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View the cars in our FastSaloons' Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us Subaru Legacy 2.5i SE RoadtestDate:10/05/2005   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests Subaru Legacy 2.5i SE Road test


Subaru Legacy 2.5i SE

Our Thoughts
We were expecting the 3.0-litre spec B so can the 2.5i SE punch above its weight or will it aggravate and disappoint.



Subaru is aiming high with its new Legacy, the target being the prestige European brands. New styling and higher quality interiors are the start, combined with a sporty driver focused experience.

New styling involves the use of a deep grille and headlamps that cut into the top of the front bumper to emphasise the low centre of gravity. The cars width has increased by 35mm and now uses greater curvature between the door handles and the side mirrors. The added width means an increase in the track, which helps fill-out the wheel arches and helps create a squat, muscular stance.The additional curvature is followed through onto the front wings and the use of strong creases on the bonnet and down onto the front bumper. The rear is curved including the rear tail lamps again to improve the cars dynamic looks.

The looks aren’t merely skin deep either the effect of these designs is to give the car an impressive 0.28Cd figure. Underneath the use of special engine covers and wheel flaps also contribute to this figure.

Typical Subaru design cues of frameless doors are still a feature. Side indicator repeaters are now neatly placed in the bottom of the side mirrors.

Unusually the new Legacy is actually lighter (c. 55Kg) than the outgoing model. This is thanks to using high-strength, high-tensile steel panels. In fact their 45% adoption is the highest ever in a production car. Combined with this is the use of an aluminium bonnet, which assists handling by reducing ‘polar-moment-of inertia’ by reducing the weight at the car’s extremities. Aluminium is also used for the suspension arms and steering support beam.

Subaru looked at but quickly rejected using an all-aluminium body. It was felt it was an over the top way of addressing weight loss. They felt it was far better to use a combination of materials best suited for the different requirements of the individual parts of the car. In fact this combination allowed strengthening to be used only where needed. The result is that body-bending rigidity is increased by 14%, body-twisting rigidity is increased by 5% and front lateral bending rigidity is enhanced by 10%. Also front suspension mounts were found to be 30% stronger and parts of the rear suspension are as much as 300% stronger.

At the heart of any Subaru is the boxer engine range. Like the rest of the car, it has undergone significant development. In fact the engines are now offering the same fuel economy and emissions as two-wheel drive cars. In order to achieve this 80% of the components have been changed. The changes include the use of hollow camshafts, lighter cylinder heads with optimised intake and exhaust airflow, thinner but more precisely machined cylinder liners and new crankshafts with sintered journals. The result is not only the consumption and emission improvements but also increased refinement and reduced noise. The car also benefits from an electronic fly-by-wire throttle control system which gives an instant response to even small accelerator movement as well as improving economy.

Another fundamental change is the use of an all-new exhaust system which greatly enhances low to mid-speed torque and gives higher power outputs with reduced noise. Subaru have called this new exhaust system ‘constant pulsation’, and it uses equal length exhaust pipes to avoid gas flow interference. On the four-cylinder models the pipes are of a 4-2-1 configuration. A by-product of the new system is a totally new ‘boxer’ engine sound which is still distinctive but lighter and sweeter with reduced low-frequency ‘burble’.

The new car gets an improved version of the previous platform, itself all-new in 1998. The changes are:
  • Lower engine and transmission – The boxer engine has been lowered by 22mm and the front differential by 10mm. This not only reduces the already low centre of gravity but also cuts frictional losses and aides refinement by making the AWD drivetrain even straighter.
  • Wider tracks, lower roll centres – for enhanced grip and reduced body roll.
  • Reinforced rear suspension mounts – for reduced noise and greater straight line stability
  • Sharper turn-in, more front end grip – thanks to thoroughly revised front suspension and steering system.

    These changes include:
  • Front wheel castors have been increased to a unusually large 6 degrees, this has the effect of keeping the outside wheel more in contact with the road.
  • A special damper valve has been fitted that reduces kick-back during hard cornering on uneven surfaces.
  • A new low-hysteresis cannon mount for the steering gearbox plus a smaller diameter steering wheel (reduced by 10mm)


    Exterior Styling


    Sleek styling well thought out
    Although the new Legacy launched in 2004 it is still a relatively rare sight on the roads. In fact I can only remember seeing two examples on the road. So when the silver Legacy 2.5i SE arrived I had plenty of looking to do. The car’s shape is actually very effective, it combines looking classy and purposeful, yet has a certainly amount of anonymity. There is a bit of IS200 in there, obviously some Subaru DNA, but on the whole the car looks familiar, non-offensive and certain has nothing that shouts out. It will blend in and not look out of place next to Mercedes and Audis. At the same time it can provoke a curious reaction as people realise they aren’t quite sure what it is. For someone who enjoys cars but doesn’t want to let the world in on their secret the Legacy is the perfect cover. I also thought the car would make a great police or villains car, very capable but able to blend into it’s surroundings

    The car is in the middle of the small Legacy range slotting above the 2.0 and below the 3.0. However it gets most of the styling cues of the 3.0 – with two circular exhausts poking out of each side of the rear, plus the low front bumper and Striking 5-spoke alloys. The car as tested also had no visible markings to denote which model it was. I like this approach it matches the rest of the car that is also understated.

    So the overall reaction to the exterior is good.


