The new Subaru Legacy due for public launch at the end of August marks the introduction of the fifth generation of the popular All-Wheel-Drive model, which was originally unveiled twenty years ago, in 1989.
Subaru is staggering the launch locally as production becomes available. From August 28th two petrol engines will be on offer, a 2.5 litre four cylinder and a 3.6 six cylinder.
From September and October respectively there will be a 2.0 litre diesel and a Legacy GT, powered by a 2.5 litre turbo petrol engine. All engines will be in Subaru's familiar Boxer configuration.
Of the engines initially available, the 2.5 litre produces 123kW at 5,600rpm with 229Nm of torque available at 4,000 rpm and the 3.6 litre engine produces 191kW at 5,600 rpm and 350Nm of torque at 4,000rpm.
The new 2.5 Legacy offers the choice of either a six speed manual or a new Liniartronic CVT auto with six selectable ratios. This is a world first for a CVT transmission to be mated to an in-line engine. The 3.6R is fitted with a five speed automatic transmission.
It's interesting to note that the CVT auto is more frugal than the manual.
A previous criticism of the Legacy has been its insatiable appetite for guzzling gas but consumption for the new 2.5 litre engine is claimed to be10% better than before, with the CVT auto returning 8.4L/100km and the six speed manual 8.9L/100km. Subaru claims 10.3L/100km for the 6 cylinder 3.6R. Both engines can run on 91 RON fuel.
The diesel version is cleaner than the outgoing model, upping the emission standard from Euro 4 to Euro 5.
The new platform provides benefits in noise level, comfort and space.
Interior dimensions have been stretched in every direction, with increased cabin width, length, headroom and legroom. Cargo carrying capacity is also increased.
Subaru is offering a wide selection of models, with a 2.5i Sport, 2.5i Sports Spec B, 2.5i Premium, 3.6R, 2.0D Euro and the turbocharged 2.5 litre Legacy GT Spec B. Specification levels are impressive across the range.
The entry level 2.5i Sport is fitted with front fog lights, dual zone climate air conditioning, privacy glass in rear side (and tailgate for the wagon), electronic park brake and hill hold, audio and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel, 17 inch alloys and paddle shift for CVT models.
The Sports Spec B is loaded with sporty gear, including body kit, Bilstein suspension, 18 inch alloys with 225/45/R18 tyres, alloy pedals, self-levelling Xenon headlights with washers and a unique sports interior trim.
The 2.5i Premium adds leather trim, a 10 way power driver's seat, electric sunroof and rear seat air vents, while the 3.6R gets keyless entry and start, dusk-sensing headlights, rain sensing wipers, 8-way power adjustable passenger's seat and SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive).
SI-Drive allows the driver to select the desired driving style with three settings, ranging from smooth, gentle power delivery through to a sharp, sporty driving characteristic.
The usual array of safety features includes seven airbags including a driver's knee airbag, with active safety features such as VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control), EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and BA (Brake Assist).
Handling and performance is sharp and in keeping with everything we've come to expect from Subaru.
The chassis is stiffer than before and grip is impressive. The All-Wheel-Drive setup makes for sure-footed behaviour over any surface, but the Legacy really comes into its own when pushed hard on twisty, slippery surfaces.
Our launch drive over some central North Island gravel roads showcased the chassis dynamics, and we're sure the Legacy would be equally at home in the snow or over muddy terrain.
If we're being picky, styling isn't the most exciting we've ever seen from Subaru but pricing is not unreasonable for a car of this size, quality, comfort and spec level.
Given that Subaru pitch their advertising at the outdoor, adventure lifestyle oriented buyer, we're sure those with a penchant for winter snow sports, mountain biking or negotiating hidden backwaters will be impressed.
And the average Mum and Dad wanting a spacious family sedan or wagon for running the kids around won't be disappointed either.
The 3.6R has a braked towing weight of 1,800kg while the rest of the range is rated at 1,500kg.
Pricing starts at $41,490 for the 2.5i Sport through to $54,990 for the 3.6R. Wagons add a $1,500 premium to the price tag.
The SUV/Crossover Outback will be launched along with the Legacy range.