2009 Subaru Legacy Spec BPosted on December 30th, 2008
Rally cup technology adds spice to Subaru’s all-wheel drive heritage.
By Nina Russin
The Legacy started out as Subaru’s luxury sedan. While the six-cylinder Limited model continues to fill that square, the automaker has added a high-performance Spec B grade to appeal to driving enthusiasts.
A turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers more spirited performance than the naturally aspirated six cylinder. The Spec B is the only Legacy available with a six-speed manual transmission, giving the driver better control of the engine.
A software program called SI Drive modifies throttle response to match the driver’s style and the terrain. The intelligent setting has the softest throttle response for driving in wet weather or to conserve fuel, while the sport sharp mode maximizes torque. The sport setting fills the middle space, combining quick throttle response with better fuel economy.
Wolf in sheep’s clothing
Part of the Legacy Spec B’s appeal is that it doesn’t look like a tuner car. With the exception of its functional hood scoop and larger wheels, the exterior is the same as the more sedate 3.0R grade.
The five-passenger sedan also offers more interior space than the rally-inspired WRX. The Legacy Spec B can take the boss and his cohorts out to lunch on Friday, and go club racing at the track over the weekend.
Turbocharged engines offer environmentally-conscious drivers a lot to love, because they burn fuel more efficiently and reduce emissions. An exhaust-driven blower forces air into the engine, enhancing its power, and reducing the amount of unspent fuel that comes out of the exhaust.
Turbocharging significantly improves high-altitude performance as well, by increasing the flow of oxygen through the engine. Engines are like athletes: the better they breathe, the faster they can go. Turbines gives small engines the power of much bigger ones, improving the car’s power-to-weight ratio.
The six-speed manual transmission includes a reverse lock-out ring for racing. Gears have ample range for stop-and-go driving. The clutch has enough pedal feel for the track, while being light enough for the daily commuter.
Visibility all the way around the car is excellent. I was impressed by how easily I was able to see cars in the rear corner of the driver’s side: an area often obscured by the car’s rear pillars.
A Bilstein sport suspension keeps the chassis flat in the corners. Eighteen-inch wheels with low profile tires provide large contact patches with the ground. The Spec B comes with four-wheel disc brakes and four-channel antilock braking.
Exceptional winter performance
People who live in the snow belt will find the sporty Legacy an especially appealing package, since all-wheel drive is standard. The car’s boxer engine is inherently balanced, helping the driver to maintain control of the car on wet and snow-covered roads.
Summer performance tires come standard on the Spec B. Since the tires are designed specifically for warm weather driving, buyers who plan on driving in the snow should expect to fork out some extra cash for winter tires and a set of inexpensive wheels to mount them on.
Standard vehicle dynamics control and traction control prevent excessive wheel spin, and monitor the car for excessive yaw. If the driver starts to lose control, the computer automatically cuts engine power and uses the brakes to get the car tracking straight again.
The Legacy can comfortable hold four adults. The outboard second-row seats have a surprising amount of legroom. A tunnel through the floor and the center console bin severely limit room in the middle seating position.
Alcantara seat inserts hold passengers in place when the driver drops the hammer. Both front seats also have aggressive side bolsters. A cold weather package adds front seat heaters, heated outside mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.
The steering wheel is relatively small, making it easier for women to use. A tilt and telescoping function allows smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.
Redundant audio and cruise control settings on the steering wheel keep the driver focused on the road. The driver can use paddles to switch the SI drive system between modes, as well as a rotary knob on the center console.
The center stack is well configured for both front passengers. A DVD-based navigation system is standard on the Legacy Spec B, as is an upscale Harmon Kardon audio system. A Sirius satellite radio kit adds $456 to the base price.
For whatever reason, the radio didn’t work particularly well in the test car. I’ve learned to expect the signal to cut out when the car passes under bridges or goes through a tunnel, but this one cut out more than most, often when there was no obvious obstruction.
Dual temperature controls allow both front passengers to find a comfortable temperature. There are plenty of cupholders and small cubbies for both rows of passengers. The glovebox has an extra shelf to hold the owner’s manual and registration documents, freeing up space for maps and other paperwork in the main part of the bin.
The Legacy’s trunk is too small to hold a bicycle, but large enough for golf bags, luggage and groceries. A storage area under the cargo floor has small compartments for stashing valuables out of sight. Optional cargo nets add smaller spaces to either side of the trunk for grocery bags and other small parcels.
Fuel economy for the Spec B averages about twenty miles-per-gallon for city and highway driveway. The turbocharged engine requires premium fuel.
Subaru builds the Legacy at its assembly plant in Lafayette, Indiana.
Likes: A high-performance, all-wheel drive car with enough interior space for four passengers. The Spec B is a great choice for driving enthusiasts who need all-wheel drive for winter driving.
Dislikes: Satellite radio on the test car cut out a lot.
Model: Legacy Spec B
Base price: $34,595
As tested: $35,780
Horsepower: 243 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 241 lbs.-ft. @ 3600 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Comments: Base price does not include a $665 delivery charge.
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