Subaru has been capitalizing on the World Rally Championship-winning reputation of its WRX sedans for more than a decade. And while the WRX's ongoing popularity is undoubtedly justified, its guy-racer body modifications, harsh ride, and high-strung nature make it a poor choice as an all-purpose car.
Enter the Legacy 2.5 GT, bigger and heavier but offering sparkling performance as well as good all-around comfort and an appearance as unremarkable as the rally-inspired WRX's is over the top. With the standard five-speed manual transmission and Subaru's advanced Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the Legacy 2.5 GT Limited strikes a great balance between driver car and comfortable sedan.
Inside, tech features are notable for their absence, and our test car wasn't fitted with the only real tech option: the $2,000 navigation system. We really liked the nav setup in the last Subaru we saw, the B9 Tribeca, but didn't mind its absence here as it strangely requires the optional $1,200 Sportshift automatic transmission, and we enjoyed rowing our own with the manual.
The only option on our 2.5 GT Limited was an equipment group consisting of an autodimming rear-view mirror with compass and an upgraded security system, for $304. With the $625 destination charge, the total MSRP for our test car came to $29,724. For 2007, many of the tech options we've come to expect will be available on the Legacy, including XM Satellite radio prep and an auxiliary input jack for the upgraded audio system. The 2006 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited's interior is best described as functional--not particularly well equipped or lavish, but comfortable and pleasing to the eye. The Charcoal leather in our car blended nicely with flat metallic accents and dark carpeting to create a welcoming atmosphere.
Standard power front seats (8-way adjustable for the driver, 4-way for the passenger) with manual lumbar support are typical of the sporty yet unassuming character of the car. While not aggressively bolstered, they nonetheless hold the driver in place against cornering forces while remaining comfortable for longer stretches behind the wheel. The front seats are both heated, and the manual tilt wheel provides some flexibility in preferred driving positions.
With none of the usual gadgets to test on our 2.5 GT, our attention turned to the sound system. No satellite option is offered, and the power is nothing to write home about: 120 watts playing through six speakers. Sound is merely adequate from radio or CD, with bass noticeably lacking. The in-dash six-CD changer is convenient and handled burned MP3 discs with no hiccups, although no ID3 tags were displayed for any of our homemade CDs.
In place of the navigation system's screen, our car had a large storage spot, perhaps for use with a terrestrial analog navigation system (that is, a map). Everyone who sat in the Legacy with us tried opening this bin's lid by pressing on the chrome bar as if it were a touch-latch, but it actually pulls up like a one-piece garage door. The same chrome accent on the ashtray lid actually is a touch-latch--a minor ergonomic consistency issue. The center armrest also provides generous storage, with an extra 12-volt power outlet to match the one on the dash. A rear armrest pass-through from the trunk is a nice standard touch.
Also standard on the Legacy 2.5 GT Limited is a power-tilt and sliding moonroof and dual-zone climate control. Large no-nonsense knobs operate the A/C and the stereo, a theme echoed by the main gauge cluster's large speedometer and tachometer and two smaller white-on-black analog dials. A digital display in the speedo shows the odometer and rudimentary trip computing functions. A second one-line LCD right under the center cubby houses a clock and instant or average miles-per-gallon figures. The 2006 Legacy 2.5 GT Limited squeaks in under $30K, but it comes without any trace of the infotainment features we've seen in comparably priced midsize sedans. Where did the money go? The short answer: it went into the R&D budget of a rugged all-wheel-drive chassis and engine combination that won multiple world titles in one of the most demanding forms of motor sport. What the 2.5 GT Limited lacks in cabin amenities, it makes up for under the hood.