Redesigned for the first time since 1995, the 2000 Subaru Legacy is roomier and more refined than the previous model. 2000 Legacy’s have a revised SOHC 2.5 litre horizontally-opposed four cylinder engine, revised manual transmission, a new rear suspension, and redesigned interior. The Legacy GT, shown here, has 16 inch tires and alloy wheels, a sportier suspension, a limited slip rear differential, and a leather upholstered interior.
Roomier and more refined
Subaru’s all-wheel-drive Legacy sedans and wagons have undergone their first major redesign since 1995. The 2000 Legacy and Outback models are bigger and roomier with a revised four cylinder engine, a new rear suspension, and a redesigned interior.
The Legacy’s base 2.2 litre engine has been discontinued – all Legacy’s now have a 2.5 litre horizontally opposed four cylinder engine. As a result, base prices start higher than they did last year, although they’re still comparable with ’99 models equipped with the 2.5 litre engine.
The 2000 Legacy Brighton Wagon starts at $23,995, Legacy L sedan $26,995, Legacy GT sedan $29,995, and Outback Wagon at $31,395.
The Legacy’s new styling is distinctly European – the nose is lower, the tail is higher, and the whole car looks more athletic without any superflous add-on body panels. From some angles, the Legacy sedan looks like a BMW 3-Series sedan – perhaps this was intentional as the GT model is about the same size as a BMW 323i sedan, has the same size engine, and is about $5000 cheaper.
Compared to the previous Legacy, the new model is about 90 mm longer, 30 mm wider and 10 mm higher with a wheelbase that is 20 mm longer. Its longer wheelbase and extra width contribute to a roomier passenger cabin, and a more comfortable, stable ride.
The standard 2.5 litre horizontally-opposed four cylinder engine has the same horsepower as last year (165) but now has single overhead camshafts instead of dual overhead camshafts. While this may seem like a step backwards, it was part of a design change to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions without reducing horsepower. The new Legacy has about the same fuel consumption as the previous model even though it’s a couple of hundred kilograms heavier.
A revised manual transmission with shorter throws, and easier operation is now standard on all models (except the GT Limited model), and all 2000 Legacy’s have a redesigned rear suspension, now a multi-link design rather than a MacPherson strut layout. The compact, independent multi-link design is mounted on a separate sub-frame to isolate vibration from the cabin, and because it’s more compact adds trunk space in the sedan and cargo space in the Wagon models.
This week’s test-drive is a Legacy GT Limited, the top-of-the-line GT sedan equipped with leather upholstery and a standard four-speed automatic transmission.
Though the Legacy GT has the same engine as the basic Legacy sedan, there are some differences which improve performance. The Legacy GT has larger 205/55R-16 inch radials and alloy wheels, stiffer spring rates and shock absorbers, a rear limited slip differential, and a different final drive ratio. And both the GT and Outback have larger rear brakes for improved braking.
Compared to the previous Legacy GT, the new model is quieter, more refined, and has better ride and handling. Acceleration from a standing start is lively because of increased engine torque, but as the new Legacy is heavier, its 50 to 80 km/h and 80 to 120 km/h highway passing power is slower. Once you get up to speed however, highway cruising is comfortable and quiet with the engine turning over just 2700 rpm at a steady 100 km/h.
Handling is stable and predictable, although there is some initial body lean during cornering. It’s cornering limits are high and it feels entirely predictable right up to its limits. It doesn’t handle as well as a rear-drive BMW 323i, but then, most cars don’t.
I tried both the manual and automatic transmissions, and found that the GT’s performance and acceleration is significantly better when equipped with the manual transmission. The manual-equipped GT sedan was quicker, more fun to drive, and better-suited to this car’s GT (Gran Tourismo) designation.
However, for everyday driving chores, I would probably recommend the four-speed automatic transmission (optional on GT, standard on GT Limited) because it means less work. The automatic transmission is very smooth and unobtrusive and features ‘grade logic’ – the transmission automatically changes down from 4th to 3rd when braking downhill, and prevents uphill ‘gear-hunting’. My only complaint with this transmission is a slight ringing sound when accelerating at highway speeds.
I found the Legacy’s power steering easy and well-weighted, and its standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS more-than-adequate for this 1554 kg car.
Subaru’s standard all-wheel-drive system is virtually undetectable on dry roads, but it’s always there should the roads suddenly turn icy or slippery. Subaru’s AWD system continually apportions 50% of the power to the front and 50% to the rear, but can vary depending on which wheels have the most traction. Subaru’s system differs from some AWD systems that run in front-wheel-drive only, and then send torque to the rear wheels when traction is lost. In my opinion, the Subaru system is better.
I have always liked Subaru interiors because there are no gimmicks – just some easily-readable gauges, a nicely-shaped dashboard, and easy-to-use controls. For 2000, the centre dash panel has been moved 30 mm closer to the driver for easier reach of controls, and there’s a new in-dash transmission position indicator and a new digital clock. The shift gate for the automatic transmission lever is now an irregular polished stainless steel gate. It looks nicer, but I prefer the old-fashioned straight-back design because it’s easier to use. Also new for 2000 is a six-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support.
GT models include lacquered woodgrain trim on the dash and console, leather seats, leather shift knob, an AM/FM/CD stereo, and full power conveniences. The front seats offer good lateral support and now have seat heaters with two temperature settings. A new vertically-positioned, pull-out cupholder is positioned on the upper dashboard, and a second cupholder is positioned behind the floor shifter.
New safety features for 2000 include an extra three-point seatbelt and head restraint for the center rear passenger, front seatbelt pretensioners, and ALR/ELR seatbelts at all positions (for use with child seats).
The Legacy GT’s trunk has a wide opening with a low liftover height, a flat floor with two hidden storage trays under the trunk floor, four tie-down hooks, and two hooks for grocery bags. GT’s include a centre pass-through in the rear seat to accommodate skis and long objects, but unlike last year’s Legacy GT, the new model does not offer 60/40 folding rear seatbacks.
On the road, the Legacy GT feels like a well-built car. It’s body feels solid, the suspension offers an excellent combination of ride and handling, and it drives with uncommon ease. It could use more passing power, and I wish there was a fold-down rear seatback, but otherwise this is a handsome, comfortable, economical sedan – with the added benefit of all-wheel-drive.
For more information, see Subaru Canada’s web-site at www.Subaru.ca.