2009 Legacy GT Spec.B Review

The 2009 Subaru Legacy GT Spec.B – So you are in your mid to late twenties, you have a great career, a promising future, and have finally paid off your student loans. That 1993 Honda Accord beater in your driveway has gotten you through college, grad school, and your first few years in the real world but it is time to upgrade to that entry level sports sedan after which you have always lusted. There are many contenders for your money from the German stables and now from our friends in the far East as well. Unfortunately, the A4 is too heavy, the C-Class is too feminine, there are too many damn G35’s on the road and, well, you know what they say about BMW drivers… And then you think, I really love the WRX STI or Lancer Evolution but I could never force my boss and clients into those narrow CLOTH sport seats with a kidney jarring ride and that big goofy wing on the back. But, hey, don’t they make that other car, you know, the ‘STI for adults?’

This brings us to the 2009 Subaru Legacy Spec.B. The standard Legacy GT is a great car (I would know, I have one of 2005 vintage), with the same potent turbocharged engine wedged into a great chassis with a decent exterior and great looking interior. But upgrading to the Spec.B buys you larger 18-inch wheels with summer rubber, a Billstein inverted strut suspension, lightweight aluminum suspension components, an upgraded leather interior with Alcantara inserts, a smooth 6-speed manual transmission, VDC traction control, memory driver’s seat, and a navigation system. You get all of this in addition to everything else that comes standard with the Legacy GT.

Specifications and Features:

Power comes from a 2.5 liter horizontally-opposed engine with a Mitsubishi turbocharger that cranks out a respectable 243 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 241 ft-lbs of torque at 3600 rpm. Due to the ‘boxer’ layout of the cylinders, the engine block is more compact and it sits lower in the chassis for better weight balance and a lower center of gravity.

All Subaru vehicles feature symmetrical all wheel drive, which means that the driveshaft runs directly down the center of the car and all half shafts leading from the differentials are the same length. What this means to you: the drive train connections are identical from the engine to each wheel for a balanced all wheel drive system. The Spec.B features VDC traction control, by which it is able to control wheel spin in slippery conditions to keep you on the road.

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Subarus have been known in recent history for their safety across the board and the Legacy is no exception as it has received five star crash test ratings throughout its current lifespan. It features front and side airbags with side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants and a reinforced safety ring to protect the passenger cabin.

The interior looks much richer and very clean when compared to other cars in this segment with stereo and climate controls smoothly integrated into the center stack. The interior illumination is top notch with white backlit displays and red center console lighting. Fit and finish is not quite up to Toyota/Honda standards but is still close with mostly even panel gaps. The leather seats with Alcantra inserts are indeed very sporty in appearance but lack ample hip and side bolstering for more spirited driving. I blame this on the larger American physique whose love handles cannot fit between larger bolsters and narrower seating surfaces. All dash materials are pleasing to the eye and to the touch and even the headliner feels like it is quality.

New for 2009, the Legacy features a Harmon Kardon stereo with 6-disk CD player, 385 watts of power, auxiliary input for MP3 players, and optional satellite radio. There is also an in-dash navigation system which unfortunately was not activated at the time of testing.

Appearance:

After greeting one of the managers at the dealership, I walked outside to see what I was getting myself into. The car sat waiting for me in Quartz Silver Metallic, which is a nice color but a bit too light and, uh, silver for my tastes. While the exterior design is not the most inspiring, it is definitely attractive and inoffensive and is the best looking of all current Subaru models. The Legacy was face lifted in 2008 and in my opinion, looks better than the 2005-2007 version of the car, which looks like the offspring of a Toyota Camry and last generation Audi A4. There are little details, like the projector lamps and frameless doors which add to the sexiness of the exterior, and the hood scoop and unique to Spec 18″ multispoke wheels add to the car’s sportiness.

