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Subaru Legacy 3.0 R - a bargain among sports sedans

by Ali Arsham
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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Subaru Legacy 3.0 R
Subaru has come a long way.  That’s what I keep saying to myself as I take a look around at the latest Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited sedan. It used to be that Subaru made very utilitarian vehicles that felt more like a military vehicle.  Today Subarus are more like BMWs and are full of luxury and performance features.  The huge turn around could be a great lesson for other manufacturers.  This is particularly impressive because Subaru does not have the huge budget of many other larger manufacturers. 

The Legacy 3.0 R is a great example of how far Subaru has come.  Here we have a sports sedan that is affordable but could teach a thing or two to Mercedes Benz and BMW.  Subaru calls it the ultimate Legacy and it is definitely the most luxurious Legacy.

The 3.0 R starts out with the same Legacy body as most other Legacy models.  There is no fancy body kit or anything like that.  The 3.0 R is definitely very conservatively dressed and other than some nice wheels, there is no hint of anything ultimate. 

Under the hood the Legacy 3.0 R is unique with a 6 cylinder engine.  Other Legacy models have flat 4 cylinder engines and on higher line models they are turbocharged.  The 3.0 R goes with the luxury route and uses a 3.0 liter DOHC aluminum flat 6 engine that produces 245 hp at 6600 rpm.  The engine is smooth and powerful just as you would expect.  Thanks to the large displacement, the power delivery is very linear and progressive.  The 3.0 R is only available with an automatic transmission which is a 5 speed unit with manual controls.  Just like all current Subarus, power is routed to all four wheels. The 3.0 R utilizes an electronically controlled variable transfer clutch in conjunction with a planetary-type center differential, and a viscous-type limited-slip rear differential. Torque distribution is normally configured at a performance-oriented rear-wheel-biased 45/55 split front-to-rear. Sensors monitor parameters such as wheel slippage, throttle position and braking to help determine torque distribution and direct it to the wheels with optimum traction.

Then there is the SI-Drive which stands for Subaru Intelligent Drive which is a switch on the center console that enables three distinctively different modes of vehicle performance characteristics by regulating the engine control unit (ECU), the automatic transmission control unit and by fine-tuning the electronically controlled throttle.  The system actually works very well.  In Intelligent mode, the car is basically in economy mode and the fuel economy is enhanced by a few miles per gallon.  Sport is the standard mode and Sport Sharp is the sportiest mode where maximum performance can be had. 

Subaru Legacy 3.0 R  interior
Inside the Legacy feels very European with a nicely laid out instrument panel.  There materials feel first rate and the fit and finish is excellent.  The seats are firm and supportive but comfortable and the steering wheel has a great feel.  There are even additional digital gauges that you can access on the navigation screen.  The rear seat is very comfortable also for up to three passengers and due to the large side windows their outside view is terrific.

Once the road begins to get curvy, the real fun starts as this Legacy can really handle the curves with ease.  The usual all wheel drive understeer is there at the limit but it is not that bad.  The best part is that the Legacy feels much lighter than its 3500 pound weigh would suggest.  The standard 215/45-18 all season tires are mounted on very attractive 18 x 7 inch alloy wheels.  Some better performance tires would really help improve the grip if you don’t live in an area with snow.  Thanks to the standard limited slip rear differential, the grip when exiting corners is just fantastic.  All you have to do is floor it and there is no slip as the power is transmitted to the ground.  Bilstein shock absorbers are also standard and very much appreciated.

The Legacy is not exactly frugal at the pump with a 17 mpg rating in the city and 24 mpg on the freeway.  But the good news is those numbers are comparable to other cars of its type. 

Pricing is a strength of the Legacy with base prices starting at $31,000.  Unlike the German cars, there are no options because the 3.0 R comes fully loaded with everything.  That price includes tons of safety equipment such as frontal and side air bags, anti theft alarm, Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), power moonroof, dual zone climate control and even a touch screen navigation is included.  The Legacy 3.0 R has to be one of the best bargains in the world of sport sedans.

Dimensions
Length  185 in
Width  68.1 in
Height  56.5 in
Wheelbase 105.1 in
Weight  3545 lbs.
Max Towing 3000 lbs
Fuel capacity 16.9 gallons

Performance
Engine type Flat 6, all aluminum, DOHC 24 valve.  Active Valve Control, Active Valve Lift
Power 245 hp at 6600 rpm
Torque 215 lb ft @ 4200 rpm
Fuel economy  17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy

Price $31,000

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