2008 Subaru Legacy Sedan Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 19, 2008

The 2008 Subaru Legacy is an agile sport sedan, with a tough side.

In order to bring you an especially useful review on the 2008 Subaru Legacy, the experts at TheCarConnection.com have included the viewpoints made in some of the Web's best reviews. Then TheCarConnection.com's editors added their own firsthand experience with the Legacy.

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.

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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.

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2008 Subaru Legacy Sedan

Styling

The 2008 Subaru Legacy improves its appearance with a smoother exterior and a richer-looking interior.

The 2008 Subaru Legacy has been updated with a more sophisticated shape that’s still somewhat anonymous, but pleasant nonetheless. “True, it's not a groundbreaking design, and it even bears some of the quirks that have come to characterize Subaru, such as a chunky hood scoop,” Edmunds says. “But the Legacy does possess a more metropolitan character than in generations past,” they note. Autoblog reports that "sheetmetal up front is the biggest change for [the Subaru] 2008...the Legacy gets a new, bigger, chromed-up grille; restyled bumpers front and rear with shorter overhangs; and new headlights and taillights." The rear end now has “smaller taillights [with] chrome borders," according to Cars.com. They add, “In lieu of the three-piece winged grille splayed across the Impreza sedan and B9 Tribeca SUV, the Legacy offers a more conservative, single-piece grille bisected by a winged crossbar.”

Inside, a revised instrument panel and fabrics make for a richer feel. This Subaru 2008 interior "gains a redesigned instrument panel and revised interior fabrics," according to Autoblog. The "decidedly sporty three-spoke steering wheel, metallic trim and crisp, contemporary styling" impresses 2008 Subaru reviewers at Kelley Blue Book. At Motor Trend, the artificial "wood trim that wraps around the lower dashboard and center console is the only letdown" when it comes to this Subaru 2008's interior. They "would have much preferred brushed aluminum to the fake, plasticky-looking rosewood," but then add that the 2008 Subaru Legacy's "gorgeous black-faced gauges with white numbering and red needles make it easy to forgive the other minor shortcomings." Edmunds says the style is “competitive with more expensive European marques.”

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2008 Subaru Legacy Sedan

Performance

The 2008 Subaru Legacy starts with fundamentally sound performance, and boosts it to sport-sedan status in turbo and six-cylinder models.

The 2008 Subaru Legacy lineup spans 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.

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. 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. Cars.com reports that "standard Legacys use a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine." According to Car and Driver, the 2008 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited and 2.5GT spec.B "both add an intercooled turbocharger to the engine." On these latter models, however, ConsumerGuide remarks "throttle response is dulled by annoying turbo lag." Nonetheless, Edmunds insists that while the 2.5-liter engine "provides adequate power...the Legacy GT Limited (with its turbocharged engine) is truly a fun car to drive hard."

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. Stating just the facts, Cars.com reports that the Subaru 2008 engine "teams with a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission." ConsumerGuide testers "find the manual transmission to have imprecise, overly long shift action" on base cars, and Edmunds notes that the "one glaring bit of criticism has been the GT Limited's automatic transmission, which seems to be ill-suited for the vehicle's turbocharged engine." All-wheel drive is standard on all Legacy models.

All 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. “Subaru's SI-Drive works with the 3.0 R Limited and 2.5 GT Limited by mapping accelerator response and shift points according to three settings,” Cars.com comments. “Subaru says Intelligent mode yields up to a 10 percent increase in gas mileage, while Sport mode nets quicker accelerator response for better performance. Finally, Sport Sharp modifies the accelerator and transmission for maximum performance.”

The EPA rates the Legacy at 20/27 mpg in base versions with either transmission, at 19/24 mpg with the GT, and Spec.B editions getting 19/24 mpg in manual, and 18/24 mpg in automatic form. This particular model "averaged 20.1 mpg in mostly highway driving," according to ConsumerGuide, which does not differ greater from other mileage estimates. The six-cylinder 3.0 R checks in at 17/24 mpg with either transmission.

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. Responses are especially sharp in GT Spec.B models, though not at the expense of comfort. Edmunds reports its editors “found the Subaru Legacy to be both sporty and comfortable -- a challenging combination for manufacturers to master.” ConsumerGuide declares "handling is composed, with little body lean in fast corners," while "brakes feel strong on all” editions of the Legacy. Motor Trend observes "ride quality is a Legacy strong point." Autoblog notes that "Bilstein Sport Suspension equips the Legacy 3.0 R Limited with performance-tuned shock absorbers for improved cornering."

