2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Chris Chase

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Ottawa, Ontario – Are station wagons still cool?

Some of us think so. I certainly do, having professed my love for this body style when I sampled BMW’s latest 3-series Touring last winter. But few automakers still offer traditional wagons, the thinking being that most buyers would rather have a “crossover” vehicle, one that combines wagon utility with the tall body and all-wheel drive functionality of an SUV.

Take a closer look at some examples of this latest breed of segment-busters, and something becomes apparent: while the swoopy bodywork of cars like the Subaru B9 Tribeca, Mazda CX-7 and Acura RDX are very attractive, the raked rooflines cut into cargo capacity. Need more space? Buy a bigger crossover!

The good thing about a traditional wagon roofline is that it stretches way back to an upright tailgate. Geeky maybe, but very useful.

2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon. Click image to enlarge

The latest generation of the mid-sized Legacy, introduced in 2005, stays that course. Few could call this an ugly car, but its exterior looks come in second after function – specifically the usefulness of the large cargo area: 949 litres large with the rear seats in place, and 1,874 with the rear chairs folded down. While the seats don’t fold perfectly flat, the seatbacks at least are level with the cargo floor when they’re flopped. The result is a long, wide and flat cargo area. There’s a handy, shallow stash space under the cargo floor, and a couple of cubbies in the sides, behind the rear wheel wells.

Along with 2005’s styling update, Subaru opted to back up the GT trim level moniker with some substance, dropping a turbocharged version of its 2.5-litre flat-four engine under the hood. With 243 horsepower, the 2.5GT now has the balls to at least keep up with V6-equipped versions of other mid-size cars. A five-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, but our tester had the optional five-speed automatic. The 2.5GT also gets a limited slip rear differential to further augment Subaru’s formidable all-wheel drive system.

The turbocharged motor is very strong, though it’s not as smooth as some competitors’ V6s, namely those with a Honda or Toyota badge on the engine cover. Subaru’s done a good job, however, at muting the unconventional thrum of its horizontally-opposed engines, which in older Subies, was reminiscent of the Briggs and Stratton on your father’s riding lawnmower.

2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon; Si-Drive selector can be seen in bottom right of second photo. Click image to enlarge

Engine noise is minimal, but did Subaru go too far? Even at full scoot, the motor is barely audible. Maybe buyers who opt for the automatic tranny won’t mind, but those who stick with a stickshift might appreciate more aural cues of what the engine is doing.

Throttle tip-in is very smooth, too. Subaru’s new SI-Drive system, which allows the driver to change how the engine responds to throttle inputs, can be switched to a “Sport-sharp” mode that makes it possible to launch the car more aggressively. Forget to move the knob back to the default “Sport” mode, though, and you’ll find it hard to pull away smoothly. There’s also an “Intelligent” mode that dulls throttle response and makes it feel as though you’re driving with the parking brake engaged. Subaru claims that this “may” help reduce fuel consumption, but a light foot is a much simpler tool to accomplish this.

Maybe that “Intelligent” mode is Subaru’s way of trying to improve the Legacy’s real-world fuel consumption: despite Natural Resources Canada ratings of about 12 L/100 km (city) and 8.3 L/100 km (highway), the best I was able to do was about 15 L/100 km in the city and 10 L/100 km on a highway road trip at speeds ranging from 110 to 120 km/h. With the GT’s turbocharged motor, that’s Premium fuel you’re burning, too. Eeek.

2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon. Click image to enlarge

There was an occasional stumble from the engine when pulling away from stoplights; once the car actually stalled, making me wonder if there was something wonky with the electronic throttle control.

Otherwise, the car performed wonderfully, with strong acceleration, solid handling and a very smooth ride, particularly on the highway. On rough city roads, the ride verged on being too harsh, though I imagine the non-GT model rides on softer suspenders. The GT’s leather seats are very comfortable and perfectly suited to long drives, though this car isn’t as roomy as others in the class. Blame the longitudinal engine and transmission layout, which cuts into driver and front passenger foot space. In the back, headroom is decent, but legroom isn’t class-leading; one (quite) tall passenger found getting in and out of the rear seat to be an awkward procedure. Despite not being a little car, the Legacy’s seats are very low; drivers who like the high-up seating of an SUV or minivan will likely be turned off by this, though it will no doubt appeal to drivers who have to store their low-slung sports car in the garage for the winter.

For music lovers, another annoying rear-seat aspect is the placement of the rear speakers. They’re mounted in the rear doors, way down where they wind up being obscured by passengers’ legs and can’t sing as loud as we would have liked. Otherwise, the stereo is terrific, even if steering wheel audio controls were conspicuous by their absence in a car with a starting MSRP of just under $42,000 (my tester came out to $45,289 including the automatic transmission, XM radio and freight charges).

2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon
2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon. Click image to enlarge

Another thing I thought Subaru could have thrown in for all that cash is stability control, like the Vehicle Dynamic Control available in the top-end Outback. At least ABS is included (as it is in all Subarus) and side and side-curtain airbags are standard, too. But not even Subaru’s all-wheel drive system can prevent a major skid on slippery winter roads if the driver doesn’t know how to correct it themselves.

The Legacy is a great car in many ways, but I’m not sure that this car is worth more than $45,000; a Mazda6 Sport Wagon, albeit it a bit less cargo space and a 215-horsepower V6, goes for $37,795 with automatic transmission and a navigation system.

It seems clear that Subaru isn’t quite ready to ditch its unconventional ways just to achieve the mainstream status enjoyed by most of its competitors. Or maybe it simply hasn’t yet figured out how.


Pricing: 2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon


Specifications

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  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Mazda6 wagon
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 VW Passat wagon


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