2005 Subaru Legacy Wagon Pricing

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2005 Subaru Legacy Wagon
Lou Ann Hammond

Introduction
The Subaru Legacy has been thoroughly redesigned for 2005. It's bigger than previous-generation models and comes with new styling and new interiors. The 2005 Legacy wagons and sedans are roomier, more comfortable and more contemporary than before. They look sleeker and more contemporary. They handle better and feel more refined, benefits of a more rigid chassis and wider track. They're sportier, too, with a powerful new Legacy GT model added to the lineup.

Equipped with all-wheel drive and a 250-horsepower turbocharged engine, the Legacy GT attacks mountain roads like a sports car. It boasts a seemingly perfect balance of ride and handling. Around town and on the highway it offers a nice, smooth ride and handles bumpy sections particularly well.

No mid-size sedan inspires more confidence on a wet road than the Subaru Legacy. The Legacy wagons are eminently practical and two-thirds of all Legacy buyers choose them. Subaru continues to offer all-wheel-drive as standard equipment on every vehicle in its product line.

Long a cult favorite in inclement climes, Subaru is gradually stretching beyond its traditional base in geography, performance and pricing. The company wants shoppers to think of Subaru as a premium entry in its class. To this end, it's polishing its quality and technical credentials. The 2005 Legacy 2.5i and 2.5 GT go a long way toward achieving these goals. They are more sophisticated and more refined than before. While continuing to offer the utility, safety, performance, and reliability loyal Subaru customers expect, the new models are more stylish, offer more performance, and exude more emotion than previous models. Model Lineup
The 2005 Subaru Legacy comes in sedan and wagon body styles. All come with variations of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the latest evolution of Subaru's slick, full-time four-wheel-drive system. Two four-cylinder engines are available (but no six-cylinder).

The 2.5i models come with a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic ($1000). The automatic come with a semi-manual feature called Sportshift.

The 2.5 GT models get a 250-horsepower version of the same engine turbocharged and intercooled. The GT models come with a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic ($1200). The automatic comes with Sportshift, while the manual has been reinforced to handle the extra horsepower.

The base Legacy 2.5i sedan ($20,995) and 2.5i wagon ($21,995) come nicely equipped: air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; cruise control; six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; trip computer; power windows, locks and mirrors; and carpeted floor mats. Upholstery is a tweed-look fabric. The wagon has a 60/40 split, fold-down rear seatback; cargo light; carpeted cargo area; and retractable cargo cover. Exterior-wise, the wheels are 16-inch alloys with R-rated all-season tires, and the foldable mirrors and side ground effects are painted to match the body. The wagon gets a rear spoiler and roof rails.

Moving up to the 2.5i Limited sedan ($24,445) 2.5i Limited wagon ($25,645) adds upgraded front disc brakes, a power driver's seat; a cold-weather package; an in-dash, six-disc CD changer; power moonroof; dual-zone automatic air conditioning; leather trim on the seats and wrapped around the steering wheel, hand brake grip and shifter knob; and halogen foglamps. The moonroof on the wagon is a dual-pane design, with a tilt-up front panel and a retracting rear section.

The 2.5 GT sedan ($25,995) and GT wagon ($26,995) come with cloth upholstery; sporty front seats; a Momo-brand, leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel (with integrated, Sportshift buttons when the automatic is ordered); turn signals integrated into the outside mirrors; dressed-up door sills; 17-inch alloy wheels; Z-rated all-season tires; and larger brake discs, with vented rear rotors.

The 2.5i GT Limited sedan ($28,495) and wagon ($29,695) get perforated leather upholstery; a power driver's seat; a four-way power passenger's seat; and a moonroof.

All Legacy models come with a full array of safety features, comprising dual-stage frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and full-coverage side curtain airbags. The front seats have active head restraints. Antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) are standard across the line.

