The year is 1982 and I'm folded in the back seat of my friend
Tracy's Plymouth Barracuda. We're flying up I-70 just past George Town
in the section of the highway that gets very steep very fast. The
'Cuda's exhaust is reverberating up and down the canyon like distance
cannon fire as it leaves the flimsy glass pack duel mufflers that do
little to silence the monster Hemi engine's roar.
painted his car a bright orange, but as benefits a car like the 'Cuda
the hood, roof, functional hood scoop, and trunk are jet black. Back in
1982 a collage freshman could still afford a Cuda and Tracy was cool
long before the car became expansive and cool again.
heading up to go skiing at A Basin with something like $20 in cash in
our combined pockets with a lunch and lift tickets purchased at King
Soopers for about the same amount. I barely fit in the back seat with
the long skis, boots, and the neon yellow, red, and purple ski jackets.
recall thinking to myself that this stretch of I-70 always separates
the wheat from the chaff, or in this case the fast cars from the slow.
And believe me in the land and year when Chrysler K cars, Chevy Vegas,
and those goofy Pacers still roamed the streets, the 'Cuda was King.
forward some 27 years and I'm older, heavier, and I can't help but
recall my friend Tracy who passed away so many years ago as I'm once
again flying up I-70, but this time in a ruby red Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT.
And just like the 'Cuda back in 1982 the Legacy is flying up the steep
section of I-70 just West of Georgetown with the 'Cuda like functional
hood scoop gulping down huge swallows of air as the 2.5 liter
turbocharged and intercooled engine makes easy work of the steep hill.
'Cuda had massive Craiger wheels with an aftermarket Hurst shifter, and
air suspension he could raise and lower by going to the local gas
station and filling up the car with free air.
The Legacy has an
automatic with paddle shifters, 17-inch alloy wheels with tire pressure
monitors, all wheel drive, and the Subaru SI- Drive which lets the
driver change the dynamic handling and performance characteristics of
The 'Cuda could take about anything on the road in a
straight line, but Lord help you if you had to go around a curve at
anything resembling a brisk walk.
The Legacys is fast, and perhaps even furious, in both a straight line and especially when the road turns twisty.
cars give their owners and effortless sense of speed, but the 'Cuda
kicks you in the groin to let you know that it is the bad boy in town
while the Legacy is way too sublte and way too refined for such
childlike behavior. It just goes about its business with a cool and
I drove the Subaru back from Vail very late at
night after visiting a friend from Prague. I was tired, it was St.
Patrick's Day, or perhaps the very early morning after St. Pat's Day,
and I-70 was all mine. I just wanted to get home and to bed ASAP.
Legacy welcomed me by happily flicking all of its dial needles up and
down when I inserted the key. I turned on the Harmon Kardon Premium
radio and pointed the car East. With little fuss the car effortlessly
brought me home in under two hours. The car felt planted and secure
with limited lean around the fast turns just past the Copper Mountain
exit. The steering was precise and communicative, the handling was
predictably and neutral, exhibiting none of the over or understeer of
front or rear wheel drive cars when the road turns challenging.
up the West side of Vail Pass was a breeze as the intercooled 243
horsepower boxer four coupled to Subaru's full time all-wheel-drive
made easy work of the steep and slippery sections.
Unlike the 'Cuda, the Subaru only gets better as the weather turns nasty.
also unlike the 'Cuda, I'm not sure I'll remember the Legacy 20 plus
years from now. The styling of the car goes from exciting at the front
to bland and mundane at the rear. The 'Cuda's was an in your face bad
ass beast that took no prisoners. I fear the Legacy would be just as at
home going to the weekend farmer's market as burning up the highway.
And you know a 'Cuda would would never do at a farmers market.
A word about Legacy's automatic transitions with paddle shifters—it works as advertised
I just don't get it. I'm sure that if you are Michael Shumacher flying
around the race track in Nuremburg in a bright red Ferrari and you've
got the perfect line dialed in the paddle shifters give you that extra
second or two around the track that make you a champion.
they engineered an automatic transmission so that it emulates a sports
cars sequential gearbox, which is emulating a race cars high
performance sequential gearbox—in my opinion you end up with a
pointless copy of copy.
The silver paddles behind the steering
wheel may look cool, but they are about as fun to have and use in the
Legacy as cup of hot coffee in a cup holderless 'Cuda. Putting around
town they just don't make much sense, and I would bet that 99.9 percent
of Legacy buyers will never take the car to the track or use the paddle
shifters as their main shifting option.
Subaru's Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) however does work as advertised. The big rotary knob can be set to either:
– Intelligent mode
– Sport Sharp
different setting change the engine and transmissions shift points and
throttle response. In Sport Sharp mode you'll be rewarded with
acceleration and shifting that would make Shumacher proud. The down
side: a significant drop in gas mileage.
As with many of these
types of systems that offer three options I choose the middle one for
most of my daily driving duties. It doesn't seem matter if it is the
suspension or the engine management that can be changed I always seem
to go for the middle of the road option.
Is the Legacy 2.5 GT Limited the spiritual successor to the mighty 'Cuda?
Of course not.
But does it offer many of the same thrills with none of the drawbacks?
You bet—and best of all it even has a functional hood scoop that I'm sure would have made my friend Tracy smile.
2009 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited
Price as Tested: $31,060
Engine, Transmission: 2.5L DOHC Intercooled Turbo 5-Speed Auto Transmisson w/Paddle Shift
PocketDyno Test Data
1/4 Mile: 15.60 second at 97.09 mph
0-60 mph: 7.32
Max Acceleration: 0.44 g's
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates
City: 18 mpg
Highway: 24 mpg
Combined: 20 mpg
As tested: 22.5 mpg
CO2 per year: 10,107 lbs