>> Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Subaru’s Legacy and Outback are largely identical, but the Legacy is a sedan and the Outback wears station-wagon sheetmetal. Beyond the wagon body, though, the Outback earns its adventurous name with some three additional inches of ground clearance.
Station wagons at a middle-income price point are rare. Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, and Volvo all sell wagons in the U.S., but they all carry a pricing premium. Plenty of five-door hatches flood the market, but the only competition for the Outback in the low-$20,000 wagon sector is the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. Subaru also sells an Outback Sport, but that model is based on the smaller Impreza hatchback.
Like all current Subarus, all-wheel drive is standard, as is the associated fuel penalty. Although similarly powerful to competitive vehicles, the Legacy and Outback max out at 20 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway, a function of the higher mechanical resistance inherent in all-wheel-drive systems.
Although four driven wheels are a given, powertrain choices facing potential Legacy and Outback buyers are nonetheless daunting. Available engines include naturally aspirated and turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-fours with 170 and 243 hp, respectively, and a 3.0-liter flat-six that produces 245 hp. Transmission options with the naturally aspirated four are a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual, while those opting for the more powerful turbo four can select a five-speed automatic or a five-speed manual. The higher-performance Legacy 2.5GT spec.B gets a six-speed manual. Go with the 3.0-liter boxer-six and your only transmission choice is the five-speed automatic.
Both the Legacy and the Outback are inoffensively handsome inside and out, with their attractiveness only enhanced by their rarity relative to others in their segments. Pricing starts at a competitive level, but adding options gets expensive, likely contributing to their smaller sales numbers. They are immensely popular in more volatile climates, where their all-wheel drive—and the Outback’s additional ground clearance—make them a practical and more maneuverable alternative to SUVs and crossovers.
Keep Reading: 2009 Subaru Legacy Sedan and Outback Wagon - Review