Port-installed accessories include a rear spoiler for the sedan ($380); moonroof air deflector ($73); rear cargo tray ($75); and various configurations of rear cargo nets ($42 to $68) for the wagon; an air filtration system ($85); subwoofer/amplifier ($273); all-weather floor mats ($55); short-throw shifter for the manual transmission ($339); Momo shift knob (manual: $97; automatic: $112); and a metal pedal pad set (manual: $165; automatic: $141). Walkaround
Despite a host of changes to its appearance, the 2005 Legacy is clearly a Subaru. The new Legacy looks sleeker and more contemporary than previous models.

The lower corners of the grille have been tucked inward, yielding an elongated, more elegant hexagonal shape. Bold, projector-type headlights dominate sculpted, BMW-like openings, which also house the turn indicators and running lights. Small, intense foglamps bracket a wide air intake molded into the lower fascia below the front bumper. Rounder sides give the body a fuller-looking shape. More deeply etched character lines in the hood add perceived motion and emphasize the 2005's slightly wider track. The hood scoop feeding air to the turbocharger is understated, but obviously functional.

The 2005 Legacy's incrementally longer wheelbase and 2 inches of added overall length allow more of a wedge shape, led by a lower, more sloping hood. The horizontally opposed, or boxer, engine is mounted low, allowing for a low hood and low center of gravity. A-pillars rise smoothly out of the front fenders over a nicely arched glasshouse, trailing down into BMW-like C-pillars. Bustle-like hindquarters finish with a gradual taper inward, easing the passage of air into the car's wake. Body-colored door handles hinge upward and are more tightly styled into the door panels.

The back end is seriously concave, with a better-integrated bumper fascia. Taillights are larger, more than mildly reminiscent of the Honda Civic, and now bracket the trunk lid, which houses a less angular license plate opening. Chrome dual exhaust tips on the GT models poke out beneath arched cutouts at each corner, hyping the Legacy's sporty aspirations. Interior
The interior of the 2005 Legacy has been completely redesigned. It's quieter, less busy, with more expanse of unbroken, softly textured dash. The center stack, housing the stereo and climate control panels, is finished in a rich, matte metallic look, with the stereo controls properly positioned above the climate control knobs. Our only complaint is with the stereo's tuning function: Where there should be a tuning knob is a round, PDA-type rocker button dedicated to selecting the sound source, while tuning must be done by depressing either end of a rocker lever beneath the volume knob and waiting while the tuner dutifully scrolls its way through the frequencies. At the top of the center stack is a covered storage bin between two, well-proportioned air registers. The large, round, easy-to-read speedometer and tachometer are braced by fuel and water temperature gauges.

Door panels are accented by the same matte metallic trim surrounding longitudinal insets housing door pulls and window buttons below bright metal-finished door handles.

The GT's front seats are easily up to the capability of the car, with decent bottom and side bolsters to contain occupants during rambunctious motoring. The seats in the 2.5i are more in tune with commutes and long-distance drives. Head and hip room is accommodating, but adjusting the front seats for six-footers leaves rear seat legroom cramped. The rear seats in Legacy models are adequate, with relatively flat seat bottoms and a low seating position without a lot of leg room. The center head restraint on the rear seat is fixed in the sedan and adjustable in the wagon.

Pedals are well placed, if not especially conducive to heel-and-toe downshifts. The steering wheel rim is thick and contoured for comfortable and confident grip at the recommended 9-and-3 positions. The shift lever falls readily to hand. Shifts in the manual, while not exactly rubbery, could be a bit more precise, and downshifting with confidence takes some practice. The Sportshift gate is where it should be, toward the driver; push the shifter forward for upshifts, pull back for downshifts.

The sloping hood makes for improved forward visibility. Good-sized rear quarter windows minimize the blindage from the C-pillars. Thin sails leave room for an expansive backlight (rear windscreen) that fills the rearview mirror.

