Subaru Legacy B4 review

The Subaru Legacy B4 is Subaru's flagship sports saloon. Read our review to see if it can rival the Audi S4.

"It's no Audi S4, but the Legacy's great to drive"

What is it?This Subaru Legacy B4 is the Japanese firm’s answer to the Audi S4. And it’s based on the new-from-the-ground-up Legacy that was launched at this year’s New York Motor Show. The new Legacy is bigger than the car it replaces, to make sure it offers as much cabin space as its rivals. And whether you like the new look or not, there’s no disputing that the hot B4 model’s gruffly 2.5-litre turbocharged flat four is a gem, especially now power is up from 256hp to 281hp.

What does it look like?The last Subaru Legacy was no oil painting, but it had a sort of understated charm that suited its surprising turn of pace. But this new Legacy’s new look makes me wonder what on earth Subaru is doing design-wise, as it follows the fugly Impreza and confused-looking Forester.

Admittedly some of the Legacy’s look is down to new crash regs, meaning that the bonnet has to be 100mm higher than before. However that doesn’t really excuse the Legacy’s bland front end, especially as this is supposed to be the Subaru’s sporting flagship model. I like the rally-inspired bonnet scoop and twin exhausts though.

What’s it like inside?Subaru interiors are generally well built but rarely blessed with any sort of design finesse. And while the look of the Legacy’s innards isn’t that inspiring, the quality of the soft leather and aluminium-style inserts is definite a step up for Subaru. An Audi driver might feel like they’ve been downgraded a class, but the overall effect isn’t bad. The interior is bigger too, especially in the back which used to be a right squeeze to get into.

What’s it like to drive?The reason why the Legacy has garnered a small but incredibly loyal following is because of the way it drives. The four-wheel-drive system ensures effortlessly surefooted progress, helped by a new rear suspension setup. Just like in the Impreza, there isn’t much life to the steering, but once you gain confidence, the Legacy will just go where you point it.

And it’ll get you there pretty damn quickly too. The engine is a revised version of the previous car’s 2.5-litre unit, but it has an improved manifold, which allows the turbo to be closer to the exhaust and thus suffers less lag than before. Stick the SI Drive throttle map to its most aggressive setting and Subaru’s claim of 0-62mph in five seconds seems very believable. It’s not just quick in a straight line either – the Legacy’s agility is impressive for a relatively big car.

Verdict If you’re in the market for a rapid saloon, chances are you’ll be wooed by the Audi S4’s mix of pace, refinement and absolute quality. But while the Legacy B4 has its flaws, and is beaten on paper by the Audi, the Subaru is a very worthwhile all-round package. It’s driver focus, proven history of bombproof mechanicals and characterful engine make it an interesting, if leftfield, contender.

Car Specs - Subaru Legacy B4

Engine:2.5-litre flat four, 281hp
0-62mph:5.0 seconds (est)
Top speed:155mph (est)
Economy/emissions:25.0mpg/230g/km CO2 (est)
Price/On sale £29,000 (est) /2010

We rate:Great engine Handling dynamism

We slate:Not a great looker Audi S4 is better all-rounder

Rating: Image removed.

by Bryce Richards

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