Words: Ardie Lopez
Photos: Jerel Fajardo
Even in the incredibly competitive automotive industry where a mind-blowing amount of resources go to research and development, for a car brand to actually be positively known for a signature characteristic is a major feat in itself. It wouldn’t be as astonishing if the signature characteristic would come from a brand within the premium luxury, premium performance, or supercar categories, for that would be where practically no holds are barred and no costs are spared with regard to their nameplates being packed to the brim with the most advanced technology, cutting-edge performance features and top-of-the-line amenities- and the customer expects to pay for the hefty price tag for all that. So what would a brand that doesn’t fall within any of those top categories do, to cut through all the brochure superlatives, the similar technologies given proprietary terminology, and the drive to offer more while staying within the same price-point? The most simplistic response would probably be to keep doing just that- offer more, improve the specs, and try to look much better than its own predecessor and its current competition.
That would obviously be the case with the most mainstream brands like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, and the like, as they’re succeeding in the mainstream- where the most number of car-buying consumers are. But come to think of it, almost all of that commerce-driven research, engineering, and packaging-advertising-marketing of these cars from various brands are almost entirely stemming from and are being developed for these base platforms (in our local market at least): In-line 4-cylinder gasoline engines with A/T on a FWD configuration for compact & sub-compact nameplates; in-line 4 CRDi’s with intercooler Turbos for compact to medium-sized SUV’s and pick-ups; of course, with the exception of the minority V6-engined, M/T-mated and AWD/4×4-equipped models and variants in their lineups for the small segment in the market who actually prefer and specify them.
Subaru, as a brand that’s known for swimming against the tide, has always capitalized on the fact that they don’t dwell in the mainstream- or in the more premium car categories that require a huge leap up for that matter. They’re the car brand that has inevitably made a major niche out of their biggest deviation from all the rest: their Boxer engine. As compared to an in-line 4 engine where the pistons are lined-up vertically with a 1-4-3-2 firing sequence, and a V6 engine which basically has 2 banks of 3 cylinders arranged in a V configuration with an alternating firing order, Subaru’s Boxer engines have its four or six cylinders laid-out flat and horizontally, firing opposite each other- kind of like two boxers standing back-to-back throwing punches in alternating order, hence the namesake.
The horizontally opposed boxer engine offers many advantages. Firstly, its cylinder configuration allows the pistons’ actions to counter each other, virtually cancelling-out each other’s vibrations for an innately smooth operation; then, its flat layout and more compact general mass allow it to be mounted low in the engine bay, and much closer to the center of the vehicle, which in every respect, greatly enhances the vehicle’s balance and dynamics via better weight distribution and a lower center of gravity. Complement that with a symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system that equally distributes power to all four wheels to grab onto the road and more effectively propel the vehicle forward while keeping it as firmly planted as possible during whatever driving situation and condition you put it through. If that doesn’t account for a positive signature characteristic, it’s hard to imagine what does, in automotive terms. But why, you may ask, aren’t consumers lining-up to get a Subaru?
Subaru’s Halo car- the Subaru WRX STi, has always been known and respected as a very potent, high-performance sports car, in no small part because of its World Rally Championship and extensive motorsports heritage, and its being a constant “Import Racer” favorite for its exceptional flexibility and viability for after-market mods and tuning. So though Subaru didn’t specifically target the motorsports or tuning fans intentionally, they’ve always been known as the marquee for serious driving enthusiasts who aren’t necessarily geared for the premium performance/supercar category. The fact that their entire model lineup (save for the BRZ) is configured with the Boxer engine + Symmetrical AWD combination, Subaru has comfortably thrived and even flourished with that niche and capitalized on it as the brand’s core strength, with the highly successful Forester range, and of course the XV, Impreza and the Legacy. Now, Subaru aims to transcend whatever limitations their long-time niche has inevitably created, with the recent introduction of their all-new flagship nameplates: the Subaru Legacy, and Outback.