The bottom portions of the door panels hold fixed map pockets, limiting flexibility of use. Front and rear seats get two cup holders. There's a net for magazines attached to the front seatback. The center console isn't especially commodious, but it has an auxiliary power outlet for cell phones, leaving the lighter outlet in the base of the C-stack for a radar detector. The sedan's trunk is fully finished, with its gooseneck hinges enclosed to prevent inadvertently smashed groceries. The station wagon cargo area boasts two covered storage bins. Driving Impressions
Driving the new Legacy is enjoyable. It's more agile than last year's model. No, it's not a sports car, but it is the most responsive, best handling Legacy yet, sufficiently so to keep up with and sometimes embarrass many an aspirational sports sedan on winding roads. Driving the turbocharged Legacy GT on a mountain road brought out the racer in us, accelerating hard out of the corners, down the straightaways, braking hard for the next corner as we set up for the next apex. Throw in some rain and the Legacy GT is unbeatable by anything in its class.

Extensive use of aluminum in the hood, bumper beams and suspension components, and high strength, hydroformed steel, combined with a more compact engine design, cut some 200 pounds off the curb weight. It also concentrated more of that weight toward the car's middle. Less weight is better and moving some of the weight rearward are good things. Dropping the engine in the chassis by about an inch and redesigning the rear suspension lowered the center of gravity. All of this, together with the wider track, make for an agile, lively car on a winding road.

The GT model has strong power (250 horsepower), making it fun to accelerate out of corners. Turbo lag is minimal, and once it spools up, the engine develops strong torque as it climbs rapidly and smoothly to redline, taking the car to an indicated 140 mph.

The 2.5i models benefit from a slight power increase (3 horsepower) over last year's models along with reduced weight. This makes them quicker than before. The manual transmission makes the best use of the engine's 168 horsepower.

The suspension soaks up road bumps and joints, with a bit more resonance (vibration) from the 17-inch wheels than the base 16-inch wheels. Washboard pavement in corners unsettles things enough to notice, but not enough to slow down. The Legacy is stable, though at very high speeds we noticed it was susceptible to cross winds and turbulence generated by 18-wheelers. Brakes in the various models are up to their powerplants' potential, with the top-of-the-line GT Limited well deserving of its high-performance componentry. The brakes are easy to modulate. Winding down a mountain road in Southern California, we found the brakes, suspension and engine in the GT wagon easy to coordinate, allowing for smooth driving that didn't upset our passengers. Little wind noise intrudes at highway speeds, save for around the seal around the moonroof when the undershade is retracted and from roof rack crossbars.

The all-wheel-drive system in the Legacy models differs in technical details by drivetrain: When fitted with the manual transmission, the all-wheel-drive system uses a viscous coupling, a locking center differential that splits the engine's power between the front and rear wheels; if the tires at one end begin to slip, the system sends more power to the other end; optimally, the split is 50/50, but power transfer can reach 100 percent to either end under extreme conditions. The four-speed automatic is matched with an electronically managed, continuously variable transfer clutch that distributes the power where it's best used, but no more than 50/50. The five-speed automatic transmission brings with it the most technologically advanced of Subaru's all wheel-drive system, the VTD, for Variable Torque Distribution. An electronically controlled, continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch manages the power distribution through a planetary center differential. Under normal conditions, the VTD splits the power 45/55 front/rear to give the GT more of a rear wheel-drive feel, but adjustments, to a maximum of 50/50, are made as road conditions dictate. All of these systems give the Legacy a sure-footed feel and greatly improve grip and handling stability in slippery conditions. Summary
The new Subaru Legacy is refined, polished, powerful, agile. It's fun to drive and has a smooth, pleasant ride. It's equipped with state-of-the art active and passive safety features and boasts better-than-respectable fuel economy.

