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MOTORNET: Subaru Range New Year Spruce-Up

MOTORNET: Subaru Range New Year Spruce-Up

Subaru Range New Year Spruce-Up

SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie -

More power, more kit, and all for a pretty modest increase on the pricing front – Subaru’s Legacy and Forester models just got more attractive with the release of the upgraded range. All key 2006 Legacy models get a going over, with the base model vehicle, the 2.0R coming in for extra special treatment.

Subaru's new Legacy
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For the clearest steer that Subaru are positioning the brand more up-market, just take a look at the standard features list. The basic Legacy, which retails for $39,990 in five-speed manual – a $2000 increase over its predecessor – comes equipped with plenty of standard kit.

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On the inside, notable items include climate controlled air conditioning, and six airbags, including dual front and dual front side airbags, as well as full length curtain airbags. Leather bound steering wheel and cruise control are also standard, while the high quality interior plastics and fit and finish are impressive given this cars base model status.

On the outside, five-spoke alloy wheels, dual exhaust and fog lights complete the picture. The new Legacy, introduced only a few years ago, still looks every bit the modern vehicle either in sedan or wagon variant and the latest goodies only add to this perception.

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The bits under the bonnet have undergone a similar makeover, with the two-litre engine receiving an extra cam for each head, active valve control and that dual exhaust mentioned earlier to gain a not insignificant 20 kW of power – up from 101 kW of the previous model. Torque remains at 187 Nm but now is available from a much more accessible 3200 rpm.

In fact, the increase in kilowatts means the two litre now produces exactly the same numbers as its bigger brother the 2.5i. Nevertheless, while the power increase is welcome, the 2.0R still struggles a little with the 1400kg mass it is required to haul. The engine is a willing performer, and the five speed manual is light and easy to use, but it needs to be worked reasonably hard to achieve meaningful acceleration. Size 11 boots and over might also find the clutch and the dead (footrest) pedal just a little too close together for comfort. Performance wise, expect a 0-100km/h time of around 9.5 seconds – not blisteringly quick, but still pretty respectable in the two litre segment.

Not surprisingly, the 3.0R spec.B Legacy still packs the biggest performance punch of the normally aspirated cars and if you’re after genuine performance in your Subaru AWD sedan or wagon and can’t quite stretch to a GT, this is the engine to have. With 180kW on tap and a smidgen under 300Nm of torque (though at a reasonably peaky 4200 rpm) it packs quite a punch. There’s something unmistakably special about Subaru’s six-cylinder horizontally opposed Boxer engine. The sound of it as the revs climb to the redline is simply glorious and more than a little addictive.

It’s not the engine though that is the big news for the spec.B. Instead of the standard, and admittedly excellent, six-speed manual transmission, punters can now opt for the new five-speed sportshift automatic. The four-speed auto was perhaps Subaru’s Achilles heel when it came to the new Legacy range, but with the arrival of the new transmission sporting a very capable pseudo manual action, that oversight has now been corrected. Along for the ride, and exclusive to the spec.B, are 18” alloys, black leather trim and an outstanding McIntosh 13-speaker sound system. Subaru also claim improved fuel economy with this engine over its predecessor but some may still find it a little on the thirsty side compared to its 2.0 and 2.5 litre siblings. The spec.B retails for just under $58,000, or close to $20k over the entry level model.

The Legacy is not the only model to come in for some TLC by Subaru, with the evergreen Forester undergoing a substantial makeover for 2006. The Forester has been a stalwart of the soft-roader market for many years, and despite its rather plain-Jane looks, has always enjoyed a strong following.

The new look Forester
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The new look Forester sports a re-designed front end with a noticeably larger grille and revised headlight treatment and integrated driving lights on the higher spec XT and XS models. The taillights get new treatment also. The new look is softer and curvier, adding to the general appeal of the range in my view. All Forester’s bar the base model X variant come standard with body coloured skirts and bumpers.

Like the Legacy, the Forester benefits from recent engine modifications. Even the entry level X model features the revised 2.5 litre (the smallest engine on offer in the Forester range) benefiting from an increase in power of eight percent, and a modest torque increase. The turbocharged XT now develops 169kW, up from the previous models 155kW.

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Suspension too has come in for some treatment. The Forester feels as sure footed as ever with a generally comfortable ride while still enjoying reasonable ground clearance for most soft-roading techniques and good handling. Which isn’t to say owners of Foresters feel so constrained – I recently tested the Land Rover Discovery on some fairly demanding coastal 4WD routes and was followed a fair bit of the way by an enthusiastic Forester driver!

All models benefit from an interior upgrade including a new centre console which can act as a sliding centre armrest for front seat occupants. During my time in the base X model I found it worked well, particularly the incorporated cup holders.

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Similarly, even the base models enjoy good levels of equipment including air conditioning, a single disc CD player, ABS and dual and front side airbags. Some may bemoan the pressed steel wheels on the X model but they are at least attractive! The XT turbo adds an in-dash six-stack CD, leather upholstery, climate air con, remote audio controls and cruise control to the list of goodies. Automatic variants also get Subaru’s excellent pseudo manual Sportshift transmission. The X starts the ball rolling at $35,990, with the XT exactly $10,000 more at $45,990.


Subaru has a tremendous following in New Zealand, their range of cars seemingly enjoying status as both practical, no-nonsense vehicles for the active and sporty, but also as performance icons thanks to the continuing success of the WRX range. Truthfully, it is status that is well deserved. The revised Legacy and Forester range, in addition to their improved equipment and additional power, continue to impress with inherently safe yet sporty chassis dynamics, generally good ride, attractive styling, and respectable build quality. While not always the cheapest cars on the market – Mazda’s 6 undercuts the 2.0R Legacy by around $1700 for example, while the entry level Forester is lineball with Honda’s CRV – with a well deserved reputation, and a range honed to keep the competition at bay, the Legacy and Forester will no doubt continue to punch above their weight.


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