1991 Subaru Legacy Sport Sedan: Needs More Sport



From the February 1991 problem of Automobile and Driver.

When Subaru introduced it was going to bolt a turbocharger onto its greatest se­dan, we fortunately anticipated the arrival of a Legacy From Hell. Think about: 217 horse­energy, 0 to 60 in 6.9 seconds, four-wheel drive. Why, John Buffum might nostril this automotive out of the showroom Friday evening and return on Monday morning with an enormous SCCA PRO Rally trophy wedged into the again seat.

“No, no, not that automotive,” mentioned Subaru’s Fred Heiler once we requested about this Legacy Sport Sedan’s stateside arrival. “This can be a tamer model, a extra fundamental­stream automotive for the U.S.”

Uh-oh. You hear the phrase “fundamental­stream” and also you simply know it may embrace “Child on Board” indicators and a free tape of John Denver’s best hits.

This is the unhealthy information: We can’t see the 217-horse four-cam be­trigger (1) it is costly to construct, (2) it was supposed solely as a rally homologation ex­ercise, and (3) it would not jibe with Suba­ru’s picture in America, which, because it hap­pens, resembles nothing a lot as a medley of John Denver’s best hits.

What we get as a substitute is a Legacy Sport Sedan with a diminutive water-cooled IHI turbocharger that raises the SOHC 2.2-liter boxer’s output from 130 to 160 hp. Rocket customers will probably be disappoint­ed, though the force-fed engine’s extra important statistic is the additional 44 pound­-feet of torque payload arrives 1600 rpm prior to it did earlier than.

HIGHS: Easy turbo, an actual highway grabber.

All of which is extra vital than it sounds. This turbocharged engine feels as clean as a usually aspirated one, with the juice delivered from 2000 to 5500 rpm in a fats, seamless stream. That was Subaru’s intention. The turbo’s inlet is tiny, and each the angle and the curva­ture of its turbine blades are designed for speedy spool-up. Throttle response is excellent, and there’s no turbo lag. The truth is, there is not any increase gauge within the cockpit. If it weren’t for the chrome “Turbo” badge on the Legacy’s rump and the refined air consumption close to the bottom of the windshield (a scoop that does certainly work, force-feed­ing air straight atop the turbo snail within the curiosity of cooler operation), numerous driv­ers wouldn’t know that this growly, whiskey-throated boxer was respiration artificially arduous.

Underneath the whip, the Legacy Sport Se­dan accelerates neatly, however the 160-hp engine will not be totally accountable. Among the credit score goes to sage engineering. This automotive weighs 3140 kilos, good for a five-passenger sedan with full-time four-wheel drive. It sprints to 60 mph in simply 7.9 seconds and clears the quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds, which makes it a half­second faster than the equally highly effective Nissan Maxima SE.

We’re not speaking about gobs of energy right here, and it is robust to maintain your proper Florsheim out of the 8.7 psi of obtainable increase. The penalty is a 19-mpg ob­served-fuel-economy determine—and the Sport Sedan insists on ingesting premium unleaded.

We took the wheel for an eight-hour drive with Masaru Katsurada, the automotive’s chief engineer. Katsurada needed to professional­vide increased steering effort, in addition to extra aggressiveness from the spring charges, the anti-roll bars, the bushings, and the tires. However the ultimate tuning, he groaned, would require a course of he hates: a herd of engineers, product plan­ners, and common hangers-on all bicker­ing and nit-picking and fussing with the settings till, he mentioned, ”I might have a suspen­sion with the character of a committee, which is no character.”

Katsurada’s resolution: “I pointed at considered one of my engineers, a rally driver named Eiji Tatsumi, and I mentioned to him: ‘Tatsumi, you choose settings. You drive alone. You alter suspension till you’re completely satisfied. Nobody else. Then drive Legacy to me. That is the suspension we construct.'” And that, he mentioned, is what occurred.

The engineer’s rally roots apparently weren’t deeply buried. He retained the Legacy’s lengthy wheel journey and its rela­tively supple experience. At warp pace, the automotive nonetheless steps over railroad crossings and B­-road yumps with grace and composure. However when the struts and is derived ap­proach the restrict of their strokes, they’re now 70-percent stiffer than these on non-turbo Legacys.

In day-to-day driving, the experience is almost as compliant as the usual sedan’s (which makes you ask, “Why do not all Legacys have these springs?”), and you are feeling the added stiffness solely within the struts’ final inch of journey. The system clearly works: witness our Sport Sedan’s 0.80-g skidpad efficiency.

LOWS: Detached styling, cheesy plastic stuff inside.

The distinctive tuning extends to the steering’s variable help, which bleeds off way more rapidly than the usual Legacy’s. This can be a worthwhile enhance­ment, though we might nonetheless favor extra on-­middle really feel above 45 mph.

