Let’s face it: Subaru isn’t known for building physically attractive automobiles. Their products are the automotive equivalent of the “butter face” girl: everything is great “but her” face. Fortunately, the new Legacy GT (LGT) avoids the brand’s heavy-handed airplane-inspired refreshes, or the new Tribeca’s po-faced Pacifica pandering. The Legacy GT’s not-so-B9 makeover puts the model in prime position for the legions of more mature automotive enthusiasts desperately seeking Subie.
With redesigned headlights and taillights and a larger, chrome-ified grille opening, the LGT looks like an edgier, more aggressive Camry (before Toyota beat it with an ugly stick). The LGT’s hood scoop is a restrained version of the STi’s gi-nomous nasal passage. The equally undemonstrative aerodynamic addendum doesn’t invite Civic-driving young’uns to a stoplight race.
More signs you’re in a Subie designed for grownups: the LGT’s portals close with a Germanic whumph. Subaru’s also replaced the nasty ass plastic blighting their rally replicars and off-roaders with soft touch polymers, though the quality has dropped slightly since the ‘05 update. The LGT’s eminently grippable, leather-wrapped steering wheel and moderately bolstered leather seats are a cut above the WRX’. In short, while the LGT’s cabin won’t keep Audi’s haptic hit squad up at night, Volvo knows who’s eating their lunch.
To help justify sticker escalation, Subie’s added a standard telescoping wheel, front/rear climate control and [optional] memory seats and navigation. More basically, the LGT’s astonishingly large front cupholders can accommodate your Big Gulp, sunglasses, cell phone and iPod with room to spare. The door’s equally outsized grab handles add a wikkid— and useful— touch.
The LGT’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is a detuned (smaller turbo) version of the STi’s bonkers powerplant. Subaru attempted to remediate the sluggish nature of their five-speed automatic by providing the “Subaru Intelligent Drive” system, or rather, the “Slow, Interfering Drive” system. The frugal-friendly “Intelligent” setting generates a flatter torque curve. “Sport” and “Sharp” dial it up a notch, providing access to all 243 horses and more acceptable go-pedal response.
If you really want to see ‘er fly, stick to the manual. Even on Sport Sharp, the automatic is over a second slower to sixty from rest. Even shiny new paddle-shifters and rev-matched downshifting can’t fix the harsh reality of a sluggish slushbox. Subaru needs to take a cue from VW, call up Borg Warner and bless the LGT with a DSG paddle shift gearbox or similar.
Symmetrical all-wheel drive provides all-areas access to the four-door’s thrust, helping it to rapidly outpace similarly-powered FWD cars (I’m looking at you Mazdaspeed3). The LGT’s accelerative head rush and throaty exhaust growl are addictive enough to render turbo lag forgivable, if not forgettable.
Fast? During a trip through the mountains, only another LGT (with local knowledge) could show us a clean set of tailpipes. Fun? See: previous sentence. If the previous LGT stuck to the road like a sucker fish to a stone, the new model adds a dab of super glue. For ’08, Subaru fitted A-pillar braces and stiffer bushings. The more rigid body and tighter suspension endow the LGT with almost STi-quality handling– though the LGT’s long body occasionally gives corner carvers the unsettling feeling that the rear end is about to beat them to the finish line.
While there’s enough body roll at speed to encourage queasy passengers to check the rear seat pockets for a barf bag, daily driving is a doddle, with excellent composure over moderate lumps and bumps. The LGT’s steering is light and responsive, providing excellent road feel. The previously mushy brake pedal provides ample stopping power, but you won’t want to.
Speaking of Volvo, safety is now one of Subaru’s main selling points. While you can’t fault the LGT’s official crash test ratings (five stars all round), electronic alphabet soup (ABS, EBD, VDC, TCS, TPMS, plus LSD in the spec.B), passenger safety cell or full complement of airbags (side curtains for all), there’s a big old chink in the LGT’s armor: tires.
The LGT’s all-season Potenza RE92’s give pistonheads all the dry pavement death grip they’ll ever need. On snow pack or ice, it’s an entirely different story– without a guaranteed happy ending. This website has said it many times: even the world’s best four-wheel drive system– and Subie’s certainly qualifies for that honor– is no substitute for proper winter footwear. Full stop. Or not, as the case may be.
When the fourth-generation LGT was released, it was America’s best-value sub-$50k sporting sedan– especially when you considered its all-wheel drive. The LGT’s punch also made it a suitable STi alternative for penny pinching hoons. With laudable entries like the Mazdaspeed6 undercutting the LGT’s steadily-increasing price ($33k as tested), buyers may wonder if the LGT is worth the price of admission. It is. From the driver’s seat at least, the LGT is a genuine stunner.