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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
the Legacy GT Limited is truly a fun car to drive hard
Some testers find the manual transmission...imprecise
pleasant around town and in a parking lot
Kelley Blue Book
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."
The 2008 Subaru Legacy starts with fundamentally sound performance, and boosts it to sport-sedan status in turbo and six-cylinder models.