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View the cars in our FastSaloons' Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us Subaru Legacy 3.0R spec B RoadtestDate:04/10/2005   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests Subaru Legacy 3.0R spec B Roadtest


Subaru Legacy 3.0R spec B

Our Thoughts
The eagerly waited Legacy flagship has finally arrived. Will it live up to expectations and the standards set by its lesser sibling the 2.5i se.

A hard weeks driving including a wedding in Cornwall should certain prove things one way or the other.



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 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 spec B the pipes are of a 6-2-1 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)

    In addition the spec B gets front MacPherson inverted stuts, similar to those fitted to the Impreza Sti. And a heavily revised close ratio six-speed manual gearbox, again based on the one found in the Impreza Sti.


    Exterior Styling


    Subtle is not the word.
    We remarked at the lack of new-style Legacys on the road when we review the 2.5i SE. Since then I think I have now seen 3 cars on my various travels around. What that means is you have an eye-catching car. Which is no bad thing, it will also make you feel different too and everyone likes that feeling.

    The spec B arrived and initially there is little to differentiate it to the rest of the range. On closer inspection as there are a couple of tell-tale clues: the front diffuser has fog lights and wider slatted side vents; and the radiator grille is embellished with a chrome surround. However, that where it ends as from the rear and side there are no visual differences apart from different alloy wheels. Given that this car also features no model designation anywhere on its exterior you are certainly hiding the fact you bought the flagship Legacy model.

    So if you want to impress people you’ll have to make sure the car comes fully badged. For me though, I keep things as they are now, no need to shout about things is there.

    The dark metallic blue looks fabulous and suits the Legacy’s shape.


    Interior Styling

      As we found in the 2.5 Subaru has made great improvements inside its cars. The spec levels on this car are high as you’d expect from the top model in the range. So heated electric leather seats, Sat nav, aircon, multifunction steering wheel, cruise control etc is all there.


    Best ever Subaru interior. Trick Dashboard at start-up
    To differentiate it from lesser models the car has a different dash. Rather than having the attractive dials we saw in the 2.5i SE, the spec gets a lit red surround around each dial. The dash has the same trick we saw the 2.5 where it flicks all the dials to the maximum on startup. This never fails to make you smile as the revs climb to 8,000 and the speedo reaches 160mph. All this before the engine has even fired up. As well as the dash the car also gets rubber studded aluminium pedals.

    I can happily state that the sat nav in this car is the best we have tested. Combining a straightforward interface and maximising the benefits of its touch screen. It was both simple to use and clear to follow.

    Overall the interior matches the exterior in that it has a couple of subtle changes to distinguish the spec B model . This contrast to the WRX / STi Imprezas that can hardly be called subtle, but it totally the right move for the Legacy, the grown-up Impreza.


    Ride, Handling & Steering


    Subaru chassis prowess but this time with new degrees of comfort
    We raved about the 2.5’s ability to share Impreza like handling with improved refinement and comfort. We weren’t sure what the spec B would attempt to do or undo. In fact the spec B felt very similar to the 2.5 although it felt stiffer and a little more focused.

    Our journey down and across the country to Cornwall included about as much variety as England can throw at you. Motorways, dual carriageways, A-roads, B-roads and whatever comes after that. Certainly the nearer we got to the final destination the further from civilization we seemed to get. Whatever the ‘road’-type, or the condition it was in, the spec B was enjoyable to drive and combined cruisability with chuckability. At the end of the 7-hour journey, don’t you just love traffic jams, both my wife and I felt stress free and relaxed.

    On the twisty stuff the Legacy has all the benefits from great all-wheel-drive traction as well as sharp handling. The engine feels gutsy and it bolts out of corners with great verve.

    Steering-wise the setup is good, on the soft side but with reasonable feel.


    Engine, Gearbox and Performance

      At the heart of the Spec B is a revised version of the H6 3.0-litre six-cylinder horizontally opposed boxer. The engine produces 242 bhp (180Kw/245ps) at 6,600rpm and 219lb ft (297 Nm) at 4,200rpm. This is enough to ensure the car posts a 6.5 second zero to sixty time, it also gives the car a 151mph top speed.


    Modest Power well delivered and cleverly utilised
    Improvements to the engine include the use of active valve control for the intake air and variable valve lift. The engine also features an electronic throttle, re-profiled pistons, a lighter and quieter crankshaft as well as a 3-port 6-2-1 exhuast system that boosts power and lowers emissions.

    In practice the powerplant gives solid performance, not blisteringly quick but fast enough. We did not have chance to do our normal performance tests but the main thing about the car is it feels where it matters.

    The engine note is entertaining but muted. The familiar boxer burble is maintained too.

    The spec-B gets a six-speed close-ratio manual gearbox which is based on the one fitted to the iconic Impreza WRX Sti. Although over fifty percent of the parts are new such as the casing and gear teeth. These changes necessary in order to suit the character of the car. In fact the gear teeth go through a special honing process in which they are polished. This in addition to the use of a synchroniser sleeve help reduce engine-induced gearshift vibrations.

    As with the Impreza the gearbox is very easy to use. A key thing for driving regardless if you are cruising on the motorway or blasting down a b-road. The movement is slick and positive. The levels of refinement are good too.




      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.

    The new engine is quoted as producing economy figures of 16.5mpg for the urban cycle, 32.8mpg for extra urban and a final combined figure of 24.1mpg.

    On the environmental side of things the car is rated at 280 g/km.

    Subaru has gone to great length to make owning one a far less costly experience too. By reducing the costs of spare parts and extending service intervals.



      When I reviewed the Legacy 2.5i SE I wrote: '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.'

    The spec-B amazingly proves to be as subtle as the 2.5i SE, as we noted externally there is very little to differentiate the two. Some will find this unacceptable; others will ensure steps are taken to illustrate the spec-B real character. Either way the car is a neat package combining all the aspects that make driving enjoyable at the same time as have the luxury saloon qualities too.

    At £26,750 the Spec B is not cheap and it also competes with serious competition from all sides; BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Volvo, Saab etc. etc. The first four will jump up once you add the same spec and so are really more expensive than the Legacy. That leaves the likes of Volvo, Saab, Ford, Honda etc The Legacy competes well in terms of spec; in terms of performance and in terms of enjoyment. Of the cars we have tested, which is now most of them, the Legacy spec B stacks up well and it should definitely be included in your shortlist.

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

    Our Review of the Subaru Legacy 2.5i SE

    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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