Subaru bills the 2.5GT as its “enthusiast” model, and although it’s not quite as fun as a WRX, it is by far the most enjoyable Legacy I’ve sampled in many years. There’s no discounting the power offered by the turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four, but mating it to a six-speed transmission is simply brilliant. Other midsize cars may offer manual transmissions, but they’re only available on lower trim models that focus more on thrift than on thrust.
The 2.5GT has plenty of the latter. Once boost comes on, this engine just pulls, and it’s made even more enjoyable by the fact that you can row your own gears. I love the feel of this clutch (which borders on the excessively firm side), but the shift feel — long, lanky, and somewhat vague — needs some work. I’d be interested in dropping $455 on Subaru Performance Tuning’s short-throw kit for the car.
The presence of a push-button parking brake seems a bit odd on a manual-transmission model until you realize two things. First, the car is equipped with hill start assist, which will help hold you steady when launching on steep grades. Seconds, as long as the driver is belted in place, the brake will electronically disengage once you begin to let out the clutch. Nifty.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I instantly recognized this vehicle as a Subaru Legacy as I walked down the row of cars in the parking structure, but it definitely looks sportier, with a more muscular stance than its predecessor. On the inside, slightly better-looking materials and a roomier back seat moves the Legacy even further from its rally car roots and closer to mid-size family sedan heavyweights like the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. By the look of the dash, Subaru drew inspiration from the Camry for the interior style, too: the translucent pale blue plastic surrounding the Legacy’s closely mimics that used on the Toyota’s central dash. The overall interior design is fairly cohesive, but once you start touching the interior bits, it’s clear that Subaru still has some improvements to make on the feel of its materials.
Once I had some room to really hit the gas and have some fun, there was no mistaking the Legacy 2.5GT for its more mainstream competition. The all-wheel drive gives it a major handling advantage, and the turbo four in this 2.5GT is spunky and still fairly economical. The shift action is really disappointing, though, especially for a vehicle and a company that prides itself on its sports car heritage.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
The availability and pricing of Subaru’s 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and the 3.6-liter flat-six leaves me slightly confused. The difference between the two engines is 9 hp and $3000 (the 3.6 is cheaper. Sure, there’s an argument to be made for having the the turbo as the sporty version and the flat-6-equipped Legacy as the more mainstream sedan, but it might be a stretch to say that Subaru has the volume to support three engines (there’s a 170-hp four-cylinder too) for this car.
Having driven both the 3.6R and the 2.5GT, I prefer this car’s turbo character and the standard six-speed manual transmission. The stick is a bit clumsy and clunky when swapping cogs, but clutch feel is wonderful. Aside from the engines, the 2.5GT and 3.6R feel very similar in ride and handling. They’re comfortable on the street and fairly capable in the turns, with reassuring all-wheel-drive grip.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I’m thankful that Subaru builds something truly different in a segment brimming with V-6-powered beige boxes. With its standard all-wheel drive, the Legacy already handles better than most family sedans. Adding a clutch pedal and an energetic turbocharged four-cylinder engine only makes it more compelling.
In the areas where mid-size sedans are most commonly judged, the Subie mostly measures up quite well. My only complaints are with the dash materials, which look nice but are hard to the touch, and with the somewhat brittle ride.
As Jennifer Misaros noted, the 2.5GT sets itself apart from other sedans when you step on the gas. Sure, there are lots of powerful family sedans these days, but few of them can put their power to the ground with the authority of all-wheel drive, and even fewer add the spice of an eager turbocharger and the ability to pick your own gears.
