1995 SUBARU LEGACY LSI
Used Car - 1995 Subaru Legacy LSi in Castle Rock, Co
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1995 Subaru Legacy ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Smooth and roomy, with affordable all-wheel drive.
Funny how things end up. Last year Subaru tried to position itself as a mainstream Japanese car, just like Honda or Toyota. Buyers, however, refused to accept this notion, and the marketing plan fizzled.
This year, Subaru is launching a new Legacy, the company's midsize bread-and-butter sedan. In the process, Subaru decided to focus on its traditional heritage: a specialized car with all-wheel drive (AWD) for folks who march to a slightly different drummer. Particularly, different drummers who live in real four-season climates.
But darned if the new Legacy isn't more mainstream than anything Subaru has ever produced. The car is more re-fined and appealingly styled, with fewer quirks and rough edges.
Consumers will profit from Subaru's back-to-basics strategy, too. To showcase its unique selling proposition - the only affordable passenger car with AWD - Subaru has slashed the price in half for the option package that includes AWD.
Subarus have traditionally looked unlike anything else. We have a friend who insists that Subaru's star pattern logo is actually a secret map devised by the company's designers to show them the way back to their home planet.
But for 1995, the Legacy settles down to Earth. The all-new exterior has been stretched, rounded and smoothed, and odd little details have disappeared. The result is a sedan that visually holds its own with other Japanese models.
The wheelbase has been stretched 2 in., with most of the increase devoted to interior space. Overall, the car is about 3 in. longer, 1 in. wider and 2 in. taller, easing the cramped feel of its predecessor.
Subaru has created an option package for the Legacy that includes AWD, anti-lock brakes, 4-wheel disc brakes and cruise control - and slashed the price from $3000 to $1500.
Why would you want all this? Part-time systems - the usual setup on sport/ utilities - are great in deep snow or mud, but less than perfect in the sleety, wet, icy, treacherous conditions that usually prompt drivers to wish they had 4-wheel drive. Part-time systems are also designed for occasional use, and they won't stand up to extended running on the open road.
Carmakers have mostly shunned AWD for passenger cars, believing it is too heavy, too expensive and too hard on fuel economy. Subaru is betting that people will go for its AWD system, which is lightweight and inexpensive and has minimal impact on fuel economy (21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway compared with 24 and 31, respectively, for front-wheel- drive versions).
With its tall driving position, low hoodline, glassy vistas and functional styling, the Subaru Legacy is a poor man's Volvo.
The Legacy's new interior has a clean modernity. The instrument panel and center console have been tidied up, with rearranged controls and nice fit-and-finish. One thoughtful touch: The dual cup-holder shelf pops out of the center of the dashboard and slides to the right, keeping your beverage from blocking the clock and the radio's volume knob.
The air conditioning (standard on all but the base Legacy) is adequate but not overbuilt. This year's fan is much quieter.
Reducing noise and vibration was a goal in the Legacy's redesign, and there is improvement. But the interior is still loud - mostly from engine and tire noise. The car is noticeably more refined, but it isn't up to Honda or Toyota standards.
On the other hand, safety features abound: height-adjustable seat belts, dual airbags, adjustable headrests and automatic locking seat belts (eliminating the need for a locking clip for a child safety seat). The Legacy also meets 1997 federal side-impact standards and has 5-mph bumpers.
One of the Legacy's nice features is the range of trim levels available, starting with the stripped-down base model, extending through the L and LS, and ending with the LSi , which comes with full leather and a 6-speaker audio system with CD player.
And if a sedan isn't useful enough for you, you can opt for a wagon - along with about 60 percent of other Legacy buyers. All trim levels have a wagon version, and for 1995 there are two packages of special interest. The Brighton is the no-frills AWD wagon for folks who have to cope with a real mud season ($15,999).
The Outback is Subaru's alternative to a sport/utility: AWD, rugged interior, roof rack, splash guards and a 12-volt power source in the rear compartment to power things such as rubber boat inflators and electric coolers ($19,820).
The Outback lacks the ground clearance of a true sport/utility, but it provides all the off-road capability. Unless your travel plans include rock-hopping or stump-jumping, this package will get the job done without drama.