Katsurada’s engineer mated six-inch­-wide alloy wheels to Bridgestone RE88s. For no extra cash, you may specify all­-season RE92s in the event you dwell in a very filthy local weather. However do not do it until it’s a must to. Related to four-wheel drive, the stickier RE88s provide beneficiant grip and high-quality straight-line monitoring, even throughout a near-blinding downpour on the greasy roads of the Inexperienced Mountains in Vermont. Furthermore, we’re loath to tamper with any tire-suspension mixture that may cease from 70 mph in 173 ft, matching the stopping distance of a BMW 535i.

Subaru’s full-time all-wheel drive is a well-sorted system that’s each dependable and nearly clear in operation, and it accounts for lower than a 200-pound penalty. Within the Sport Sedan, the slick 5­-speed handbook is mated to a mechanical middle differential with a 50/50 entrance/rear torque break up. Viscous clutches professional­vide restricted slip for the rear and middle differentials. To deal with the extra torque, the Sport Sedan has a brand new hy­draulic clutch with a pull-type launch bearing. For some purpose, this has made the clutch pedal stiff, and there may be now extra takeup vagueness than we recognize.

Tearing alongside our favourite curler­coaster roads, the Sport Sedan not often runs out of stick, however neither does it en­braveness you to toss it into turns. Hustle the automotive in rally-driver trend and it sim­ply plows resolutely, elongating the radi­us of its flip with the monotonous predictability of a Johnny Carson monologue. You may alter this trait in just one means: elevate off the throttle and the entrance tires will chew immediately, returning to the enterprise of steering and—presto!—you are again heading in the right direction. Product-liability legal professionals will hate this automotive.

Patrons drawn to the Legacy Sport Se­dan will not must spend a lot time jawing with salesmen—not a single op­tion is required. Along with the stan­dard four-wheel drive and Bosch ABS, the deal consists of air-con, energy home windows, central locking, cruise management, a moonroof (which rattled like an an­noyed diamondback in our take a look at automotive), a sonically spectacular Clarion-built 80-watt stereo with 4 audio system, and spe­cial entrance seats with new (and properly formed) squabs and backrests.

The Legacy’s cabin remains to be awash in life­much less plastic surfaces whose cheesy grain makes a large number of the doorsills, many of the sprint, the headliner, the A-pillars, the solar visors, even the steering-wheel hub. Su­baru’s leather-laden Legacy LSi could be simply the ticket, however no turbocharged engine is obtainable in that mannequin.

Backside-line time: the Sport Sedan is fastidiously engineered, succesful, and quick in its class. However it is usually a automotive that drives prefer it appears—largely benign and bland, by some means failing to excite.

This $19,350 turbocharged Subaru would draw much more consideration if it had been priced to compete with $16,000 Honda Accords and Mitsubishi Galants. As an alternative, it finds itself inside $650 of a nasty brawl with true luminaries within the sizzling $20,000 sports-sedan area of interest. It’s, for instance, neither as quick nor as firmly planted because the Ford Taurus SHO. It places out the identical 160 horsepower and rides as capably because the jewel-like Nissan Maxima SE, however it’s not as luxurious, as finely completed, nor as satisfying to drive.

VERDICT: A B+ in Engineering, a C in Enjoyable 101.

This revised Legacy’s principal al­lure—and the hook on which the advertising experts appear dangerously prepared to hold most of Subaru’s not too long ago dwin­dling fortune—is most traction: four-wheel drive and ABS. That will carry the automotive to glory in Vermont, and it could give John Denver a rocky-mountain excessive. However it makes the automotive a unusual alternative—a form of Subaru hallmark, come to think about it—in most different areas. The Legacy Sport Sedan is a automotive we respect greater than we need.

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1991 Subaru Legacy Sport Sedan
Automobile Kind: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan


Base/As Examined: $19,294/$19,357
Choices: flooring mats, $63

turbocharged SOHC flat-4, aluminum block and heads, port gas injection

Displacement: 135 in3, 2212 cm3

Energy: 160 hp @ 5600 rpm

Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm 

5-speed handbook


Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink

Brakes, F/R: 10.9-in vented disc/10.5-in vented disc

Tires: Bridgestone Potenza RE88


Wheelbase: 101.6 in

Size: 177.6 in

Width: 66.5 in
Peak: 53.5 in

Passenger Quantity, F/R: 47/36 ft3
Trunk Quantity: 14 ft3
Curb Weight: 3140 lb


60 mph: 7.9 sec

1/4-Mile: 16.1 sec @ 84 mph
100 mph: 24.2 sec
120 mph: 57.3 sec

Prime Gear, 30–50 mph: 11.4 sec

Prime Gear, 50–70 mph: 10.1 sec

Prime Velocity: 129 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 173 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.80 g 


Noticed: 19 mpg

Metropolis/Freeway: 19/25 mpg 



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