If you are shopping for an executive car these days the default choice seems to be something German – something with the smallest engine you can find and perhaps an automatic transmission so that you don’t get deep vein thrombosis whilst sitting on the M50. All of these German barges are fine cars in their own right, but they have puny engines and none are exciting. But that is about all you can have for in and around the €50,000 mark if you want to stay with mainstream brands. But perhaps you’re not quite ready to settle into the executive car segment just yet and you want something with a little bit of naughtiness. Well, this car might be just the thing.
Subaru’s Legacy will probably feature in Conor Twomey’s underrated/overrated series at some point, because it is one of those cars that is largely ignored by most people because it is seen as just being a family vehicle, but at the top of the range, the Spec B version offers the performance of Subaru’s lmpreza with all the creature comforts of a high-end luxury car. Previous versions have been good but not great, and this was especially true of the automatic version. But this new version has the firm’s new Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive). This system allows the driver to maximise engine performance, control and efficiency by choosing one of three selectable modes – ‘Intelligent’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport Sharp’ – using a rotary dial on the centre console. The SI-Drive controls the electronic throttle system’s response and fuel and ignition curves to modify engine torque characteristics, changing the performance character of the car in each mode.
‘Intelligent’ mode is ideal for normal driving, in traffic etc., as there is a more relaxed throttle response and reduced engine torque and maximum power. ‘Sport’ mode gives a quicker throttle response, ideal for longer, more open roads like motorways. ‘Sport Sharp’ gives incredibly potent throttle response and the effect is massive. All 3.0-litre autos now come with paddle shifters for manual gear changes and these work really well, allowing you to hold a gear right up to 7,000 rpm. Power is supplied by a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder horizontally opposed engine that puts out 245bhp and 297Nm of torque. 0-100km/h takes 6.9 seconds and the top speed is 243km/h. What is most impressive about this car is its handling, however. It is incredibly responsive to steering inputs and the grip is sensational. Even in miserable conditions, it’s impossible to upset this AWD Legacy. And, like the Impreza, it is not overly firm and feels really easy to drive on even the poorest roads. It’s an easy car to live with, too, with plenty of boot and interior space. Our model had all the bells and whistles attached, and was the equal in equipment of a €70,000 German car. On the negative side, this Legacy has a raging thirst. Whatever the figures (11.7 l/100km combined) might say, this road tester spent a serious amount of time and money at the petrol pump. The thing is that on a back road you simply have to drive this car with gusto. It begs to be driven. And there is also the worry that this rather expensive Subaru will not hold its value so well. A true enthusiast won’t be overly bothered by this, however, and anyone who does take a punt on this car will be very happy indeed.
Subaru Legacy Spec B
Engine 3,000cc 6-cyl, 245bhp,
Boot Capacity 433 litres
Acceleration 0-100km/h 6.9 seconds
Top speed 243 km/h
Transmission: 6-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Economy 11.7 litres/100km