At a media event earlier this year, CNET editors had the chance to try out a rare 2006 spec.B on the back roads around Hollister, Calif., and during a brief two-lap blast at Laguna Seca. On the track, the four-cylinder's lack of low-end grunt was very apparent--although our perception may have been mildly skewed following our earlier ride with BMW sports-car driver Joey Hand in an M5. But on public roads where corner exit speeds aren't vital, the spec.B acquits itself very well.
The 2.5-liter flat-four does want a fair bit of revving, only generating its maximum 243 horsepower at 6,000rpm. Its torque peak comes on a bit sooner, with all 241 foot-pounds available from 3,600rpm, but the spec.B and its six-speed manual transmission encourage enthusiastic driving, and this takes it toll at the gas pump. The spec.B is EPA-rated at 19mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway, but in our (admittedly rev-happy) time with the car, it averaged a meager 13.5mpg according to its trip computer.
New for 2007 is Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive), a three-stage, driver-controlled engine-management feature. In the most sedate "Intelligent" mode, the power and torque peaks are lowered and the throttle response is lazier, which is good for use in traffic or on less grippy surfaces. In "Sport" mode, performance is similar to the 2006 spec.B (according to Subaru). Finally, the "Sport Sharp" mode quickens the electronic throttle mapping for an immediate response and the best possible performance. In all SI-Drive modes, the active valve timing optimizes engine breathing.
We found the Sport mode adequate for most real-world situations in our test car, with while the Sport Sharp (or "S#" on the LCD display in the tachometer) mode did not provide a noticeably different experience. The Efficiency mode produces unwanted hesitations and flat spots under acceleration and activates a green up-shift arrow in the tachometer--and together these annoyed us enough to stay with Sport. The special sport suspension, featuring Bilstein shocks, is tuned well for aggressive driving but doesn't get harsh over bad pavement. The six-speed manual transmission was pleasant to use, and we found the extra gear very welcome for freeway cruising.
AWD + VDC + ABS = solid safety tech
The 2007 Legacy 2.5 GT spec.B makes good use of safety technology, which works in concert with its performance-based features. The symmetrical all-wheel-drive system works at all vehicle speeds to send power to the wheels with the most grip. Like the 2006 spec.B, the 2007 model has a viscous-coupling lockable center differential, which sends torque 50-50 front and rear until any slippage occurs. New for 2007, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential further enhances traction and stability.
A traction control system on the spec.B called Vehicle Dynamics Control compares steering and braking inputs to determine the intended path and then applies the brakes selectively and/or reduces power to compensate for any sliding. VDC can be switched off with a button to the left of the steering column.
Dual front airbags with passenger-seat occupancy detection and seat-mounted front side-impact airbags help the 2007 Legacy garner five-star NHTSA ratings for both front- and side-impact crash ratings. Tire-pressure monitoring is standard, along with the expected four-wheel ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, and daytime running lights.
Subaru's warranty for the 2007 Legacy spec.B is for three years or 36,000 miles and includes roadside assistance.
With a base MSRP of $34,620 including destination charge, the 2007 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT spec.B is one of the higher-priced four-cylinder cars out there. But with all-wheel drive and a decent roster of tech amenities included, the spec.B offers good overall value and a stealthily potent driving experience. Heavier six-cylinder competitors like the BMW 3-series and Nissan Maxima can't match the light-on-its-feet agility of the Legacy, and the spec.B's sport-oriented cabin enhancements strike the right notes.
With the aforementioned XM satellite radio option and a $42 set of wheel locks, our test car's total price came to $35,118. The additions of XM radio, MP3/WMA playback and the navigation system increased our Comfort rating for the 2007 Legacy spec.B by a point over the 2.5 GT Limited that lacked these features. The spec.B is pricier than the 2.5 GT Limited but offers enough to make the premium worth it.