Subaru Legacy Sport Tourer 2.0TD
In putting the first horizontally opposed diesel engine into a passenger car, Subaru has broken new ground. Question is, should you care? Andy Enright reports
You have to take your hat off to Subaru for the technical achievement of a horizontally-opposed diesel engine but of perhaps more relevance to UK buyers is the fact that the many attributes of the Subaru Legacy are now offered without the stinging fuel bills that previous models were lumbered with.
Car companies define themselves in very different ways. Some pride themselves on their styling, others draw prestige from competition pedigree. Perceived quality is the overwhelming priority for some and others campaign on pared to the bone value. Subaru is a company that is defined by engineering, a company that seems to believe that engineering innovative products will be enough to ensure success. Sometimes this works, other times it fails spectacularly. The Subaru Legacy diesel is a car that is a very special piece of engineering. This time round, however, its makers have also involved the marketing department.
Normally the interference of marketing has the unwelcome effect of taking the spice out of a car’s design but when the company is as boldly left-field as Subaru, perhaps this is not altogether undesirable. This diesel Legacy could well be the most convincing Subaru never to wear an Impreza badge.
So what sort of bang do you get for your buck? These days most people are fairly blasé about quick diesels and it takes a lot for buyers to sit up and take notice. The 149bhp output of the Legacy Sports Tourer diesel is respectable but it’s not going to attract people into dealers in and of itself. It’s good enough to punt the Legacy through 60mph in just 8.2 seconds and on to 126mph. Also offered in more 4x4-orienated Outback guise, this engine is exceptionally refined, with Subaru claiming a lower official moving sound level than a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Intriguing.
"This diesel does represent a genuine first…."
Subaru has tweaked many of the ancillary parts as well, beefing up the front brakes and spring rates to cope with the additional weight of a diesel lump, adding extra soundproofing and developing liquid engine mounts to isolate the passenger compartment from vibration. The gearbox has been strengthened to cope with the 350Nm of torque and the ratios have been altered correspondingly. The gear lever throw has been shortened and the air-conditioning system has been modified. In other words, Subaru hasn’t cut any corners with this one and have worked hard to endow this diesel Legacy Sport Tourer with the same feeling of agility as its petrol siblings.
The reason why Subaru is quite so self-congratulatory about this model is because it does represent a genuine first. Diesel engines have, to date, been either traditional upright straight or V-configured units. Subaru has founded its reputation of the low centre of gravity afforded by a horizontally-opposed, or boxer, engine where the cylinders lay flat on their sides, the pistons travelling towards each other like the fists of two pugilists. Manufacturing a diesel engine in this guise has taken some effort but the travails have been worth it. With an ‘oversquare’ design to the cylinder, this 2.0-litre powerplant avoids the breathless respose of some diesel engines at higher revs.
The rest of the package isn’t too shabby either. This Legacy is at last the car that most car nuts wish it always had been. The styling has been sharpened up, excised of all the fussy detailing and gawky lines. The basic silhouette still shouts Subaru, but the deftness of detail in the headlamps, the swage lines and the perceived tension in the body is something that had eluded the crayon-wielders at Subaru in the past. Everything is just that little bit neater. The mirrors house Mercedes-style side repeaters, the wheelarches bulge gently out, topped by a pronounced hip. The roof pillars are elegantly slim and the wheels do a better job of filling the arches.
Three Legacy Sport Tourer 2.0TD models are offered. First up is the £19,995 2.0TD R, followed by the plusher 2.0TD RE at £21,995 with the range topper being the £23,395 2.0TD REn, the lower case ‘n’ standing for navigation. You may well be thinking that £1,400 is quite a price to pay for a satellite navigation system and you’d have a fair point. Even the entry level car comes fairly well appointed with dual zone climate control, front, side and curtain airbags, cruise control, a leather trimmed steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Add high intensity discharge headlights with pop-up washers, electrically folding door mirrors, a CD player with MP3 compatibility, VDC stability control and, as it’s a Subaru, an all-wheel drive system and you have a list of gear that takes a lot of beating for less than £20k. The RE derivative adds a full leather interior, an 8-way adjustable electric driver’s seat, heated front seats and an electric sunroof to the kit list.
There have always been two areas of Legacy ownership that resulted in a sound whack in the wallet. The first was fuel consumption, the second – although not entirely unrelated – is residual value. Potential used buyers would be put off by the prospect of driving a thirsty petrol-engined car. The diesel model solves those issues at a stroke, the combined fuel economy figure of 49.6mpg being a very decent return for such a sizeable and powerful vehicle. The entry-level 2.0TD R model emits 151g/km of carbon dioxide while the RE and REn models are rated at 154g/km.
The warranty covers the vehicle for three years or 60,000 miles and comes with three years’ membership of Subaru Assistance. With service intervals at 12,000 miles, the Legacy 2.0TD shouldn’t prove too arduous to own.
The Subaru Legacy Sport Tourer has always been an intriguing vehicle. Fun to drive, well engineered, faultlessly reliable and, in latter years, rather good looking to boot. The sting in the tail has always been ongoing running costs. Subaru tried to offset these with a low upfront price and plenty of gear but the Legacy was saddled with the reputation as a costly car to own. The 2.0TD ‘boxer’ diesel engine should do much to erode that reputation.
This car’s biggest challenge is to now convince buyers that the Legacy Sport Tourer makes a viable alternative to entry-level diesel estates from the likes of Volvo, Alfa Romeo and Saab. For my money, it’s more than good enough, the entry-level 2.0R providing a quite stunning value proposition for less than £20,000. Perhaps the Legacy’s time has finally come.