Officially launched at the last Manila International Auto Show, the all-new Subaru Legacy and Outback for 2015 are looking like Subaru’s big step to entice a wider market base, while keeping their core strength firmly established and showcased at the forefront. The new Legacy now sports a universally handsome bearing, which doesn’t require for it to be endeared to you via its exceptional handling and performance, for you to warm up to its looks. It is now in fact, despite obviously keeping within the bounds of conventional aesthetics, a well-balanced study in refinement and unmistakable athleticism. If you’re one of the very few who aren’t well versed as to what a Subaru is all about, some of its subtle design cues are still giveaways as to the Legacy’s extra-dynamic predilections. Strong creases that emanate from its chrome-framed hexagonal grille define the hood, as with the strong character lines that span from the gently bulging front fender, slicing all the way throughout the length of the car to terminate at the taillight. “Hawkeye” headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights are more angular and proportional compared to its predecessor’s, and reminiscent of the “Eagle eyes” of a well-loved Impreza from generations past. Sporty wheels at 18” effectively accentuate the Legacy’s captivating profile
The headliner, of course, would be how it’ll move you physically. The all-new 6th generation Legacy comes in two variants: the 3.6L (at Php 2.098M) and the 2.5i-S (at Php 1.808M), powered by Subaru’s 6-cylinder EZ36 and 4-cylinder FB25 Boxer engines respectively. Both are naturally aspirated, and mated to a new Lineartronic Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) that provides for smoother, quieter, and more efficient operation. We tested a Platinum Grey Metallic 3.6 L on a busy weekday, and our drive to Clark, Pampanga via the North Luzon Expressway provided the entire spectrum of driving conditions one would typically encounter, from congested city traffic to long sweeping stretches where proper but controlled sprints with its 260hp could be had. Indeed, the new Legacy feels lighter, smoother, and excitingly agile compared to its predecessor. NVH levels were considerably improved with added sound-dampening materials and even acoustical glass on the windshield was employed to achieve this. A lot less of the “whirr” is audible even when the selectable Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) is set at Sport Sharp. In this mode, one can almost feel the car hunching down, at the ready for any driver’s input that’s more on the aggressive side, instantly responding in kind at an amplified degree. The car literally transforms, tightens every aspect of its dynamics, and would react almost as if it is anticipating your intentions- enabling you to drive it confidently with hairline precision.
It’s easy to appreciate the exceptional grip, balance, and control provided by the low-slung placement of its Boxer engine with its Symmetrical AWD system’s Active Torque Split constantly at work (controlling the Torque distribution from front to rear), especially during brisk overtaking maneuvers to taking on tight curves at speed. It’s like laying down rails on the road with your steering wheel. And with 258 lb. ft. (350Nm) of Torque all the way up to 4400 RPM at your disposal, you won’t be left wanting on acceleration- so much, that despite the improved mileage figures, a little too much enjoyment quite easily reflects on the fuel consumption.
The degree of the Legacy’s understated design is so well-calculated and expertly executed that it gets better the longer you look at it, and that applies to its Black leather and matte Black and Silver alloy-themed interior as well. It’s driver-centric, straightforward, and well, masculine- none of the fancy-schmancy design cues that’d distract you from focusing on your driving and look outdated in a couple of years. It doesn’t fall short on luxury and creature comforts though- a large touch screen interface, which serves as display for the wide angle back up camera, and controls Bluetooth telephony and audio entertainment, which by the way sounds superb with a Harman Kardon premium 12-speaker system featuring their latest Green Edge technology. The full leather clad seat is 8-way power adjustable on the driver’s side, and air-conditioning is dual-zone capable, with adjustable rear vents.
A lot of the new Legacy’s features and specifications are shared by its fraternal twin, the more rugged and outgoing all-new Outback 3.6 R S (Php 2.288M), which makes a whole lot of sense, being equipped with the same robust 3.6-liter EZ36 6-cylinder 24-valve DOHC gasoline-fed Boxer engine, albeit in a more adventure-seeking and gnarly terrain-capable packaging. The new Outback is more of a purposeful Crossover now than the sporty wagon of generations past. Its design is more deliberate in hinting at its outdoorsy nature, now with a taller 213mm ground clearance. It’s no off-road monster, but it’s a highly capable and very fast multi-terrain vehicle.
The new Outback is equipped with Subaru’s ingenious X-Mode, which when enabled, intelligently takes command of its engine, transmission, Symmetrical AWD, brakes and even Hill Descent Control to provide you with unparalleled control even in the trickiest off-road situations with utmost safety. It’s practically a sports-oriented-adrenaline-junkie-driving-enthusiast’s dream come true, for all its inherent exceptional handling and performance capabilities are put to good use even off the road- in even better comfort. With improved interior amenities that are practically identical with the Legacy’s, save for the trim’s color scheme, the new Outback rewards its driver and other occupants with a ride quality on par with a premium Sedan’s. When it comes to versatility, the Outback has a sizeable edge- an increased cargo capacity enables it to swallow the equivalent of four 80-liter suitcases, and with the 60/40 folding rear seats and a flatter loading surface, it can take in even more, with the added convenience of a power rear gate.