    Interior Styling

      Given my own experiences of Subaru interiors (from my own 98 Subaru Sti 4, and our recent test of the latest Sti PPP) the suprises continued when I opened the car. The car actually looks very good inside. The materials used are a definite improvement, so too is the overall layout of the front.


    Best ever Subaru interior. Trick Dashboard at start-up
    The Legacy range has three trim levels that are available. The standard is found in the 2.5i, then there is an enhanced SE spec as tested here and finally the 2.5i SEn which basically adds satellite navigation.

    In standard trim, even the entry level 2.0i gives you climate controlled air conditioning, speed sensitive intermittent wipers, alloy wheels, radio/CD player, front and side airbags, electric windows and a Thatcham Cat 1 alarm/immobiliser.

    In the SE trim the car gets full leather seats, heated front seats, door mirrors and windscreen de-icer, curtain airbags, electric sun-roof, cruise control and 8-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat.

    The car also has a party piece. When you switch on the ignition all the needles on the dash fly to their maximum settings and then return to zero. This looks really cool and never ceases to put a smile on your face.

    You can also fool your friends that you did a ridiculous speed if you take a picture at the right moment.


    Ride, Handling & Steering


    Subaru chassis prowess but this time with new degrees of comfort
    It is hard to believe that this car shares the same underpinnings as the Impreza. Which even in its current guise (that is pretty refined given it’s ability), is not exactly an obvious starting point for an executive car. However this car manages something I wasn’t sure it could, that is to combine a fun sporty drive with a refined ride. The Legacy is a proper grown up saloon and it is incredibly refined for an all wheel drive car. The ride is well on par with the best saloons and whats more the car handles really well too.

    So for me the car is a revelation, it has the abilities of a real Subaru with the comfort of an executive class car. The result is the car is very enjoyable to drive and in our league this will raise it well above its peers.

    Handling wise the car is very stable, it feels fluid and can be navigated down twisty roads without losing its composure. Roll is quite small and only when push do you sense the laws of nature coming into effect. The car will, if pushed hard, understeer. In the real world, on a real road most people would be able to push the car quite hard without ever noticing this.

    Steering is also very good, a little soft but providing direct control and decent feedback.


    Engine, Gearbox and Performance

      The car gets a revised 2.5 litre all-alloy, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine. This new engine provides 163bhp at 5,600rpm and 167lb ft of torque at 4,400rpm. The result is a 0-60mph time of 8.9seconds and a top speed of 133mph in the manual form tested here. If you were to plum for the automatic the 0-60 time slips beyond the ten seconds mark to 10.4 seconds and top speed is a slightly reduced 130mph.


    Modest Power well delivered and cleverly utilised
    What is important and something raw figures prove wholly unable to do is tell you what the cars is like to drive. So even though the figures don’t sound that impressive, and even if the car is not the fastest around it is still good fun to drive, it feels quick when it matters and sounds purposeful at the same time. In a straight line you won’t win all the time, but across country the combination of great predictable handling and well place power means it will cover ground in a not too shabby time and will certainly not be far behind more point and squirt cars.

    The gearbox is also simple to use and has no flaws that would detract from the overall experience. Five speed also seems to suit the engine and whilst the spec B gets a six speed you don’t feel like this car loses out.




      The cars layout ensures that there is decent legroom for passengers in the front and the rear. Good adjustment for the driver through electric seat.

    Thirsty certainly, but not quite the George Best we were expecting.
    Boot space is 433 litres, which puts it on par with the Rover 75/MG ZT and slightly smaller than the last generation 3 Series.

    Economy wise Subaru wanted to provide all wheel drive benefits with similar costs to two wheel drive economy. So the 2.5i SE manages 24.8mpg on the urban cycle, 44.1 on the extra urban cycle and a resultant combined figure of 34.4mpg. looking at our economy league tables they are pretty good figures putting it squarely against the Toyota Avensis 2.0 VV-i T3 and the MG ZT 1.8T and close to other 2.0 litre petrol engined cars not too mention some of the larger diesel engined ones.

    Emissions ?

    It is also worth noting that Subaru has gone to great lengths to make owning their cars a far less costly experience too. By reducing the costs of spare parts and extending service intervals.



      At £20,250 the 2.5i SE Legacy fits between the 2.0i S (£17,985) and the 3.0R Spec B (£26,750). If you added satellite navigation, which was not fitted to the test car, the price would rise to £23,000. This puts the Legacy in direct competition with Audi A4 2.0 FSI; Honda Accord Type-S or i-CDTi; Volvo S40 T5 and Ford Mondeo Zetec S to name a few. Out of those our favourite was the Accord and for a front wheel drive car it was excellent fun to drive. However the lure of all wheel drive is a strong one and therefore the Legacy also rates very high. With only £500 between them the Accord vs. Legacy decision may prove difficult and will most likely come down to looks and other aspects rather than the actual drive.

    For me the Legacy is a car that you can own without making a big song and dance. It looks good, but doesn’t rub peoples noses in it. The Legacy does not shout out on the road, quietly performing its very capable act without drawing attention to itself. A perfect Q car in other words. So if you are looking for a car which delivers a fun drive and avoids making ‘a statement’ then the Legacy may be for you.

    Related Links:         
    Our Review of the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti type-UK PPP

    Our own Subaru Impreza Sti 4

    Full Set of Photos taken during the test

    Subaru's UK website

    Quick Section Links:         
    1. Background
    2. Exterior Styling
    3. Interior Styling
    4. Ride, Handling and Steering
    5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
    6. Practicality
    7. Conclusion

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