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New Car/Review


By Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 22,795
     Price As Tested                                    $ 24,378
     Engine Type                        2.5 Liter Flat-4 w/MPFI*
     Engine Size                                 150 cid/2457 cc
     Horsepower                                   165 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               162 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  103.5"/67.5"/181.5"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3105 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     205/55HR16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.34


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            21/27/24          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16.5 seconds @ 83 mph
     Top-speed                                           110 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

For 1997, Subaru hopes to expand last year's 25 percent sales increase surge with functional improvements to its complete line of sedans and wagons. The company has also decided to drop its front-wheel- drive models to concentrate on all-wheel-drive vehicles.

Subaru's showpiece volume seller is the Legacy, and it comes in many guises from the bargain-priced Brighton wagon, to the top-line Outback Limited Edition. This week we try the Subaru 2.5 GT sports sedan.

OUTSIDE - What comes to mind after viewing the 2.5 GT for the first time is how much more assertive it looks than its Legacy sedan sister. The lines are smooth and familiar, from the slim, wide headlamps to the gently wedged profile and tall rear deck. Both bumpers and rearview mirrors are body-color, and the windows are trimmed in black. GT models get their exteriors spruced up with a new bumper and grille, along with integrated fog lamps, and 16-inch spoked wheels with performance tires. Using inspiration from its World Rally Championship cars, this year's 2.5 GT features a real spoiler and a functional cold-air hood scoop.

INSIDE - Once inside the GT, its low seating position may feel strange to some drivers as the seat cushions are placed close to the floor. Fortunately, its beltline and cowl are low, and its roof pillars thin, which gives a panoramic view to the outside. The low seating position also means that there is a great deal of headroom front and rear, so even tall passengers won't scrape the headliner. The smoothly contoured dash and door panels are covered in rich-looking materials, and the switches and controls operate with a silky feel. We also liked the way the gap in the steering wheel spokes allow clear viewing of the analog gauges. All Legacy models are equipped with numerous standard features, but our GT test car came with such extras as cruise control, air conditioning, a tilt steering column, variable speed intermittent wipers, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, height-adjustable driver's seat, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

ON THE ROAD - All Subaru models are powered by a unique "boxer" four-cylinder engine. Each of its two cylinder banks point outward, and use twin camshafts, electronic fuel injection and four valves per cylinder. Its design keeps its center of gravity low, and consequently enables Subaru engineers to keep its hood profile low as well. Thanks to advances in combustion chamber design, along with reduced internal friction and a slightly higher compression ratio, the latest Legacy's engine has been massaged to produce 165 horsepower, 10 more than last year's model. It also delivers 162 lb-ft of torque, which gives it good low-end power. Also, the buzzy sound inherent in Subarus of the past has been well muzzled with plenty of insulation. Our test car came equipped as its GT designation suggests with a five-speed manual transmission that made it fun to slip through its gears. For those looking for simpler driving, a four-speed automatic transmission is optional.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Legacy has a rigid new structure that feels solid and rattle-free, but offers increased crash protection in a package that weighs less than it did only a few years ago. Strut-type front and rear suspension rests under all Legacy models, as do coil springs and anti-roll bars. GT models feature stiffer suspension components than lesser Legacy models, and the ride is noticeably harsher. Its all- wheel-drive system, standard on all Subarus, gives it excellent grip on all surfaces. On manual transmission equipped models, the system uses a viscous center differential. With Legacy automatics, a sophisticated computer-controlled, hydraulically actuated center differential is used. Speed-sensitive, variable rate steering is standard as well, and coupled with four-wheel disc brakes with a four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS), the resulting package is a crisp-handling vehicle that hangs on tenaciously in corners and stops quickly.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Our test car came with a six-disc CD changer and speaker kit for $798, while remote keyless entry is $225. Destination charges are $495.