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Subaru Legacy Sports Tourer 2.0D RE

Click to view picture gallerySubarus diesel-powered Legacy:
  it has been a long time coming
  but now it
s here it has been well
  worth the wait because it
s a frugal
  and comfortable companion

THE LONG-SERVING SUBARU LEGACY in Sports Tourer (estate) or Outback (a beefed-up crossover estate) forms are well loved by country folk. Not just because they have four-wheel drive and can cope pretty well with most weather conditions that 'living-in-the-sticks' can throw at them, but because they are familiar, reliable and comfortable, rather like a favourite pair of Wellingtons, slippers or trainers.

And now, after the 'smoke and mirrors' re-budget by The Chancellor, there's extra VAT off so it would be churlish not to take advantage.

The Legacy range (which also includes a saloon) had, until the beginning of this year, only been available with petrol engines. As the market in this upper medium size sector — Mondeo and Honda Accord Estate territory — demands diesel power, Subaru eventually saw the light and introduced their diesel powered models.

But being Subaru it had to follow its trademark engine design philosophy of being a 'Boxer' — where the cylinders are horizontally opposed. However, there are very good reasons for this design: the size of the unit is compact and, because the engine is relatively shallow in height, it can be mounted low down in the car to give a low centre of gravity.

Now, after years of missed sales opportunities because no diesel engine was available, Subaru models such as the Legacy and new Forester will appeal to a much wider buying public. Timely, as Subaru really needs some help in this troubled new car market as their sales are down 15.8% so far this year — that's almost twice the size of the overall fall in UK new car sales.

Being all-wheel drive, the Legacy Sports Tourer estate and its beefed-up stablemate the Legacy Outback (another estate but with more underbody protection and longer travel suspension for off-road work) might not be rife in the major cities of the UK. But in the country they are familiar sight covered in mud, stuffed with dogs, children and bales of hay — or all three. It would be fair to say the Legacy is not the most modern of designs. It doesn't have the now almost ubiquitous flared wheelarches, deeply sculpted side panels, pronounced body styling lines and rising waistline to give a wedge shape.

The current Legacy has been with us for many years; it's familiar and Subaru owners, by tradition, like that. It still looks smart; just not trendy. And at 4,720mm in overall length with a width of 1,730mm and a height of 1,70mm, it isn't the roomiest of estates on the market these days. Load space, with the rear seats in position, is 459 litres; with the rear seats folded it's 1,649 litres. And if you need to tow, the Legacy will pull 1,700kg (braked) without flinching.

It also doesn't have the monopoly on being all-wheel drive as Audi has is Avant quattro load-luggers, as does VW with the Passat Estate 4Motion to name but two. And joined shortly by the 4WD Vauxhall Insignia estates. Then of course there are numerous crossover SUVs all vying for sales in this hard-fought sector.

Still, on the positive side, Subaru owners are generally very loyal to the brand and the new 2.0-litre Boxer diesel engine is very good, so the injection of diesel technology for the Legacy estates is a long awaited but very welcome move.

The Legacy Sports Tourer diesel range starts at 20,995 for the R version and rises to 24,395 for the top REn variant with satellite navigation. Outback diesel models are priced from 22,495 to 25,895.

Comfort is one of the major features of the Legacy. It is really nice to travel in a car of this size where the suspension is not set to be 'sporty' but is compliant and can handle the potholes, ripples and ridges commonplace on our worn out British roads.

The all-wheel drive is, of course, another major feature and gives worthwhile grip in all conditions — and the fuel economy doesn't seem to suffer driving all four wheels.

The Legacy equipment levels are high and as standard each model has high intensity headlights with washers, electrically-folding door mirrors, projector front foglights, a high quality stereo sound system, cruise control, electric windows and dual-zone climate control. RE and REn variants have, in addition, heated electric seats with black or cream leather upholstery, heated electric mirrors, electric sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and Subaru's Vehicle Dynamics Control. Safety features for all models includes active front head restraints, dual-stage front airbags, side and curtain airbags and anti-lock braking with EBD.

Core to sales growth potential for the Legacy Tourer is the new 2.0-litre, flat-four, light-alloy 'Boxer' common-rail turbodiesel engine. The benefits of having a horizontally-opposed layout include: compact size, lightweight, low centre of gravity and very smooth and quiet in operation.

The new engine produces 148bhp and a commendable 258lb ft of torque from 1,800rpm. Top speed is 126mph with 0-62mph taking 8.5 seconds. Perhaps more important are the fuel consumption and CO2 figures. Officially, the 2.0D Legacy Sports Tourer will return 49.6mpg overall and my test car more than lived up to that figure — with an impressive 49.8mpg for all types of motoring. The CO2 emissions are 154g/km so giving a road tax bill of 145. I can live with that.

Strangely, whilst the new Subaru Forester with the same diesel power unit has a six-speed manual transmission, the Legacy only has a five-speed 'box. But looking on the bright side, that's less gear changing and still really good fuel economy.

Apart from the traditional diesel rattle at start-up, the 'Boxer' engine is noticeably smooth and quiet and the installation in the Legacy is well done, with fluid-filled engine-mounting bushes that eliminate the transmission of noise and vibrations. The supply of power is progressive and responsive and with this unit the Legacy estate just about warrants its 'Sports Tourer' label.

Whether it is used in the country or by city-slicker types going about their daily business up and down motorways, the Legacy diesel might not look the most modern car on our roads today but it is very comfortable and, importantly, efficient with its use of fuel. While a handful of customers might lament the lack of an automatic transmission option, they will surely appreciate the many plus points: a smooth and quiet diesel engine, all-wheel drive for capable all-weather road-holding and a well-equipped and roomy interior along with a comfortable ride. — David Miles

Subaru Legacy Sports Tourer 2.0D RE
| 22,995
Maximum speed: 126mph | 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 49.8mpg | Power: 148bhp | Torque: 258lb ft
CO2 154g/km | VED Band D 145 | Insurance group 13