- Great handling, especially in Spec.B
- All-wheel drive across the lineup
- Impressive occupant safety
- Three different engines to choose from
- Base four-cylinder engines can be coarse
- Road noise
- Lacks Bluetooth interface
The 2008 Subaru Legacy is an agile sport sedan, with a tough side.
Subaru's Legacy lineup has been limited to sedans for 2008; all wagon versions have been drawn under the Outback model line, which is covered by a separate review. 2008 Subaru Legacy sedans get new front- and rear-end styling, with a bigger grille, new bumpers, and lights. Inside, a revised instrument panel and fabrics make for a richer feel.
Legacy models span a price range of more than $10,000, including three different engines and several trim levels, which can appoint the 2008 Subaru Legacy as everything from basic all-weather sedan to high-performance tourer. The 2.5i and 2.5i Limited models get a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ("flat") four, while the 2.5 GT Limited and Spec.B models upgrade to a high-performance turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four making 243 horsepower. And at the top there's a 245-horsepower, 3.0-liter flat-six powering the 3.0 R Limited.
Models with the base engine have either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while turbo models have either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, which comes with Sportshift paddle shifters and a rev-matching downshift throttle-blipping feature for performance driving. At the top of the 2008 Subaru Legacy lineup, the six-cylinder engine comes just with the five-speed automatic.
With the base engine, the 2008 Subaru Legacy has adequate power when carrying a light load, but if you plan on hauling a lot of stuff or driving in the mountains, the engine can feel taxed. It's made worse by the four-speed automatic, which can shift abruptly and has rather widely spaced gears. The turbocharged engine in the GT Limited and Spec.B is the most responsive, with none of the turbo lag that sometimes plagues turbos, but the six is the smoothest and most refined.
2008 Subaru Legacy models with the turbocharged four or the six-cylinder engine get SI-DRIVE, a system that has three different modes that allow throttle response, transmission shift, and other characteristics to change from smooth to sharp as desired.
Even in one of the less expensive models, the 2008 Subaru Legacy handles very well on the road, with crisp, rather communicative steering and not much body lean; ride comfort is quite good as well, but road noise can be an issue inside on coarse road surfaces. Responses are especially sharp in GT Spec.B models, though not at the expense of comfort. Seating in the Legacy is comfortable in front, though front-seat occupants might find headroom tight. A telescopic steering wheel is newly standard for 2008.
Overall, the interior is rather basic but attractive with matte-metallic materials and mid-grade plastics. There are no overt luxury pretenses here, except in the top 2008 Subaru Legacy models, which pile on the convenience features and upgrades.
The 2008 Subaru Legacy Spec.B model brings additional performance hardware to bring better handling and get the most out of the turbo engine's additional power. The functional extras include a Bilstein sport suspension, larger brakes, summer performance tires, a heavy-duty gearbox, four-pinion front differential, and rear Torsen limited-slip differential; these are joined by other extras including a moonroof, fog lamps, heated mirrors, heated seats, dual-zone climate control, a navigation system, and many appearance enhancements. Top 3.0R models get many of these same improvements, plus the flat-six engine.
Some of the latest expected tech features, such as a Bluetooth interface, an iPod interface, and live traffic updates aren't available on the Legacy.
The 2008 Subaru Legacy is one of the safest sedans of any size or price. It has received top five-star results from the federal government in both frontal and side-impact tests, and straight "good" ratings (the best possible) from the IIHS for frontal, side, and rear impact. Anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags, and active front head restraints are all included. Electronic stability control isn't available on much of the line, but it's included in the GT Spec.B and 3.0R.