Road Test: Subaru Legacy Tourer 2.0D SE NavPlus
Sector: Upper medium Price (April 2013): £31,370 Fuel: 47.9mpg CO2: 156g/km
The last decade has been a tough one for Subaru. From the glow of its turbocharged Impreza models and a prolific rally career, carbon taxation and the late arrival of a Boxer diesel engine hasn’t done UK sales many favours. Even its most recent addition, the BRZ, is overshadowed by its mechanically identical Toyota GT86 sibling.
But Subaru still has the Legacy as a backbone to its UK sales, and that’s not damning it with false praise. Previous generations of this four-wheel drive estate car have been well recognised as long-lasting workhorses, highly rated by owners, and with a diesel engine under the bonnet the latest version has a model suitable for carbon-focused European buyers.
So Subaru hasn’t rocked the boat much. In a segment of curvaceous sports wagons, the Legacy is a boxy thing, with the tinny doors and shiny interior plastics most rivals have since distanced themselves for in search of European aesthetics. Technologically, too, it feels a generation or two behind the rest, with a satellite navigation unit which, graphically, would only have looked cutting edge back when Richard Burns was piloting Imprezas in the World Rally Championship.
But it does feel a robust machine. Despite its lack of visual appeal there’s a sense of long-lasting quality about its chunky switchgear, and the larger wheels and sports bodykit on SE models toughen up its otherwise slightly bland styling for a small penalty in fuel economy.The only option on the SE NavPlus trim is metallic paint, so creature comforts include cruise control, Bluetooth and very warm, very comfortable heated leather seats.
Subaru revised 2.0-litre Boxer engine last year. It’s a little noisier than some of the latest diesels, but with a surge of low-end torque it feels considerably more powerful than its claimed 145bhp. Gearshifts are short, positive and pleasingly mechanical and fuel economy between 40 and 45mpg is realistic on motorway trips. Improvements to the ride quality and a comfortable, leather-clad interior mean it’s a really comfortable long distance cruiser.
It also gets the advantage of Subaru’s 40-year expertise in all-wheel drive. This isn’t the electronically controlled slip-then-grip system found in a lot of modern cars, but a proper mechanical setup which distributes the power equally between each corner at all times. It’s only relatively low ground clearance compared to an SUV that’ll stop you crossing rougher terrain, there’s plenty of grip for our increasingly unpredictable British winters.
This also makes it a great tow car, and a very useful light off-roader with massive load carrying ability. The Legacy Tourer is slightly smaller than a Mondeo Estate, and although its 1,677 maximum load capacity isn’t class-leading it’s laid out in really usable way. Even with the seats up it can be stacked to a long, flat roof, the rear bench drops forward with a tug on the handles just inside the tailgate.
Ultimately it’s a minor set of upgrades, but by bringing CO2 emissions for all diesel-powered Tourers under 160g/km the group of owners who have always valued the Legacy’s best points can cut costs a little next time they’re in the market for a new one.
It’s not difficult to pick out areas where the Legacy feels a generation behind most of the upper medium class, but to do so misses the point. Never destined to be a car with widespread appeal, Subaru’s largest model ticks all the right boxes for those needing a capacious loading area, four-wheel drive traction and long-distance ride quality in a rugged, long-lasting package.