You should note that the '96 Outback model will have a larger 2.5-liter engine and more ground clearance.
The 1995 Legacy gets 5 more hp from its 2.2-liter horizon-tally opposed 4-cylinder engine (thanks to an improved exhaust system) for a total of 135 hp. That's a tangible improvement, but acceleration and passing power are still no better than adequate.
On the other hand, this unusual engine design, which is similar to the old Volkswagen Beetle 4-cylinder, does have its strengths. Because the engine lies flat, it's easier to package and helps keep the hoodline low. And Subaru 4-cylinders have an enviable service record: They just don't break, and that means their owners keep coming back.
There was a weighty feel to our Legacy L test car, compared with a typical Japanese midsize, part of Subaru's choice to balance stable handling with a comfortable ride.
The longer wheelbase, more rigid body and revised suspension improve ride and handling noticeably. For those who would like more control on slippery surfaces but don't want to go all the way to AWD, traction control is available for the first time. The system uses both engine and brakes to maintain optimum power levels to the front wheels.
The transmission options are a standard 5-speed manual and an optional 4-speed automatic. Our test car was equipped with the automatic, and there was no marked performance penalty. It shifted smoothly and made good use of the engine's power.
Another typical Subaru touch: The gear selector has a straightforward pattern rather than the confusing overdrive with an on/off button offered by Subaru's competitors.
The 1995 Legacy still lacks some refinement, but it has made a tremendous leap forward. The interior noise level is its biggest weakness; the rest of the car is well up to modern standards. And none of its competitors has AWD.
AWD availability has always been a Subaru strength, and now consumers can finally get it without compromising terribly on the rest of the car, thanks to the company's new value packaging policy.
Subaru thinks the AWD package will appeal to those who absolutely positively have to get to work, even before the snow plows are out. Women in particular express interest in AWD, and many are buying sport/utilities to get it. Here's a way to get that feature in a passenger car.
Another plus: Historically, Subarus have had very low theft rates, unlike sport/utilities, which have zoomed up the theft charts. Also, the Legacy is assembled in the United States at the Subaru-Isuzu joint-venture plant in Indiana.
Subaru sales have traditionally been localized, particularly in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Before you buy, make sure there is a good dealership or independent Subaru specialist in your area.A tough little all-weather hauler.
It's not surprising that the Subaru Legacy is one of the best-kept secrets in the midsize car market.
Even as a station wagon, where competitors aren't quite so numerous, the Legacy is pitted against a few of the most popular cars in the business, including the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Taurus wagons.
With a smaller vehicle, a smaller dealer network and smaller marketing resources, it's hard for the Legacy to sustain much visibility.
Nevertheless, the Legacy Wagon has been a strong seller, particularly against other imports. And when you factor in all-wheel drive, a Subaru specialty, the Legacy Wagon is the national sales leader.
Though there aren't many AWD wagons contending for this title, it's clear that Subaru is doing something right.
And with fresh styling, a little more power and a longer wheelbase, the Legacy Wagon has even more appeal.
When the original Legacy made its debut five years ago, it alienated some Subaru buyers. The brand had built its image as an inexpensive car built to stay that way.
The old Loyale wagons were your basic no-frills transportation, and looked it. They were, if anything, an anti-fashion statement. The Legacy, on the other hand, was stylish enough to park alongside such competitors as the Accord.
The all-new 1995 is even more handsome. It retains a relatively square shape that company officials prefer to call 'distinctive European lines.'
The physical changes in the '95 continue beneath the skin. The wheelbase has grown a full 2 in., to 103.5 in. The vehicle itself is an inch wider, 2 in. taller, and 2 in. longer. It's also lighter than the previous model by 150 lb., a tribute to good engineering.
Among the more noteworthy safety features, the Legacy Wagon comes standard with dual airbags and 5-mph bumpers. The vehicle also meets the new 1997 federal side-impact standards.
One small disappointment: Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are available only with AWD as part of a $3000 safety package that also includes 4-wheel disc brakes and cruise control.
This package is standard equipment in all but the basic Legacy Wagon, however. We agree with Subaru that AWD is an active safety feature, and this has always been a Subaru strong suit.