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2008 Subaru Legacy Sedan

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Subaru Legacy is a bit smaller inside than many mid-sizers, but its cabin is well-fitted.

The 2008 Subaru Legacy leans toward the compact end of the mid-size spectrum, though its materials are first rate.

The Washington Post reports "there is seating for five people" aboard the Legacy, and ConsumerGuide points out "plenty of legroom, but headroom is tight for taller riders"--an impression confirmed at Motor Trend, which weighs in with "poor rear-seat headroom." Edmunds says “the backseat is a lowlight, however -- while it's comfortable enough for two average-sized passengers, leg- and shoulder room are unusually tight compared with other midsize sedans.” On the other hand, Kelley Blue Book contends "most backseat passengers should find the Legacy plenty accommodating for trips across town and beyond."

The Washington Post reports that 2008 Subaru "luggage capacity is a smallish (for a midsize sedan) 11.4 cubic feet." ConsumerGuide acknowledges that 2008 Subaru Legacy "sedans have a wide trunk opening and low liftover. The hinges are shrouded to avoid cargo damage, but they take up some space. Standard 60/40 split rear seatbacks fold almost flat." Edmunds confirms this: “The Legacy's trunk is similarly undersized at 11.4 cubic feet, though a ski pass-through and fold-down rear seats help make the most of the car's hauling capacity.”

Cars.com notes that most Subaru 2008 updates "are related to new equipment...the steering wheel has 16 buttons -- a tricky layout where a wrong move could inadvertently remap the accelerator's response or downshift the transmission." ConsumerGuide says "assembly quality has been good on models tested," but "despite a revamped interior, materials are nothing special." However, Edmunds proclaims Subaru 2008 interior materials are "excellent, and style, fit and finish are competitive with more expensive European marques."

Finally, ConsumerGuide reports "the turbocharged engine is subdued and refined," though "some testers complain of body drumming over broken pavement," and "a fair amount of wind and tire noise filters into the cabin at highway speeds."

9

2008 Subaru Legacy Sedan

Safety

Very few vehicles rate as high a safety score as the 2008 Subaru Legacy.

Careful attention to safety issues has gotten the 2008 Subaru Legacy nearly top marks in this category from TheCarConnection.com.

Autoblog reports this 2008 Subaru has "garnered the highest award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- 'Top Safety Pick' -- in the midsize car segment." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the Subaru 2008 Legacy five out five stars for front impact protection.

Car and Driver states that "four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags are standard" on every 2008 Subaru Legacy. Other Subaru 2008 trims with automatic transmission "include an electronic stability system" as well. This includes the Subaru 2008 3.0 R Limited and 2.5 GT Limited.

There are no real visibility problems in this 2008 Subaru model, either; according to ConsumerGuide, "visibility is good in all directions" on their Subaru 2008 test vehicle.

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2008 Subaru Legacy Sedan

Features

The 2008 Subaru Legacy isn’t especially plush, even in the $30,000 versions; the latest high-tech features are absent.

Subaru has been fairly stingy with features, so we at TheCarConnection.com have given the 2008 Subaru Legacy only a slightly above-average score in this area.

Edmunds says this 2008 Subaru "base car is a bit of a stripper." Nonetheless, Cars.com reports that all Subaru 2008 model Legacies "include staples like power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry and a CD stereo," so even the base trim 2008 Subaru Legacy has something to offer in this regard.

Options add a little, not a lot, to the Legacy’s character. Edmunds advises that "other trims are well-equipped and can make the Legacy as luxurious and comfortable as some midsize cars wearing luxury badges." Kelley Blue Book reports that "notable optional equipment" on this Subaru 2008 includes "DVD touch-screen navigation system, in-dash six-CD changer, power glass moonroof, leather seating, power driver's seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights, heated side mirrors, wiper de-icer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, wood-look trim and front sport seats."

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.

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November 10, 2015
2008 Subaru Legacy Sedan 4-Door H4 Automatic GT Ltd

Awesome car

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Great over all car, only drawback is the gas mileage
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