Model as tested
Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited sedan ($28,495)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Lafayette, Indiana
Destination charge
575
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
20995
Price as tested
30270
Options as tested
Sportshift automatic transmission ($1200); California PZEV emissions ($200)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Subaru Legacy 2.5i sedan ($20,995), wagon ($21,995); 2.5i Limited sedan ($24,445), wagon ($25,645); 2.5 GT sedan ($25,995), wagon ($26,995); 2.5 GT Limited sedan ($28,495), wagon ($29,695)
Safety equipment (standard)
two-stage frontal airbags; front seat-mounted side-impact airbags; full coverage side curtain airbags; active front-seat head restraints; head restraints for all rear seating positions (adjustable for outboard positions); anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution; child safety seat anchors; collapsible driver''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''s footrest and collision-activated retracting brake pedal assembly
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.5-liter single overhead cam 16-valve turbocharged and intercooled flat four
Transmissions
5-speed Sportshift automatic

Specifications as Tested
dual-zone automatic climate control; cruise control; power door locks, outside mirrors and windows; 8-way driver and 4-way passenger power seats; AM/FM/CD stereo with in-dash, 6-disc changer and six speakers; leather-wrapped steering wheel and -trimmed upholstery; remote keyless entry with engine immobilizer; power moonroof; heated front seats, exterior mirrors and windshield washer nozzles; halogen foglamps; auto-dimming mirror/compass

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.5-liter single overhead cam 16-valve turbocharged and intercooled flat four
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
250 @ 5600
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
19/25
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS and EBD
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson-type struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Tires
215/45R17
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
37.5/51.0/44.1
Head/hip/leg room, rear
36.5/52.6/33.9

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
66.2
Wheelbase
105.1
Length/width/height
186.2/68.1/56.1
Turning circle
35.4
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
2700
Track, front/rear
58.9/58.5
Ground clearance
5.9
Curb weight
3435

2005 Subaru Legacy Wagon
Steve Schaefer

Introduction
The Subaru Outback has been redesigned for 2005. Exteriors are sharper, more stylish, less boxy. More important, the new models are larger outside, and roomier in many dimensions inside. The interior design is more contemporary, more attractive, more comfortable and more luxurious than before.

The cars are lighter and more stable than before. They handle well on winding roads, yet the ride is smooth and soft. The headlamps are higher tech, more upscale in appearance, and the lighting is better managed, with improved coverage. All come with a full complement of safety equipment, including curtain-style airbags and all-wheel drive. In short, these are terrific cars when the weather turns nasty and roads turn slippery.

New to the Outback lineup is the XT, powered by a new, 250-horsepower, turbocharged intercooled four-cylinder engine. It's designed for people who like to drive. The engine surges with power at high rpm making the car fun to drive on winding mountain roads.

The top models are still powered by a 3.0-liter flat six, but horsepower has been increased to 250. The six-cylinder delivers strong torque, giving it plenty of power on mountain roads without having to work at it. It's designed for people who like to travel, to get where they want to go with minimal fuss and bother, but want upscale trim and plenty of power.

Continued is the base 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine, now with 168 horsepower, a slight increase over last year's base model. These are the most popular models due to their price point. They deliver adequate power but are geared more toward frugality and practicality than performance.

The Outback offers slightly more ground clearance than the Legacy models and is better suited to gravel roads and deep snow. Yet the center of gravity has been lowered on the 2005 models for improved handling and safety. Wagons are most popular by far and are the best choice for venturing into the Outback with a load of outdoor gear, but there is a well-trimmed sedan available. The 2005 models cost more, and not just a little bit. But there's a good argument they're worth it. Model Lineup
Subaru builds its Outback in two body styles, sedan and station wagon. Two four-cylinder engines and one six-cylinder engine are available. Standard across the line is Subaru's all wheel-drive, which comes in three versions, each matched to a specific combination of engine and transmission.

The 2.5i and 2.5i Limited, both wagons, get a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission ($1000).

Next up are the 2.5 XT and 2.5 XT Limited, again, both wagons, with a 250-horsepower, turbocharged and intercooled version of the same four-cylinder engine. The five-speed manual transmission is beefed up to handle the additional power, and a five-speed Sportshift automatic is available ($1200).

The top of the line 3.0 R comprises three iterations: the sole sedan wearing the Outback badge and two wagons, the R L.L. Bean Edition and the VDC Limited. The standard powertrain in these three is a 250-horsepower six-cylinder engine coupled to the same five-speed Sportshift automatic that's an option in the XT. The VDC stands for Vehicle Dynamics Control, an electronic stability control system.