For '95, Subaru is capitalizing on the Legacy's station wagon appeal by offering no fewer than six variations. There are four regular Legacy model options - base, L, LS and LSi - and three special packages with AWD as an integral feature.
The package deals include the Legacy Brighton Wagon aimed at budget-minded buyers who want the extra traction of AWD, the Legacy Outback for buyers whose get-away-from-it-all lifestyles include occasionally getting away from pavement, and the Postal Wagon that features a right-hand driving position for rural letter carriers.
Our test vehicle was the midlevel Legacy LS Wagon, which included the AWD/ABS package in its base price, as well as a truly impressive array of comfort and convenience features.
Here's where Subaru has made some of the biggest improvements in the Legacy. The new model's interior is markedly more attractive, much roomier and more efficient.
Gauges are well-placed and easy to read. Controls are generally within reach, though we thought the radio could be repositioned slightly. Our only real complaint: The power-window controls were awkward to operate.
One of the nicer touches is the optional CD changer's location under the front seat rather than in the rear, making it easier to get to - a plus in bad weather.
Seating is more spacious than in previous models, though our 6-ft. front passenger said there wasn't enough legroom even with the seat all the way back.
The semi-bucket seats are easy to get in and out of, and the telescoping adjuster on the driver's seat is especially useful. We found the rear bench seat cramped, though, with three adults jostling for legroom.
The cargo area, however, is generous - nearly as big as a Ford Taurus Wagon. There is one drawback: The second seat doesn't fold flat. Even so, it's roomy enough for a family to tote two weeks of luggage, camping gear and maybe an inflatable raft.
Still, it's no minivan, and there's no third seat. We would appreciate a remote tailgate release. A cargo net or tie-down would also help, as would more concealed storage.
Subaru interiors have often seemed to us a little cheap. The new Legacy Wagon represents a major improvement in this regard. Fit-and-finish are top-notch.
This is a very well-mannered vehicle. Under all but the most demanding conditions it's easy to forget you're driving a wagon. Straight-line stability is precise. Handling is nimble whether you're sweeping around a highway interchange or switching lanes in traffic.
AWD doesn't make an ordinary passenger vehicle into a sports car, however. It's an advantage in low-traction situations, but on dry pavement it tends to increase a phenomenon that automotive buff books refer to as understeer. This is a vehicle's tendency to continue straight ahead when you turn the steering wheel.
In varying degrees, this applies to any vehicle. The faster you go, the less it wants to turn the corner. Most AWD systems magnify this trait a bit.
Generally, we found our Legacy Wagon to be free of quirks, and after 10 miles of driving we knew how it would behave in almost any situation.
Though there have been no changes in the basic dimensions of the Legacy's 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine, the '95 version produces more power: 135 hp versus 130 hp for the previous model. That's generally quite adequate, though in hilly country, our automatic did tend to downshift to the point of annoyance.
Thanks to the increasing sophistication of powertrain computer controls, a number of manufacturers offer smart transmissions. With the Legacy's Auto Response automatic, you don't have to choose between power and economy modes. It automatically detects which is right by the way you're driving.
Pressing hard on the accelerator will switch it to performance mode almost instantaneously. The transmission is generally responsive, but does tend to be a bit jerky on running downshifts.
We had a chance to drive the manual as well, and found it more efficient at exploiting the engine's power. On the other hand, the automatic masks vibration better.
The trade-offs for a little vibration are packaging efficiencies - it's quite compact - and inherent toughness. Subaru engines just don't break, which is one of the reasons why so many owners keep coming back for more.
The Legacy Wagon has a stiffer chassis than the old model and new suspension mounts up front that reduce harshness. Still, it's not as smooth as others in its class, particularly the Camry.
The Legacy Wagon is a clear improvement over the first-generation model. It's more stylish, more technically sophisticated, more comfortable and even fun to drive.
the biggest selling point is the AWD option, which isn't available on any of the Legacy's competitors. It's a feature that has made Subaru a perennial favorite in regions with slippery winters.
Four-wheel-drive sport/utility vehicles have taken a bite out of Subaru's traditional market in recent years, but not everyone wants a truck. And if a trim little wagon with superior all-weather capability suits your needs, the Legacy merits a test drive.