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New Car Review


by Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,595
Price As Tested                                    $ 27,090
Engine Type               DOHC 4-valve 2.5 Liter H4 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"/185.8"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3252 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.)                              0.41


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            21/26/25
0-60 MPH                                          9 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                         17 seconds @ 80 mph
Top speed                                           110 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(Bob Hagin was a mechanic in a foreign car dealership when the first Subarus came to America and had to work on them. His son Matt says he's glad its new Legacy Outback is not as crude and rude as its progenitor.)

BOB - I was working in a shop that serviced Subarus when they were first imported in '58 or '59, Matt. The first was an ugly little warthog called the 360 coupe. It had a two-cylinder, two-stroke 16 horse engine that was barely powerful enough to get the car underway and the two "suicide" doors would open when the chassis flexed. As I recall, I quit the place rather than work on them. That didn't make your mother very happy but I was pretty independent in those days.

MATT - This Legacy Outback has nothing in common with that car, Dad, except for the emblem on the hood. The newest version of Subaru's 2.5 liter "pancake" Boxer all-aluminum four-cylinder engine has dual overhead camshafts now and 15 more horsepower than the one we tried a couple of years ago. In the last few years, I've noticed that the concept of an all-wheel-drive family station wagon that can face up to the worst weather is catching on. A couple of the German car makers are offering wagons of the same genre and that's the best validation I can think of. The proliferation of truck-based sport/utility vehicles has sharpened the American appetite for a family vehicle that can go through ice and snow, carry lots of gear and not ride like a truck. The Legacy Outback fulfills those family requirements very well and gets sedan-like average fuel economy of around 25 miles per gallon .

BOB - That family had best remember that at 7.5 inches, the Outback version has only a bit more ground clearance than the standard Legacy wagon. With only 16 or 17 degrees of approach and departure angle, the Outback would be apt to knock off its fancy Halogen fog lamps and front valance on the first serious climb. If Subaru buyers want anything more than a vehicle that's at ease on wet and icy roads with maybe an occasional dirt or gravel road thrown in the mix, they'd be better off with the company's new Forester SUV.

MATT - Like the Forester and all other Subarus sold here, our Legacy Outback rolled on a full-time, all-wheel drive system with dual- diagonally operated four-wheel disk brakes and it sports an anti-skid brake system. The Legacy Outback we had in '96 carried the same four- speed automatic transmission this car had, but maybe next time the Subaru guys will let us try one with the standard five-speed stick shift. The Outback models have a little extra interior head room that provides just enough interior space for skiers to wrestle into their snow togs inside. This beats having to do it in the parking lot of the lodge. Subaru claims that the Legacy wagon is a five seater, but those three adults who ride in the back seat would have to be very friendly.

BOB - This wagon we had would be pretty fancy for doing much ski-bumming, Matt. The leather upholstery is very uptown and might be prone to getting scratched up while strapping on ski boots and such. I'm not a fan of moon-roofs, so I think having one over the back seat is going overboard. But the spoiler over the rear hatchback door serves a purpose. It seems to deflect dirt away from the back window which is a help in foul weather. It also came standard with air conditioning, heated front seats, power-operated door locks, windows and outside mirrors which are heated too. The driver's seat is adjustable for height and it has an adjustable lumbar support as well. I understand the standard-equipment roof rack is built so that the ski can be clamped more towards the front so the rear of the skis won't hit the hatch door.

MATT - This would be great for brother Brendan, Dad. Being well over six feet tall he has to have very long skis and mounting them is sometimes a hassle for him. Maybe next time we go skiing, you can go with us and try skiing the heavy-duty runs. It would be good for you to get out of the house and take up a new sport.

BOB - I pass on that one, Matt. I stopped taking up new sports a long time ago and the only time I ever want to see that cold, wet white stuff again is on the front of a Currier & Ives Christmas card.