2008 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT spec.B Road Test

2008 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT spec.B Road Test

The generic-brand equivalent of a BMW?

The latest variation of the Subaru's Legacy has been a favourite within the walls of Auto123.com, a fact we have a hard time to hide. Turbo engine or not, every version of this mid-size sedan and wagon seems to offer a lot for the money.

A car perfectly suited to the harshness of our great country.

The spec.B model came along in the fall of 2006, and the performance level of the Legacy went one step up. But is it really worth the $45,000 asking price?

Same muscle, stiffer legs
A turbocharged and intercooled, 2.5-liter boxer 4-cylinder engine powers the spec.B, and the same engine is found in the lower 2.5GT model. With 243 horsepower and 241 lb-ft on tap, acceleration is brisk: 0-100 km/h happens in just 6.0 seconds, and passing power is prodigious.

Unlike the 2.5GT and its 5-speed manual, though, the spec.B gets a 6-speed. With a slightly shorter first gear ratio (3.6 vs. 3.2), the spec.B is a smudge quicker off the line, but you'll be shifting more often.

Top-gear ratios are virtually identical for both turbo Legacys, which means the spec.B will not spin its engine at a lower revolution on the highway; it actually posts worst fuel consumption figures than the 2.5GT, and I'm averaging 12.9 L/100 km. An automatic is not available.

Another spec.B exclusivity is the addition of sport-tuned Bilstein shock absorbers all around. The result is a car that's a little more composed during sporty driving than the less-expensive GT. The spec.B feels more buttoned-down, has slightly less body roll and clings on in curves.

The engine's growl is surprising at first.

Stiffer shocks usually mean a stiffer ride, but it's not the case here. The Bilsteins do a remarkable job and I prefer them to the GT's setup. However, the difference can pretty much only be noticed by driving the two models back-to-back.

Traction control and stability control systems are standard in the spec.B, but if you want them in the GT model, you have to opt for the 5-speed automatic transmission.

Only a well-informed eye can differentiate the spec.B from the 2.5 GT.

Subtle exterior distinction
There isn't much that distinguishes a spec.B from a standard-issue 2.5GT. There's bigger wheels, 18 inches versus 17; there's chrome trim on the lower-body side mouldings; and there's the spec.B badge slapped on the car's rump.

Good news for 2008: the choice of paint jobs available for the spec.B has doubled; yes, you now have a tough choice between two colors: Diamond Grey or Quartz Silver. This car is definitely not for those who want to draw attention.

Also, note that there is no wagon version of the spec.B. Speaking of the wagon, it's no longer available in the U.S., as they're left with the Legacy sedan only. The Outback's still available across the border, though.

Nice seats
I really like the spec.B's leather and Alcantara seats. The latter looks good but is also grippy and prevents you from sliding around while cornering like you would in the leather-lined GT.

Inside the spec.B, you'll also find a navigation system that no other Legacy has. It's got a touch-screen which makes its operation a lot easier, and it's mounted high on the dashboard, so it's easy to read. The system also includes a trip computer and a fuel consumption gauge.

Don't be surprised if there's less interior space in the Legacy than in the Accord or Camry. The cockpit is tight for a mid-size, in the same vein as a BMW 3-Series or an Audi A4. But overall, the inside of the spec.B looks very upscale and rich. By the way, the 6-speaker sound system with a 6-CD changer that reads MP3 and WMA files sounds great.

The navigation system is only available in the Legacy GT spec.B.

At $44,995, the spec.B measures up to a few heavy-hitting sport sedans. Let's see what we can also buy for the same amount of money.

The Acura TSX with NAVI costs $39,000, but doesn't come with all-wheel drive, and its 205-hp engine isn't as muscular as the spec.B's. The Audi A4 3.2 Quattro lists for $49,500. Add the navigation system ($2,900), which requires you also choose the Convenience Package ($700), and the tab climbs to $53,100.

The spec.B has nothing to be ashamed of when compared to the competition.

The BMW 328xi costs $43,600. Add the Sport Package ($2,300), the Premium Package ($4,300) and the navigation system ($2,900), which totals $53,100. The brand-new Cadillac CTS4 costs $43,225. Add the surround sound system with navigation ($3,900) and the power sunroof ($1,660), and the car ends up costing $48,785, but you can't get all-wheel drive and a manual transmission together.

The Infiniti G35x costs $43,540, but to get a navigation system, you must choose the High Technology Package ($3,900), which requires you also choose the Premium Package ($3,350). Total is $50,790, and you can't get it with a stick. Finally, the Lexus IS 250 AWD costs $41,150, but if you want a navigation system, you have to opt for the Luxury with Navigation Package, which costs $12,900. The invoice skyrockets to $54,050, a manual is not available, and it's a little low on power compared to the Subaru.

Of course, the Legacy 2.5GT spec.B lacks the prestige and reputation of all of the above. However, it makes up for nicely with a fun-to-drive character, blistering performance, and razor-sharp handling. You can almost consider the spec.B to be a generic-brand based on a BMW, since it can basically do what a 328xi can but at a lower price.

As such, the spec.B is a great car. But for that price, it doesn't feel as expensive as the competition listed above. I would make a few sacrifices and save almost $5,000 by downgrading to the regular 2.5GT.

Impressive performance
Sweet handling
Comfortable seats

Tight cockpit
High price
Choice of only two colors

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