2009 Subaru GT: That German Sports-Sedan Feel

October 27, 2008

A lot of us are reconsidering our vehicles in light of rising oil and gas prices. We want to downsize and stop wasting money.

A lot of us are reconsidering our vehicles in light of rising oil and gas prices. We want to downsize and stop wasting money. Most of us would like a meaningful increase in efficiency all around. You might be used to driving a vehicle that's over 200 inches long and has a GVWR of over 6,000 pounds with a V-8 and 4-Wheel Drive. It feels strong, heavy and secure while getting maybe 14 miles per gallon on the highway.

Before we get to an excellent vehicle in today’s economic climate—the 2009 Subaru GT—let’s explore some of the considerations of different drive systems.

The most economical and safe cars using today’s material utilize petroleum, have four cylinders, front-wheel-drive, automatic transmission, cruise control and weigh over 2,300 pounds. The most popular sedans for sale meet this standard; from Acura to Volvo the typical configuration of passenger car is four doors with safe seating for five.

If because of where you live four-wheel drive all the time makes sense for you, then you should buy one. If you live in the mountains or you live in the northern United States where there are four distinct seasons, then you might want to seriously consider all-wheel drive. Even in dry weather, all-wheel drive offers an advantage. The primary disadvantage is that you lose one or two more miles per gallon propelling the two additional wheels.

If you are concerned about your safety and money is less of a concern, then four-wheel drive should be considered. If you enjoy road gripping traction at the limits of adhesion or being the first out in the snow when others are still inside, four-wheel drive can be a real ticket to adventure. Or it can just make you feel more secure, cozy, and surefooted.

A passenger car with all-wheel drive is very unlikely to ever roll over , while an SUV is more likely to do so, particularly in a crash avoidance maneuver. For a combination in the best of active and passive safety, a passenger car should be your number one selection.

All-Wheel Drive Advantages

Honda doesn’t build an all-wheel drive sedan. Toyota doesn’t sell an all-wheel-drive Camry sedan. Lexus doesn’t sell an all-wheel-drive ES 350 sedan. And the Nissan Altima doesn’t come in all-wheel-drive. Only Volvo, Saab, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Subaru make all-wheel drive sedans.

All-wheel-drive differs from four-wheel drive in that four-wheel drive requires you to take the vehicle from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive with some form of levered gear or switch. Conversely, all-wheel drive is, for the most part, a transparent technology. You have no switches or dials to turn it on. Many performance oriented automakers such as BMW and Porsche put the majority of power to the rear wheels for that tailwagging feeling and maybe better acceleration.

Some automakers will allow the car to drive predominantly on two wheels; when slippage is sensed, power is diverted to the other set of wheels. This transition in drive wheels is usually imperceptible but not confidence inspiring. We believe that all-wheel drive all the time proportionately fed to each tire until it reaches the limits of adhesion is the best system. Subaru, Audi, and Acura sell such a system in their four-door sedans.

Turbo-Charged Power Enhances GT

Say you have decided to increase your safety and fuel economy by getting a sedan and giving up the SUV. But you can’t give up the confidence inspiring four-wheel drive. A Subaru or Audi will feel more nimble and quick while getting over 24 miles per gallon on the highway with the cruise control set.

Your power plant is something to reconsider over the next 3 years as hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles will blossom. Consider a turbocharged engine or a supercharger for that matter. Both systems push more air into the combustion chamber to create a larger explosion, returning more power to the road wheels without using so much fuel. Air-charged automobiles have been popular in our hemisphere for decades, and we will be seeing even more of them over the next few years as consumers demand more efficiency.

Besides the less pollution and more economy stuff; turbo chargers are fun. A turbocharged car can have a completely different character than a big, natural-aspirated engine. If you put pedal to the metal in a turbocharged car, power and speed will suddenly increase a little over 2000 rpm all the way over 5000 rpm. Yes, it is rocket science, and at that moment you’re holding on tight to the steering wheel of your rocket ship. Traditionally turbochargers when driven coarsely have allowed neck-snapping performance, which is often only fun for the driver.

Are you an avid skier, jiggle up in the mountains a lot? Naturally aspirated engines have lost a huge amount of power by 5,000 feet. By 6,000 feet, a regular V-8 may only be putting out the power of a four cylinder. But with a turbo, air is pumped into the combustion chamber with a little turbine, seven or more pounds per square inch, so there is little or no loss of power through your favorite mountain pass. Turbocharged and supercharged engines are the most entertaining to drive. Subaru is the only company selling four-cylinder cars in America where you can drive the same engine turbo or non-turbo. Now you can make a direct comparison.

Value Comparison; Legacy GT Stands Out

So you’ve decided to sell the Lexus LX570 due to social pressure and sensible economics and to step up to all-wheel drive and turbo excitement because you just moved to Boulder, Colorado, or Franconia in New Hampshire, or Puyallup Washington? Right now your best value in an all-wheel drive turbo is the 2009 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited. There we cut to the chase. The comparably priced Volvo S4 is not showing great safety or reliability. The new all-wheel-drive Saab 93 and Audi A4 are so new they have no history. The GT Limited has years of proven reliability and crash safety. In size, the A4 and GT Limited are both within 2/10 of an inch of each other, coming in at approximately 185 inches long.