On regular roads, the new Subaru Outback is equally at home. Nimble and exquisitely balanced despite the extended ride height; it’s a rocket of a Crossover that could out-handle and outpace most top-spec sedans. Surprisingly though, I found it quite a bit more fuel efficient than its sibling- perhaps it’s because I exercised more restraint with it when our Lead Photographer and I swapped rides. It is undoubtedly an exhilarating drive despite a tangible difference in handling characteristics between the two.
Subaru’s resolve to claim a bigger chunk of the market is apparent with the release of this all-new pair. Their unique engineering and performance advantage may have pigeon-holed their image as an automaker that’s mainly focused on driving enthusiasts; they are evidently bent on eradicating that limiting factor by making the new Legacy and Outback more universally appealing, with technical improvements abound- a step-up in every respect. The big bros are back in town, and they’ll surely make their presence known.
Model and Variant: 2015 Subaru Outback
Engine: 3.6R-S: Flat-6 (Boxer), 2.5i-S: Flat-4 (Boxer)
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 3,629 cc
Cylinder Block: Aluminum Alloy
Cylinder Head: Aluminum, dohc, 4 valves per cylinder, Variable Intake with Exhaust Valve Timing
Fuel Injector: Multi-Point Fuel Injection
Max Power : 3.6R-S: 256 bhp @ 6,000 rpm, 2.5i-S: 175 bhp @ 5,800 rpn
Max Torque : 3.6R-S: 247 lb ft @ 4,400 rpm, 2.5i-S: 174 lb ft @ 4,000 rpm
Drag Coefficient: 0.28 cd
Transmission: Lineartronic 6-Speed Continuously Variable Electronically Controlled Manually Interactive Automatic Transmission
Front Suspension: Independent Double Wishbone with Coil Spring and Stabilizers
Rear Suspension: Independent Double Wishbone with Coil Spring and Stabilizers
Fuel Capacity: 70 liters (18.5 gallons)
L x W x H : 4,755 mm x 1,821 mm x 1,506 mm
Wheelbase: 2,751 mm
Brakes: Front: 11.8” (315 mm) Ventilated Discs, Rear: 11.6” (295 mm) Ventilated Discs With ABS, EBD, and AWDWheels
Tires: 18″ Aluminum Alloy 225 / 60 R18
Weight [Kerb]: 3.6R-S: 1,613 kg (3556 lbs.), 2.5i-S: 1,589 kg (3503 lbs.)0-100 km/h, 3.6R-S: 7.1 sec., 2.5i-S: 9.0 sec
Top Speed: 3.6R-S: 225 km/h (142 mph), 2.5i-S: 210 km/h (130 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 3.6R-S: 8.5 km/L City, 12.3 km/L Highway, 2.5i-S: 10.2 km/L City, 15.3 km/L Highway
Price as Tested : 3.6R-S: PhP 2,098,000.00, 2.5i-S: PhP 1,808,000.00
C! Editor’s Rating: 9.5/10
Model and Variant: 2015 Subaru Legacy
Engine: Flat-6 (Boxer)
Location: Front, Longitudinal
Displacement: 3,629 cc
Cylinder block: Aluminum Alloy
Cylinder head: Aluminum. dohc, 4 valves per cylinder, Variable Intake with Exhaust Valve Timing
Fuel Injection: Multi-Point Fuel Injection
Max Power: 256 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Max Torque: 247 lb ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Lineartronic 6-speed Continuously Variable Electronically Controlled Manually Interactive Transmission
Drag Coefficient: 0.30 cd
Suspension: (Front) Independent Double Wishbone with Coil Spring and Stabilizers / (Rear) Independent Double Wishbone with Coil Spring and Stabilizers
Fuel Capacity: 70.4 liters (18.6 gallons)
L x W x H: 4,801 mm x 1,821 mm x 1,623 mm
Wheelbase: 2,741 mm
Brakes: (Front) 12.4″ (315 mm) Ventilated Discs / (Rear) 11.8″ (300 mm) Ventilated Discs with ABS, EBD, and AWD
Wheels: 18″ Aluminum Alloy
Tires: 225/60 R18
Weight (Kerb): 1,695 kg. (3737 lbs)
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph):6.9 Sec.
Fuel Mileage: 8.5 km/L City, 11.5 km/L Highway
Price as tested: PhP2,288,000.00
C! Editor’s Rating: 9.5/10
+ Better design by far with even better performance. Signature Subary handling is potent as ever, but with bonus of a s smoother ride all around
– A bigger improvement on fuel efficiency would seal the deal