A new ‘flat-six’ 245 PS powerplant is fitted to the Legacy 3.0R saloon and Sports Tourer (estate) plus the Outback 3.0R, giving top speeds of 147 and 139 mph respectively.
These performance flagships have a new five-speed automatic transmission with sequential manual selection and are intended as a tempting trade-up for Impreza WRX owners seeking more space and refinement.
Not to be outdone, the 2.0 litre and 2.5 litre both have more power – now 138 and 165 PS – giving higher top speeds, yet are considerably more economical with figures similar to mainstream two-wheel drive competitors.
For example, the Legacy 2.5i automatic saloon is 7.1 mpg better on the Extra Urban Cycle at 46.3 mpg. Equally impressive is the Legacy 2.0i manual Sports Tourer which records 36.7 mpg on the Combined Cycle – up by 5.7 mpg.
Exhaust emissions show a spectacular reduction, meaning big savings for company car drivers. In fact some Legacys have lower penalties than diesel-engined competitors such as the VW Passat 1.9 TDi PD (130 PS) 4Motion Sport.
The VW estate imposes a 22 per cent tax under Benefit-In-Kind rules for the 2003-2004 tax year while the Subaru Legacy manual 2.0i Sports Tourer is rated at 20 per cent – seven per cent down on the old model.
Even the much-respected new Honda Accord Tourer 2.0i-VTEC SE imposes a 25 per cent surcharge compared to the Legacy’s 20 per cent – despite the Subaru having the active safety advantage of symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.
The reason for such running cost improvements are better aerodynamics of 0.28 Cd for the saloon and 0.30 Cd for Sports Tourers plus a typical weight reduction of 55 kg – equivalent to that of the average woman.
Also helping are many low-friction improvements to the engine and AWD transmission. A new ‘constant pulsation’ exhaust system, for example, provides more power and economy thanks to reduced back-pressure. It also produces a new, sweeter-sounding boxer ‘burble’.
Safety enhancements include active front head-restraints which reduce whiplash injuries during rear-end shunts, dual-mode front airbags which inflate according to the severity of the accident and brake and clutch pedals which effectively snap away under severe impact, protecting the driver’s lower limbs.
All Legacy and Outback models also have side airbags large enough to protect the head and chest and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD). Curtain airbags are standard or optional on many models.
In addition, both front seats have quick-reacting pre-tensioners with load-limiters, while the rear seat offers the extra protection of a centre, thee-point seat belt and – for very young children – two outer ISOFIX standard locking devices. This allows the easy fitment – and reduced movement – of a child safety seat.
Subaru UK-inspired security measures range from deadlocks, keyless entry and shielded door locks to a sophisticated Thatcham Category One alarm and immobiliser. These initiatives plus easier-to-repair accident-damage parts should result in competitive insurance premiums.
Prices will be announced nearer the November on-sale date.Published 20 September 2003