If you’re considering a BMW, Infiniti, Lexus or Mercedes, you might consider an Audi. It’s unlikely you’d consider a Subaru. In these trying economic times, you might want to reconsider. No matter how good the car, new or used, buying a car is like buying quicksand. An automobile might be a hobby, but it’s certainly not an investment.

The single biggest mistake most individuals make when buying a vehicle is that they buy the image—not the actual product. The BMW name carries too much weight, so even if you’re planning on buying an all-wheel-drive luxury car you should be sampling the Legacy 2.5 GT Limited to see how much quality your dollar can buy.

Shout Out for Subaru’s Engineering Designs

Like the best Porsche 911, Subaru engines are flat with opposing cylinders that create great torque at low RPM. This design is unique among piston-powered engines in that it offers the lowest center of gravity. Subaru engines used to be mounted so low under the hood that the spare tire was able to fit on top for regular storage and safety. Now the spare is in the trunk and the space under the hood scoop is an intercooler. The intercooler actually cools the air before it goes into the engine for greater density. Subaru has been using this engine design and size for years. It’s very predictable and responsive.

The fluid drive, 5-speed automatic has a manual feature and paddle shifters for fingertip shifting from the steering wheel. Subaru has a large metallic selector knob about 6 inches behind the gear shift lever on the center console. This is the SI-Drive selector. Through the magic of software, you’re able to change the character of the driveline. There are three modes of performance. Each time you shut off the car, it returns to the most economical mode. Even better, on the steering wheel is a button that instantly puts you into the sharpest sportiness mode. This is a very nice feature. Stability control is very important and standard with the optional automatic transmission.

Test Drive New Styling Inside and Out

During your test drive on an open forgiving piece of road, accelerate through a gentle turn in a rapid fashion so that you can actually feel the front wheels pulling you. If you can’t feel it, turn gradually sharper while stepping on the accelerator more. This is a thrill at the limits of adhesion, but you’ve got to do it in a safe situation. At low speeds in the slush you’ll easily feel the front wheels pulling you through the turn while the rear wheels push.

Over the last 2 years, Subarus have had a dramatic exterior redesign. The look is more windswept and international than ever before. The car is now loaded with styling details like a long hood that adds to a refreshing appeal. The style is soft and blends well in today’s complex world. It doesn’t stand out with a big hood like a Mercedes, saying, “Hey, look at me.” The style is much understated from the long crystal clear wraparound headlamps to the side mirrors with turn signal indicators to the attractive kamm back finish and large clear unpretentious taillights. This car is easy on the eyes.

The side windows are frameless, so always close the door by pushing on the door and never the glass. The door feels solid and closed tight with well-placed switches that could use better illumination. In fact, the whole interior could use a touch more luxurious illumination. The instrument panel is one of the best looking most accurate you can find. There’s a big engine temperature gauge on the left to warn you of impending doom. As a cost-cutting measure, some BMW models don’t have a temperature gauge!

Just to the left of the steering column is a large tachometer. There is an informational display in the bottom. To the right is an equally large speedometer with an instant mile per gallon gauge at the bottom. Much like BMW has had.

All controls are relatively light and symmetrical. The steering wheel is chock full of switches and controls that make driving easier or more entertaining. The center console is well done, with a very different, oddly placed standard seat heater switch. At the top is a very nice screen that only makes sense if you buy the navigation system.

Tilt and telescoping wheel as well as height adjustable power seat are standard for the driver. If you’re tall, head room might be an issue. All seats are comfortable and supportive, with the standard leather upholstery offering a really nice feel and grip. The side bolsters to the seats were not so big as to make getting out of the vehicle difficult.

Value Equation; Subaru GT a Good Buy

This new Legacy is outstanding and worthwhile to tell you about because it is now more refined. Subaru has clearly reached a new level of sophistication. This product combined with its price proves their point. Subaru builds a high value, world-class sport sedan.

The most luxurious Legacy 2.5 GT Limited, loaded with navigation, will still be thousands less than the base model Audi A4. If you want great performance, fuel economy, and over-the-top luxury, then spend $10,000 more and get a loaded A4. Be sure and test drive the Subaru at least once before you settle on the Audi.

Fast Facts 2009 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited Length 185 in. Width 68.1 in. Wheelbase 105.1 in. Weight 2,700 lbs. Doors/ Seats 4/5 Drive AWD Engine 2.5-liter DOHC Turbocharged Hp@rpm 243@ 6000 Ft-lb@rpm 258@ 1500 Transmissions 5-spd auto/6-spd manual Stability control w/AT/Navi City/Hwy 18/25 Gas Requirement Premium (required) Built Lafayette, IN Safety Score 80** Real Price $29,950* Website www.subaru.com *Limited AT w/Navi *Informedforlife.org (medium risk without electronic stability control)