Buyers of the base 2.5i ($23,995) get a respectable feature set. The driver enjoys an eight-way power seat, tilt steering wheel, auto-off headlights and cruise control. There's the usual complement of power windows, outside mirrors and door locks and remote keyless entry. Air conditioning comforts occupants, who sit on durable-looking fabric upholstery and listen to a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo. The cargo area has its own light, carpet (including on the back of the rear seats, which are 60/40 split fold-down units), grocery bag hooks and a retractable cargo area cover. The rear bumper is protected by a full-width step pad, and the roof rack comes already fitted with cross bars. With the 2.5i Limited ($26,995) come fog lamps, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, dual-zone automatic air, leather-trimmed upholstery and dual-panel power moonroof.

Stepping up to the 2.5 XT ($27,995) forfeits the moonroof but adds body-colored outside mirrors with integrated turn signals and decorative door sill and rear liftgate sill plate covers, along with a four-way power seat with manual lumbar for the front-seat passenger, sport front seats and leather trim for the brake handle and shift lever. A leather-wrapped, Momo-brand steering wheel has integrated Sportshift control buttons if the optional five-speed automatic is ordered. The XT Limited ($30,695) brings perforated leather seat trim and restores the power moonroof.

The 3.0 R sedan ($30,995) gets a tire pressure monitoring system, a rear-seat center armrest with trunk pass-through and a single panel power moonroof but trades the turn indicator-equipped outside mirrors for the base units. A Momo-brand, mahogany-and-leather-wrapped steering wheel has integrated audio controls. Wagon lovers opting for the 3.0 R L.L. Bean Edition ($32,195) enjoy an auto-dimming inside mirror with electronic compass, L.L. Bean floor mats and leather-trimmed seats and a removable cargo tray. Turn indicator-equipped outside mirrors return on the 3.0 R VDC Limited ($33,395), as does the dual-pane moonroof. A three-frequency, programmable remote opener system joins a stereo upgraded with an MP3 player and rear sub woofer.

Standard safety equipment across the line comprises dual-stage frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and full coverage side curtain airbags. Active front-seat head restraints are standard, too, as are anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.

All-wheel drive remains standard across the line, but 2005 sees three systems, one more than in 2004, maintaining the trademark capability but at reduced cost and complexity. The automatic transmission now houses five speeds and comes with Sportshift, a manual-type shift function allowing drivers to select individual gears but without using a clutch pedal.

Buyers can order a number of aftermarket-type options through dealers. Three cargo nets ($42 to $68) are available, one of which attaches to the rear seatbacks and ceiling-mounted hooks, separating the passenger and cargo compartments. An auto-dimming/compass rearview mirror ($183) can be added to those models on which it isn't standard. Other options include an upgraded security system with perimeter alarm ($98); a trailer hitch ($369); a cargo area spotlight ($65); a subwoofer/amplifier ($273); a hood protector ($85); a front bumper underguard ($136); all-weather floor mats ($55); locks for alloy wheels ($41); short-throw shifter for manual transmissions ($339); and a Momo-brand shift knob ($97 for manual, $112 for automatic). Walkaround
Contrary to conventional expectations, jacking up a car's suspension by two or three inches needn't leave it looking top heavy or tippy. Smartly crafted fender blisters, a deeper front bumper and properly proportioned tire and wheel combinations can make even a tall car look confidently planted, as the 2005 Subaru Outback illustrates well when contrasted with its fraternal twin, the 2005 Subaru Legacy.

Two honeycomb-like bars split the Outback's grille horizontally, clearly distinguishing it from the Legacy's and highlighting its extended, octagonal shape. Large round fog lamps both emphasize and soften the aggressive lower fascia. A low-rise air intake on the XT's hood hints at the power lurking beneath. On the XT and the 3.0 R, the clear-lens turn indicators on the lower edges of the outside mirrors minimize their mass. Wide cross-section tires visually stretch the car's stance.

