Anyone in the market for a new Subaru Legacy has a smorgasbord of varieties to choose from. The Legacy GT, with its 2.5-liter turbo, is unquestionably one of the champions of the new breed. Then again, the Outback's cool styling and (available) six-cylinder sophistication are also mighty tempting. In a flash of inspiration, Subaru now has invented a car that's a kind of cross between the two: the suave new Legacy 3.0R Spec B.
The key element of the Spec B package is the creamy 3.0-liter boxer six from the Outback, which mates to a unique, Impreza STi-based six-speed manual shifter. The Spec B's uprated suspension, Bilstein dampers, and trick eighteen-inch wheels are specially done. Bring it all together, and you have a Legacy that's as fast and grippy as you'd expect yet offers a different, more mature all-around driving experience compared with the punchy four-cylinder turbo.
The Spec B's 3.0-liter variable-cam flat-six is a more linear and serene kind of player yet, with 247 hp, is still potent enough to power the Legacy past 150 mph. The 0-to-60-mph time is just 6.5 seconds.
Curiously, the new close-ratio gearbox doesn't pack quite the fabulous, machinelike precision and short shift action of the Impreza STi (deliberately so, as Subaru felt Legacy drivers didn't want that), but it's still good, and the ratios are well stacked.
The Spec B chassis is for the most part a beauty. Inverted front struts similar to the Impreza STi's keep a tight rein on geometry during high-g-force corners and over bumpy surfaces. This has really sharpened steering feel and precision. Turn-in is now immediate, and the supple, unflustered, virtually neutral way the Spec B tracks into and out of high-speed corners is astounding. The switch to eighteen-inch tires similarly brings even more roadholding and higher cornering limits to the party. The tradeoff is a somewhat rough low-speed ride, but in a car this good, we can live with that.
The understated (maybe too understated) Spec B costs about $3000 more than the standard 3.0R in Japan. Is it worth it? We'd say so. It's not the ultimate hard-core, super-fast Legacy some were hoping for, but it's still very well done. Too bad the lack of eighteen-inch all-season tires means it's not headed for the United States anytime soon.