Driving Impressions:

I sat in the car and found a comfortable seating position and after the dealer brought me a license plate, I was off. The 6-speed manual in the Spec.B is light years ahead of the standard 5-speed transmission found on non Spec.B Legacy’s which I thought was way too sloppy and notchy with a clutch that really works your glutes. Fortunately, the clutch on the Spec.B is smooth and light with easy engagement and the shifter has less slop but is rather tall with longish throws for a sporty car. Fortunately, this issue can be remedied with the dealer installed short throw STi shifter or with many other aftermarket alternatives for little money.

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Clutch uptake was smooth and the car is easy to get rolling and works well with the engine. The engine posts respectable power figures but the car feels much stronger than the numbers may indicate. When I first started tooling around, the car felt less powerful than my 2005 GT with automatic transmission and I was a little bit confused until I remembered about the neat little SI-Drive feature. SI-Drive is a neat feature that allows the driver to select their engine mapping software for different driving conditions. There are three modes: Intelligent for more economical driving and lower boost from the turbo, Sport for regular daily driving, and Sport Sharp for sharper, more aggressive throttle response. SI-Drive always selects Sport by default, which is why I was initially underwhelmed by the power train.

After realizing my mistake, I twisted the SI-Drive knob to Sport Sharp and the car briskly displayed a small graph under the speedometer indicating that I had chosen the fun mode. Throttle response was fierce with boost quickly building up at about 3,000 RPM with usable power throughout the rev range, although it did drop off slightly at higher engine speeds. Shooting from stoplight to stoplight quickly reminded me why the turbocharged 2.5 Liter horizontally opposed engine is one of the most fun to drive around. I immediately had images in my head of people in other lanes wondering how they were just blown away by a freakin’ Camry! Yes, this car is fast in the straights posting 0-60 times in the low to mid 5 second range and beating many cars that significantly more expensive.

Straight line performance is not the Spec.B’s only forte – it prefers curves just like any car guy would. The suspension is a big improvement over the non-Spec.B Legacy GT, which leans into curves like a dancer at a go-go club. This can be attributed to the Billstein inverted dampers which should have been standard on all iterations of the Legacy. Strangely enough, the Billstein dampers also improve the ride quality of the Legacy with smoother runs over bumps and potholes. The real kicker, however, is the all wheel drive system which really puts the power down nicely. Under regular load, the all wheel drive system sends half of the power to the front and half of the power to the rear wheels. At the limit, however, the system does a great job of sending power to the wheels that matter and keeping the car straight and predictable.

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Unlike most front wheel drive cars, this car is not overly prone to understeer and you can even kick the rear end out and throttle steer around corners. It really feels more like an Audi S4 or BMW 335xi than a Camry or Altima. The car’s stability in all driving conditions inspires confidence and active safety and the car responds to the driver’s inputs like a proper sports sedan. After a several attempts at four wheel drifting, I decided to give the car a rest and head back to the dealership.

Conclusion:

Overall, the 2009 Legacy GT Spec.B features many creature comforts in a sporty package and is one of the most fun almost luxury sports sedans on the market. It is at a price point in between a fully loaded Honda Accord V6 and a fully equipped Audi A4 2.0t, with a suggested retail price of around $35,000. While some may contend that this price is rather high for a fully loaded, non – luxury branded vehicle, it offers lots of content an sport for the money. You get great features such as navigation, traction control, heated seats, a powerful audio system, sunroof, and a great looking interior. You also get a car that is almost as much fun as an S4 for the price of a basic A4. There are some things missing that are fairly common in this segment, such as HID headlights, Bluetooth compatibility, and keyless go. The brakes are also good but not great while the suspension is still a tad bit soft to go head to head with the S4 and 335Xi, but those cars cost $10,000 or more and are more expensive to repair. There is also a great aftermarket for the Legacy with many different power, braking, handling, and appearance upgrades.

So if you are a young successful person looking for a fast, fun, and luxurious car without the snobby branding, the Legacy GT Spec.B is for you.

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