Coup for the road

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 January, 2010, 12:00am

To mark the Legacy's 20th anniversary, Subaru has given the fifth generation of its popular mid-range sedan a comprehensive rethink for 2010.

Subaru's engineers say they have raised the bar with the new series, incorporating the marque's signature handling and performance into what they describe as a 'bold new package', offering more luxury, power and safety.

The new range now includes the Legacy 2.5GT sedan, wagon and Outback 2.5i soft-roader, each boasting larger dimensions, seats and cargo capacity - and all with new drivetrains and radical new body styling.

In true Subaru fashion, the new Legacy's external makeover offers a quirky amalgam of boxy lines, flattened curves and flared wheel-arches. While it's far from subtle, the new Legacy makes a sporting statement with HID headlamps, front fog-lamps, side skirts, twin exhausts and 18-inch alloys.

The 2.5GT sedan and wagon feature a new five-speed automatic transmission all-wheel-drive system that Subaru says distributes engine torque to all four wheels more efficiently and a new dual active valve control system that optimises camshaft timing to improve fuel efficiency and power output.

The Outback 2.5i features a new continuous variable transmission system that improves the engine's performance and efficiency and a faster response to throttle input. Subaru says the system helps maintain the most favourable revving range at any driving speed, providing a balance of power and fuel economy and helping to make the Outback the most frugal of the three models in the range.

The sedan and wagon feature Subaru's SI-Drive, offering intelligent, sport and sport-sharp modes - ranging from a fuel-efficient city driving mode, a setting for highway driving and an enhanced sports mode that sharpens the responses from Subaru's honed 280 brake horsepower, flat-four, boxer engine.

The Legacy's new interior is well specified, with adjustable leather seats, a telescopic steering column, keyless entry and push-button engine start as standard. The Legacy sports Subaru's excellent new five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift, a central information display, a six-CD, six-speaker entertainment system with steering-wheel mounted audio controls and a dual-zone climate control system.

In the safety stakes, the 2010 Legacy has earned international recognition, receiving top five-star ratings in both the Australian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) and the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP).

The new range also features an integral, ring-shaped reinforcement frame, which Subaru says provides a higher impact-absorbing capacity in every direction, and each model comes equipped with dual front, side and curtain air bags.

Improved safety performance and driving control come in the form of the vehicle dynamics control system, and a newly-developed cradle engine mounting system that reduces vibration and noise and provides better stability for a more refined ride.

The Legacy has double-wishbone suspension at the rear and MacPherson struts up front. These, combined with Bilstein shock absorbers all round, help ensure driving comfort and reassuring grip and handling.

Out on the road, all these trademark Subaru qualities are immediately apparent. The punchy flat-four provides plenty of torque and is most effective in sport-sharp mode, with stiffened dampers and higher gear ratios lending a surprising amount of gusto to the big sedan.

Even though the engine is undoubtedly the star of the show, the new paddle-shift transmission works well to channel the power on tap, making short work up through the gears and offering a pleasing blip on the down-change in true Subaru rally fashion. Sprightly though it may be, the Legacy remains a luxury sedan at heart, more like the Honda Accord (HK$326,000) than Mazda's 6S, which, at HK$265,900, is considerably cheaper, and easier on the eye.

AT A GLANCE: Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT

What drives it? A 2,457cc 16-valve horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder, inter-cooled and turbocharged DOHC engine married to a five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift.

How fast is it? It has a top speed of 260km/h.

How safe is it? The Euro NCAP five-star rated Legacy sports an integral reinforced sub-frame with side-door beams, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, a vehicle dynamics control system, dual front, side and curtain air bags, a hill-hold function and an electronic parking brake.

How thirsty is it? It drinks 11.2 litres per 100 kilometres of petrol on a combined cycle.

How clean is it? The Legacy spews 207g/km of carbon dioxide.

Available: The Subaru Legacy 2.5GT sedan and wagon cost HK$348,000 and HK$368,000 respectively. The Legacy Outback 2.5i is HK$298,000. All models come with a 96-month/160,000 kilometre warranty from Motor Image (HK) (tel: 2575 6995).