the sub-$20,000 sport compacts; the GT, particularly in Limited trim, is aimed right at the much pricier entry- luxury segment. And it competes very well, balancing all-wheel drive performance and handling with a good array of comfort and convenience.
APPEARANCE: At a glance, the third-generation Legacy looks unchanged. But it's a little sleeker, with a Germanic look accentuated by the high, well-defined shoulder line on the sides. The passenger cabin has a highly-raked windshield and backlight, and relatively thin roof pillars. A blacked-out B-pillar and traditional Subaru frameless door glass help give it a coupelike look. At the front, the GT Limited shares its aggressive-looking upside-down trapezoid grille and headlight shape with other Legacys, and adds a race-replica flat bumper fascia with foglamps and plenty of air intakes. Side sills and a "ground effects" rear bumper fascia complete the aero kit. Nine-spoke alloy wheels and low-profile tires add to the sport look.
COMFORT: All Legacys have a high equipment level for their price. Although it's priced $5,000 below the $30,000 that is considered the start of the "entry-luxury" class, the GT Limited has most of the comfort and convenience features of cars in that class, with leather upholstery, a power driver's seat and power-assisted mirrors, windows, and door locks with remote keyless entry, and excellent climate-control system and six-speaker AM/FM/weather band/cassette/CD audio system among its standard equipment. The "woodgrain" trim on the dash obviously was wood only before it was a petroleum product, but the same can be said of the trim in some more expensive sedans. The GT Limited is definitely a driver's car, with a very good control and instrument layout. The front buckets are comfortable and supportive, and the rear bench is spacious for two people, although a bit narrow for three for long periods. Interior storage space is good, and the trunk is large for the car's size. The Legacy GT Limited balances luxury, sporty character, and Subaru functionality well.
SAFETY: The 2000 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 standard all-wheel drive ensures optimum traction in all conditions.
ROADABILITY: All-wheel drive (AWD) is not just for snow and other inclement conditions. It offers improved traction on dry pavement as well. Reflecting the differences between people who buy automatic and manual transmission-equipped cars, Subaru has a different AWD system for each. Cars with 5-speed manual transmissions have a system that starts with power split evenly between the front and rear wheels, with power then automatically transferred to the wheels that have the best grip. Automatic- equipped Subarus have a system that biases power towards the front wheels, and uses electronic sensors to adjust power to the wheels that can best use it. The manual system, as on my test car, is more performance-oriented, and gives very neutral handling characteristics with great grip and traction. Corners are fun! The automatic system gives the feel of a front-wheel drive car, with AWD advantages when needed.
PERFORMANCE: The 2000 Legacy GT Limited uses the latest development of Subaru's 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four- cylinder engine. Its flat design contributes to the Legacy's low center of gravity and helps improve its handling. The lightweight alloy single overhead cam engine produces 165 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque, with very linear power delivery. It's strong at the bottom end, helped by a low first gear ratio, and stays healthy right to the redline. The five-speed manual gearbox shifts well. Because of the AWD system's added weight, the GT loses some time in acceleration. Don't worry, it more than makes up for it in the corners.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2000 Subaru Legacy GT Limited combines sporty handling and performance with near luxury comfort and Subaru all-around functionality.
SPECIFICATIONS 2000 Subaru Legacy GT Limited Sedan Base Price $ 24,295 Price As Tested $ 25,374 Engine Type horizontally-opposed single overhead cam 16-valve 4-cylinder Engine Size 2.5 liters / 150 cu. in. Horsepower 165 @ 5,600 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 166 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 5-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 104.3 in. / 184.4 in. Curb Weight 3,360 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 20.4 Fuel Capacity 16.9 gal. Fuel Requirement regular unleaded gasoline, 87 octane Tires P205/55 HR16 Bridgestone Potenza RE 92 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 21 / 28 / 23 0 to 60 mph 9.1 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.6 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.31 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Floor mats $ 74 6-disc in-dash CD changer $ 510