From the side, the hood's aerodynamic slope gives the car a look of motion even sitting still. In the sedan, the silhouette rises gradually to the A-pillar, then loops up over the geometrically arched side windows and back down behind the upscale, BMW-like C-pillar where it merges with the shoulder-like beltline before wrapping around an equally aerodynamically tapered boot. The wagon's roof line drops steadily rearward from the front doors, combining with the increasing inward tilt of the rear side windows to ease the air's passage beyond the wagon's tail end. Clearly outlined, circular fender blisters make the gap between tire and wheel well look less than it is. Minimalist splashguards behind both wheel wells and cladding along the bottom of the doors pull the body down even more around the tires.

The back end of the sedan traces the rounded shape of the car, with visible shoulders connected by a smoothly arcing trunk lid, concave below the trailing top edge. Inset in the center is the license plate. Large, trapezoidal taillights wrap around the rear fenders. On the wagon, all the lines (roof, rear window outline, beltline, bumper and rocker panel) draw inward, toward the car's center, giving it a taut, neat finish. Large, geometric taillights cover the upper corners of the rear fenders. Small, almost demure backup lights are embedded in the liftgate on each side of the chrome eyelid over the recess for the rear license plate. The secondary, high-mounted stop light is centered in the roof-high spoiler behind a stylish, crystal clear lens. Interior
Front seats in the Outback 2.5i base model are comfortable, but definitely short of plush, upholstered in a durable fabric that's reasonably grippy, more so than the leather in the 2.5i Limited. Rear seats are bolstered about the same as the fronts, with a minimal rise in the center in recognition of the driveline hump.

The leather in the Limited isn't especially kid glove-like, but it is richly surfaced. The front seats in the XT and above have fuller bolsters and better overall support; the lumbar adjustments at their least aggressive setting accommodate sensitive, surgically altered lower backs, while at the opposite extreme can brace a classic ramrod spine. Bottom cushions are deeper than many but lack the ultimate in thigh support achieved by the standard-setting BMW seats. The perforated leather insets in the XT Limited adds some grip that the smooth-finished leather lacks and allows the barest amount of air flow that's refreshing on hot and cold days.

The dash is topped with mildly textured, high quality, seamless vinyl, low-gloss to minimize reflected glare in the windshield. The instruments are rimmed in black in the 2.5i and XT, in chrome in the 3.0 R. Gauges are large and round, positioned directly in front of the driver and easy to scan through the three-spoke steering wheel. Cruise controls are contained in a stubby stalk attached to the steering wheel at about the 4 o'clock position.

In the upper half of the dash to the left of the gauges are two vents, one small for defogging the driver's window, the other large, with four-way directional vanes and a roller knob that varies the air flow from full to off. Below these are controls for dash light intensity, outside mirror adjustment and remote gas filler cover and a small storage bin. At the opposite end of the dash, matching vents fulfill the same functions.

Topping the center stack are two large, tall vents, again with four-way directional vanes but no air flow adjustments. Between these vents is a large storage bin with retracting cover. Directly below this is the trip computer display. Next down the C-stack is the stereo control head, and at the bottom is the climate control panel. With the exception of the stereo's tuner, all these features are managed by large, round knobs and intuitive, easy-to-use buttons and switches; tuning the stereo other than by way of the start-and-stop of seeking or scanning, though, requires pressing a lateral rocker switch and scrolling up or down through the frequencies until the desired one is reached. The C-stack and forward portion of the center console are covered in a metallic-look, matte-finish plastic with chrome-like accents. In models so equipped, seat heater controls are set in the center console directly forward of the slider covering the two front cup holders.

Inside door pulls are ergonomically designed, almost vertical and open, easily grasped. The opening lever is chrome, the accent surrounding the power window buttons and door pull, a metallic matte finish. Headliner has a soft nap, with assist grips over the doors. The sedan's trunk and trunk lid are finished, and the wagon's tailgate clears a six-footer when open and a pull-down spares hands contact with the exterior's collected road dirt and grime.

