2007 Detroit Auto Show: Subaru Legacy Update
AutoPacific analysts and Vehicle Voice contributors were on hand in Detroit to take in the subtle changes Subaru plans for the 2008 model year Legacy and Outback. Last year our office had the opportunity to drive a Subaru Legacy Spec B where we realized that much of what we believed about Subaru products have now become misconceptions . My previous encounters had been with older Subarus and I was never really impressed. Throughout college I can always remember drawing a correlation between Subarus and pipe-smoking geography professors who wore hats and corduroy sports coats with leather elbow patches, liked camping and had plans to retire in Oregon or Colorado.
Engineering wins out over Bean Counting
The understated Legacy sedan is more of an enthusiast’s car than it appears to be. Yes, the exterior styling may be dull, maybe even boring but that could be part of their appeal. Subaru is owned by Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan which was formerly known as Nakajima; a prominent aircraft manufacturer. With this aircraft-oriented engineering background Subaru takes pride in pursuing better design solutions and baking them into their automobiles.
Some may say that the engineers at Subaru win out over the bean counters. For instance, a horizontally opposed engine may be more expensive to produce when compared to an inline or V engine but it will be better balanced (smoother) and does relate more so to an aeronautical background. Subarus have frameless windows which may not be cost efficient either, requiring additional rubber moldings and felt, but some would conclude that frameless windows are better styled. All Subarus currently sold in the USA have symmetrical all-wheel-drive. Again, not a least cost approach, but a system that sets Subaru apart from the competition while improving not simply performance and handling but safety as well.
Swallowing an H-6
The Detroit Auto Show revealed little changes to their flagship sedan. Since 2006 was such a great year for Subaru they have taken a very conservative approach with minimal changes to both exterior and interior. The changes are more evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Subaru will offer a horizontally opposed, normally aspirated, six cylinder (pried out of the B9 Tribeca) along with the Legacy’s traditional intercooled, turbocharged boxer 4. After swallowing an H-6 the Legacy can also be force-fed gears. Fans of automatic transmissions will now have the opportunity to communicate which gear their Legacy should be in from paddles located on the steering column.
The SI-Drive can still be found on the Legacy and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System is now standard on all Legacys. The all new (2007MY) Legacy 3.0 R will take its place above the 2.5 GT Spec B in Subarus quiver of quick, understated all-wheel-drive sedans. Even though the turbo charged H-4 (243hp) puts out all but two horsepower of the normally aspirated H-6 (245hp). One question that may arise is longevity. Traditionally, normally aspirated engines live longer than turbocharged engines. Subaru definitely wants to play with other manufacturers producing all-wheel-drive four door sedans such as Audi. The addition of an H-6 to the Legacy line up will probably help.