September 15, 2006
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson
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At first, I wasn’t sure whether I was more excited about the newly available folding rear seatbacks in all 2007 Legacy sedans, or the availability of a new driver-controlled throttle modulation system called SI-Drive on Legacy 2.5GT and new 2.5GT spec.B models, as well as the Outback 2.5XT. But no worries, the new 2.5GT spec.B sedan that you see here was equipped with both.
Now the performance flagship of the Legacy line, the new 2007 Legacy 2.5GT spec.B sedan features the same 243-hp turbocharged 2.5-litre boxer four-cylinder engine and AWD system as the 2.5GT, but gets a standard six-speed manual transmission instead of a five-speed (no automatic is available), a lighter clutch, quicker steering, inverted front struts similar to the WRX STI’s, special Bilstein performance shock absorbers (hence the ‘B’ in spec.B), lightweight aluminum lower control arms, 215/45R18-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE050A summer performance radials on 18X7 10-spoke alloy wheels;
standard Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) stability control system; and a Torsen limited slip rear differential. The 2.5GT spec.B, which is not offered as a wagon, comes in one conservative but classy exterior colour: ‘diamond grey metallic’.
Inside the spec.B are unique blue Alacantra suede-like seat inserts with ‘Charcoal grey’ leather side bolsters, titanium-like plastic interior trim, aluminum alloy pedals, leather-wrapped Momo steering wheel with audio controls, a DVD navigation system with touch-screen monitor, and a round dial on the centre console for the SI-Drive which can be set at ‘Intelligent’ ‘Sport’ or ‘Sport Sharp’.
SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) is essentially a driver-selectable electronic throttle control. ‘Intelligent’ mode reduces peak horsepower by about 20% improving fuel economy by as much as 10% according to Subaru. ‘Sport’ mode provides crisper throttle response, much like the standard Legacy 2.5GT. ‘Sport Sharp’ mode provides faster throttle response, and on 2.5GT models equipped with the five-speed automatic transmission, shift points are held longer for faster acceleration. For a more detailed description of how SI-Drive works, see Jim Kerr’s recent Auto Tech column.
At first, I was skeptical about SI-Drive. Why not, I thought, just accelerate more slowly if you want to save gas, and punch the throttle harder if you want to go faster? Why do you need a computer to do it for you? Well, the principle of SI-Drive is that you don’t really have to change your driving habits to achieve either better fuel economy or better performance. In Intelligent mode, the same amount of throttle input that you normally use produces less throttle response, lower revs, and lower fuel consumption. As well, with the manual transmission, a green light in the instrument cluster lights up when it’s time to shift to maximize fuel economy. Plus, there’s an instant fuel economy indicator divided into green and red sections to tell you if you’re driving frugally (green is good, red is bad). Unlike a similar gauge used by BMW however, Subaru’s doesn’t actually tell you what your fuel consumption is in litres per 100 km.
The SI-Drive’s round knob on the centre console can be rotated between ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport Sharp’, and pushed to engage ‘Intelligent’. A display in the tachometer tells you which mode you’re in using a scientific-looking bar graph with a real-time active torque curve display.
In switching between the three different modes, I did notice a difference in performance, particularly in Sport Sharp mode. The Legacy 2.5GT spec.B definitely accelerates quicker in Sport Sharp mode, and by comparison, Intelligent mode feels almost sluggish. But at least it gives you a choice. When you’re commuting to work, you’re not looking for high performance. But if you head out on a winding country road, switching to Sport Sharp livens up the driving experience.
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And let’s not forget the 243-hp turbocharged four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine with variable valve timing which will send the spec.B from 0 to 100 km/h in under seven seconds, and even faster I presume, in Sport Sharp mode. This engine is a bit growly under acceleration, and there’s a power surge in the 2500-rpm range when the turbo boost kicks in, but it has generous torque (241 ft-lb @ 3,600 rpm) and is very responsive for passing and merging. I didn’t notice a lot of torque-steer. By the way, this engine won an International Engine of the Year award in 2006.
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The new six-speed manual transmission, a modified version of the one in the WRX STI, has comfortable, easy throws, but it sounds slightly clunky. Clutch pedal effort is moderate and engagement is easy.
With the help of its new Bilstein performance shocks, inverted front struts similar to those of the WRX STI, and lightweight aluminum control arms to reduce unsprung weight, the Legacy GT spec.B corners flatter with less rebound than the GT, and its standard 18-inch Bridgestone summer performance radials provide plenty of grip in the dry – particularly as the spec.B is equipped with a Torsen limited slip rear differential and Subaru’s all-wheel drive system which, courtesy of a viscous coupling, distributes torque 50/50 front/rear all the time – not just some of the time.
Photo: Subaru. Click image to enlarge
As well, the spec.B comes with standard VDC stability control which uses individual wheel braking and throttle control to help correct steering direction should the car experience oversteer or understeer. However, spec.B buyers will still need to fork out the cash to buy winter or all-season tires for the winter season.
The spec.B’s attractive cabin features unique front leather sport seats with blue ‘Alacantra’ suede-like seat inserts that are warmer and grippier than standard leather. The blue seat inserts and door inserts and ‘titanium’ dash trim help to offset the rather bleak dark plastic of the rest of the cabin. I liked the grippy three-spoke Momo steering wheel, nicely-shaped shift knob, and the sporty aluminum pedals. As well, a DVD-based navigation system with a seven-inch touch screen is standard equipment on spec.B models.
Other standard interior niceties include a new premium audio system with 6-disc in-dash CD player with MP3 and WMA playback, a new auxiliary audio input jack, XM satellite radio pre-wiring, dual zone automatic climate control, power moonroof, heated front seats, 8-way power driver’s seat and 4-way power passenger seat, active front head restraints, side airbags, and curtain airbags. It’s worth noting that the 2006 Legacy sedan was recently awarded a Top Safety Pick Gold award by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, because it did very well in frontal, side and rear impact crash tests. (see www.hwysafety.org).
For many people, the news that Subaru has finally added 60/40 split folding seatbacks to Legacy sedans is big relief. I wonder how many people have decided not to buy a Legacy because it didn’t have folding rear seats? The new rear seat also includes a centre pass-through behind the centre armrest.
2007 Legacys, including the 2.5GT spec.B, are now on sale. The 2007 2.5GT spec.B is priced at $44,995, about $4,700 more than the 2007 Legacy 2.5GT sedan.
For more photos, please visit the 2007 Subaru Legacy Gallery.
Related stories on Autos
- Auto Tech: Subaru’s SI-Drive
- Buyer’s Guide: 2006 Subaru Legacy
- Test Drive: 2006 Subaru Legacy 2.5i sedan
- Test Drive: 2006 Subaru Legacy 2.5i wagon
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