Forward visibility is above average, aided by the sloping hood. Side and rear vision is excellent in the wagon, which is no surprise, but better than expected, too, in the sedan, thanks to good-sized rear quarter windows and trim C-pillars.

The glove box is adequate, if not voluminous. Two rear seat occupants have their own cup holders and a place to store magazines on the back of the front seats. Both sedan and wagons have a compartmentalized storage tray hidden beneath the floor and on top of the spare tire. The wagons have two covered storage bins in the cargo area. Driving Impressions
The long-time knock on station wagons, that they're land yachts, with bad handling and suburban-hauler looks, is passe. Today's wagons can be fun to drive and functional to own. And the new 2005 Subaru Outback is a prime example of this.

The base 2.5i model is adequate transportation, if a bit short of exciting. Still, with the five-speed manual and optional short-throw shifter, it should be fun on winding roads. With the automatic, which returns the same EPA-estimated miles per gallon as the manual, it'd be a perfect commuter and weekend workhorse for homebody do-it-yourselfers. The diet Subaru put the Outback on helps; as much as 180 pounds have been trimmed from the 2004's mass, adding to the new Outback's responsiveness across the line, but especially in the base 2.5i with the lowest horsepower numbers.

Subaru increased the ground clearance across the line by about an inch, so it'll venture a bit farther off-road on camping trips, too, and quite competently. Fitted with the manual transmission, the 2.5i (as does the similarly geared XT) gets an all-wheel drive system using a viscous-coupling center differential that distributes power where it can best be used; the default is 50/50 front/rear but can reach 100 percent to either end if conditions warrant. With the four-speed automatic comes an electronically managed, continuously variable transfer clutch that splits the power as needed, but not to exceed 50 percent to one end.

The Outback XT is much more fun to drive. The turbo spools up with minimal lag, and when it hits its stride, at a relatively low 3600 revolutions per minute, it comes on in a linear surge that pulls all the way up to redline. Changing up a gear 500 or 600 rpm before that point delivers more power quicker, however, as it drops the engine back into the deep part of the torque curve sooner. Shifting the manual isn't as intuitive or as crisp as it could be, but with acclimation, this should become more reflexive. The five-speed automatic, called Sportshift, is a friendly manu-matic, with gear changes accomplished as they should be: push the lever forward to shift up, pull it back to shift down. It upshifts on its own well before the engine hits its rev limiter, however, depriving manual gearbox lovers a degree of control over their car that they consider essential to enjoying the driving experience.

Steering is light and responsive in the XT, with good on-center feel. The suspension is properly calibrated to absorb pavement irregularities and undulations without disturbing directional stability, whether in a straight line or on winding roads. There's some body lean in hard cornering, but nothing untoward. All of this is a credit to a lower center of gravity in the 2005 over the 2004 achieved by an added inch in track front and rear, by lowering the engine in the chassis about an inch and by a redesign of the rear suspension that lowered the roll center.

The Outback XT accounts for itself surprisingly well off the pavement, especially when fitted with the five-speed automatic. In the XT, the automatic gets the Variable Torque Distribution version of Subaru's three all-wheel-drive systems. The VTD uses a planetary center differential managed by an electronically controlled, continuously variable hydraulic clutch to distribute the engine's power. Ideal conditions see the power split 45/55 front/rear to deliver more of a sporty, rear-wheel-drive dynamic; under less than ideal conditions, the split can reach a maximum of 50/50. And under those less-than-ideal conditions, like in deep ruts around curves over seriously uneven ground, the VTD delivers, catching the rear end just as it begins to drift wide and tucking it back in line. The system is almost counterintuitive, as most drivers will want to lift off the power, while keeping the power on actually helps the VTD do its job.

The 3.0 R sedan and wagon are for people who like to travel, to get where they want to go with minimal fuss and bother. To this extent, these two don't fit the Outback mold, as the original inspiration for the car was to involve the driver, to invite participatory driving, on road and off, or at least in rough, unpaved and slushy stuff. This seeming gap aside, the 3.0 R in either configuration is comfortable, competent and cooperative, and more.

