As the world's car makers increasingly diversify into niche markets so some rather unusual cars have been appearing, none more so than the recent spate of hot estate cars.

Until just a few years ago sales of estate cars had dwindled so badly that it began to seem as though the breed might disappear altogether. But there has been a recent resurgence of the type led by a move away from hatchbacks toward, on the one hand, conventional 3 box saloons and, on the other, more practical, less compromised, load luggers which are a viable means of family transport and better support changing lifestyles as more people indulge in outdoor sports or run small businesses from home, both of which require the carrying capacity of a van combined with the comforts of a family car.

Into this arena steps a heavyweight contender from Subaru, the masters of 4 wheel drive offroaders, now with a huge slice of the rapidly growing U.K. market, with a niche estate that makes most of the competition look tame and will provide an adrenaline overload for the most jaded car buff at well under 20 grand.

The Subaru Legacy Turbo Estate offers all of the practicality of a medium sized estate car with a huge load area. But, combine that with great comfort and a high specification, then, to spice the pot, add large measures of 4 wheel drive stability, superb handling and the sort of performance that leaves most sports car standing and you have a very sophisticated multi-purpose vehicle of a very different breed. In a phrase, quick and grippy.

The Turbo estate is top of a range which starts with the 2 litre DL at well under £13,000 and rises through 4 trim levels and a choice of 2 or 2.2 litre petrol engines – 12 models in all - culminating in the Turbo Estate at a shade under £19,000. 

Blessed with a very stylish design which looks as at home pulling up to a swish town address as traversing a ploughed field, the Legacy is very spacious, slim pillars giving a large glass area and a very good view of the road.

The cabin offers great space and comfort with well trimmed, comfortable, seating for five, the front seats being fully adjustable and the rear seats split 60/40 to turn an already large load area into a cavernous space up to 5'6'' long all covered by a retractable tonneau cover. 

The gently curving dashboard contains a comprehensive range of instruments, all very clear and all switchgear is large, solid and easily reached. As befits a range topper this Legacy is very well equipped with alloy wheels, central locking, a leather – adjustable - steering wheel, power windows and mirrors, 4 channel ABS, headlamp wash/wipe, front foglights and a good 4 speaker stereo.

Oddly, the electric aerial is switched separately from the radio, presumably so one can hurtle down forest tracks, tape player at full belt, without fear of the antenna's removal by a wayward tree branch. For a 4 wheel drive car with such impressive off road abilities the Legacy achieves quite incredible performance from it's flat 4 cylinder, 4 cam, 16 valve, turboed and multi-point injected, engine which produces an astonishing 197 bhp and 193 lbs/feet of torque, the product of a virtually nil lag turbo which comes in at 2500 rpm and hits hard from 3000 rpm all the way to the redline registering barely 7 seconds for the 0-60 dash, better than many sportscars.

Both the engine and transmission of this superb car are rally bred winners from the Legacy saloon which has been one of the dominant cars in the World Rally Championships of the last few seasons. The barking rasp of the boxer engine is a notable feature of the current rally scene yet, in this car, is quietly tamed - unless provoked - and cruises happily and quietly at motorway speeds.

The 4 wheel drive system is permanently engaged with torque split between front and rear wheels relative to the amount of grip available. The transmission is very quiet in use much more akin to a high performance car than an offroad vehicle and the handling is surprisingly good. With a firmish yet still comfortable ride, the Legacy has the agility of a sports car with minimal roll, no dive or squat on hardbraking or acceleration, good grip from the 205/60 tyres and the well weighted power steering gives the car great stability and precise control. Braking is very solid with vented discs all round - and ABS is fitted as standard.

The Legacy Turbo Estate is a tough, yet comfortable and sophisticated estate that must be the ultimate Q car with performance that explodes into action when you hit the go pedal.

  • PRICE AS TESTED £18999
  • TOP SPEED 137 M.P.H.
  • 0-60 MPH 7 SECONDS
  • 38 M.P.G.[CONSTANT 56 M.P.H. ]


First Published 1994 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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