1998 Subaru Legacy Review
Pros & Cons
- All-wheel drive. Gutsy boxer engine. Great handling. An automotive Swiss Army knife.
- Inadequate seat travel. Dumb cupholder location.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Recently, Subaru decided to distance itself from mainstream automakers by emphasizing its all-wheel drive models. A wise move, since loyal Subaru buyers stick with the brand, partially because of the wide variety of AWD models in the company's stable. In the early '90s, the company attempted to steal market share from Nissan, Toyota, Honda and Mazda with bread-and-butter front-wheel drive models. The two-wheelers failed dismally.
These days, Subaru is enjoying rising success in the United States, in part due to consumer awareness of the safety benefits of all-wheel drive vehicles, and in part because of the popularity of the sport-utility vehicle. In 1996, Subaru introduced a jacked-up, duded-out edition of the hot-selling Legacy Station wagon. Called the Outback, it was sold as the world's first sport-utility wagon. Evidently, Subaru marketing gurus, like much of the buying public, have forgotten the AMC Eagle Sportswagon of the early '80s.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, goes the old adage. Subaru is taking this advice. Gone is the slow-selling LSi luxury model, leaving Brighton wagon, L sedan and wagon, 2.5GT sedan and wagon, and Outback wagons. A new 2.5GT Limited sedan has been added, and it comes with leather upholstery, CD player, dark tinted glass, upgraded sound insulation and a Weatherband radio. The 2.5GT Limited comes only with an automatic, unfortunately. In January, Paul Hogan introduced the 1999 Sport-Utility Sedan (an Outback four-door by any other name). Mix Outback styling cues with a sedan body style and you get the picture. An interesting vehicle to be sure, but where's the utility portion of the equation?
Overall, prices haven't changed much, but some equipment has been deleted from the Brighton and L models to keep pricing in line. Base Outback wagons get new six-spoke alloy wheels and longer splash guards, along with a Weatherband radio. Previously, the latter was only available on the Outback Limited, which can be equipped with a power dual sunroof for 1998. All Outback Limited models became 30th Anniversary Editions midyear with the addition of revised exterior trim and standard dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, front seatback netting and front door courtesy lights.
Two engines are available. Brighton and L models have a 2.2-liter, 137-horsepower boxer under the hood. Step up to the 2.5GT or the Outback and you'll enjoy a 165-horsepower 2.5-liter flat four that provides entertaining acceleration around town, particularly with the manual transmission.
Bargains can be had in the Legacy lineup. The L model comes equipped with cruise control, tachometer, power door locks, and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. The real deal is the Brighton wagon. With all-wheel drive, a 40-watt sound system and air conditioning all standard, this model is priced much lower than most other two-wheel drive wagons on the market. Add some alloy wheels, and nobody will know it's the cheapest Legacy in the lineup. Unfortunately, ABS is not available on the Brighton.
Subaru has a good thing going with the Legacy, which offers a little something for everyone. Roomy, comfortable and loaded with utility, the Legacy's standard all-wheel drive should make you think twice about that Taurus, RAV4 or CR-V.