The 3.0-liter flat six-cylinder engine is almost as smooth as a V8 and puts its V8-like power and torque to the road smoothly and willingly, without much ado. Its VTD will take it off road where few will think of going, even to the extent of occasionally hanging a wheel out in the air while transiting an ungraded ridge, and bring it back. It'll gobble up straight stretches of pavement at high rates of speed, then endure hard braking before carving around curves at speeds well above posted advisory limits, with easily anticipated understeer when pushed. But where it shines for the targeted buyer is on the interstate and traipsing to the country club for a round, a set, or dinner. The valet might not park it ostentatiously by the front door, but neither will it be spirited away condescendingly into the night.

The top-of-the-line 3.0 R VDC Limited is more of an image car for Subaru, a showcase for the company's technological advancements. The VDC stands for Vehicle Dynamic Control, a system that combines electronic four-wheel traction control with VTD in a system intended to step in when needed to keep the car under control in emergency maneuvers, or if an overly exuberant driver decides to test the laws of physics.

Nary a buzz, squeak or rattle was noticed in the test cars, comprising a 2.5 XT Limited with manual transmission and a 3.0 R wagon. Little wind noise was apparent, confined mostly to rushing air around the roof rack. More tire and road noise makes its way into the cabin in the 2.5i than in the 3.0 R, but not to any disturbing degree in either. Summary
The Outback was already good. Better than good, in fact, unique. Right-sized on the outside, roomy and comfortable on the inside, a go-almost-anywhere wagon with a dedicated following.

The new 2005 Outback improves on everything about the previous one, especially in styling. It looks richer, more expensive, and it is, about $2000 more than the 2004 models it replaces.

But it delivers tangibles, too, in power, comfort, amenities. It may not be a bargain, by common definition, but it's a good buy, and there's at least one that's a joy to drive, too.

Model as tested
Subaru Outback 3.0 R L.L. Bean Edition ($32,195)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Lafayette, Indiana
Destination charge
575
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
23995
Price as tested
32970
Options as tested
California PZEV ($200)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Subaru Outback 2.5i ($23,995); 2.5i Limited ($26,995); 2.5 XT ($27,995); 2.5 XT Limited ($30,695); 3.0 R sedan ($30,995); 3.0 R L.L. Bean Edition ($32,195); 3.0 R VDC Limited ($33,395)
Safety equipment (standard)
two-stage frontal airbags; front seat-mounted side-impact airbags; full coverage side curtain airbags; active front-seat head restraints; head restraints for all rear seating positions (adjustable for outboard positions); anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution; child safety seat anchors; collision-activated retracting brake pedal assembly
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
3.0-liter double overhead cam 24-valve flat six
Transmissions
5-speed Sportshift automatic

Specifications as Tested
dual-zone automatic climate control; cruise control; power door locks, outside mirrors and windows; 8-way driver and 4-way passenger (with manual lumbar) power seats; six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with in-dash, 6-disc changer; digital clock and trip computer; auto-off headlights; leather-trimmed upholstery, shift knob and brake handle; Momo mahogany/leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls; remote keyless entry with engine immobilizer; dual-panel power moonroof; heated front seats, exterior mirrors and windshield washer nozzles; halogen foglamps; auto-dimming mirror/compass; carpeted floor mats; rear seat armrest; removable cargo tray; two-way retractable cargo area cover; two accessory power outlets

Engine & Transmission
Engine
3.0-liter double overhead cam 24-valve flat six
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
250 @ 6600
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
19/25
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS and EBD
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson-type struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Tires
255/55R17
Suspension, rear
independent, multi-link, coil springs, stabilize bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
38.7/51.0/44.1
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.1/52.6/33.9

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
61.7
Wheelbase
105.1
Length/width/height
188.7/69.7/61.6
Turning circle
35.4
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
3000
Track, front/rear
58.9/58.7
Ground clearance
8.4
Curb weight
3600


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