The only problem I have with this Legacy is that it leaves me wanting for even more performance. Specifically, I’d like a bit firmer damping (the 2.5GT shares its setup with the 3.6R save for the larger wheels) and a somewhat smoother gearbox. I believe Japanese-market buyers already have these options. If Subaru is going through the effort to bring the manual transmission and separate powertrain to the States, it should offer all the hot-rod goodies as well. Given that the WRX STI now goes for $35,000 and up, and that there are plenty of Gen-Xers looking for baby-seat room, I’d bet a Legacy STI would be a profitable proposition for Subaru.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I look at the Legacy 2.5GT as an Impreza WRX for a growing family. There’s much more legroom, a decent trunk that makes up for the lack of a hatch, and styling that is mainstream enough to please those who no longer want to draw attention to their rides.
I spent a day driving all over southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio running errands, and the Legacy was perfect for normal driving. On my way home, I decided to take a dirt road and play with the all-wheel drive. It’s hard not to love this package when you flick the car into a turn covered with gravel. How many other cars can be a respectable family sedan and still offer a functional hood scoop and some rally heritage?
The suspension is a bit on the soft side, but I bet there are plenty of WRX upgrades that will work on the Legacy since all Subarus share the same suspension design. My other gripe is the funky iPod integration. It works well enough, but for some reason the system won’t let you select another playlist while the car is in motion. Not a big deal while driving around town, but it would make me crazy on a long drive.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
I agree that the Legacy 2.5GT should be thought of as an Impreza WRX (with a much nicer interior and a better ride, I might add) for a growing family. My family now includes a ten-month old, and I was highly impressed with the amount of space and legroom in the back seat, even when her child seat was clicked into the middle position. The Legacy also has a large trunk that’s handy for all the stuff that comes along with growing families. Strangely, though, both my wife and I hit our heads on the trunk lid, which doesn’t open very far initially; it does have a higher secondary detent, but I’m not sure why it doesn’t just open that far from the get-go.
It’s hard to care about the trunk lid, however, when you’re behind the wheel of this frisky, nimble, turbocharged sedan. The gearbox is very much like that of the new Impreza WRX, which is to say, a bit too stiff and notchy for my liking. A guy at my church used to have a WRX, though, and he claims that the gearbox in his car eventually loosened up nicely after 25,000 miles or so. I’d like the Legacy’s stick shift even more if it didn’t have a push-button electronic parking brake. I’m sure Subaru chose this design in order to free up center-console space, particularly on automatic cars, but this setup just seems weird in a stick-shifted vehicle. This trend will almost certainly continue to spread, though, so I suppose I should get used to it.
Like some of my colleagues, I found it a bit strange that Subaru offers three engines in its new Legacy — not that I’m complaining. The 3.6R Premium costs $2000 less than a 2.5GT Premium but gives up only 9 hp and 11 lb-ft of torque. The 3.6, however, doesn’t offer a manual transmission, which is important to me (and to many Subaru owners, I suspect). Otherwise, fuel mileage is the same, the six-cylinder weighs only about 80 pounds more, and it runs on regular as opposed to premium fuel. My wife and I are considering the Legacy as her next car, but I think we’ll lean toward the much less expensive ($21,690 base), normally aspirated 2.5i Premium with a manual gearbox. The problem with that setup, though, is that it gets far worse gas mileage, per EPA tests, than the base 2.5i with the CVT (23/31 CVT vs. 19/27 manual). I hate to say it, but that might be a significant enough fuel savings to convince me to spend the extra $1000 to get away from the stick.
Still, the 2.5GT, with its fun spirit and stick-shift-only spec, rightfully stands at the top of the new Legacy hierarchy.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited
Base price (with destination): $30,690
Price as tested: $34,146
2.5L DOHC turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Vehicle dynamics control
18-in alloy wheels
440-watt harmon/kardon 6-disc CD changer with 9 speakers
Options on this vehicle:
Option package 8 — $2995
-Navigation system with voice activation
-Rear vision camera
Sirius satellite kit — $461
Key options not on vehicle:
18 / 25 / 22 mpg
Size: 2.5L turbo-charged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 265 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2000-5200 rpm
Weight: 3477 lb
18 x 7-in 15-spoke aluminum alloy wheels
225/45R18 performance tires