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