My first impression of this week's test car, the Subaru Legacy estate, was that it's green colour must have been chosen to match the wellies and this view of the car as a country vehicle was further reinforced by the trim which is a very durable herringbone tweed of the type normally seen being worn by a ruddy faced game keeper.

But, all joking aside, there used to be only one vehicle for the farmer or countryman, the Land Rover. In recent years this has changed with the arrival of the Range Rover which has rather become the car of the landed gentry but the Subaru seems to have been adopted as the chosen car for the tenant farmer, the estate combining terrific load carrying capacity with the sure footedness of four wheel drive.

But this is not just a farmer's car, it is a very sophisticated estate car which offers many practical virtues, great comfort and surprisingly good performance and looks just at home in a supermarket car park as a ploughed field.

A very stylish design, the car is incredibly spacious with slim pillars giving a large glass area and a very good view of the road.

There is very comfortable seating for five, the front seats being fully adjustable and the rear seats split 60/40 to turn a large load area into a cavernous space up to 5'6'' in length, all covered by a full length retractable tonneau cover.

Build quality is very high, Subaru having won an enviable reputation for reliability and solidity, with all body panels galvanised both sides and all cavities being wax injected.

For a car with permanent 4 wheel drive and such impressive off road abilities the Subaru achieves surprisingly good performance from it's flat 4 cylinder, 2.2 litre, multi-point injected engine. Unfortunately, a little noisy at low revs the engine becomes progressively smoother as the speed increases and the car cruises happily and quietly at motorway speeds. Fuel is unleaded only as a catalytic converter is standard.

134 bhp is produced by the engine but perhaps more importantly 140 lbs/feet of torque making the car an ideal tow vehicle, one factor which perhaps led to What Car magazine awarding the Subaru it's Estate Car of the Year award 2 years in succession.

Traction is by way of a triple range, 4 speed, automatic gearbox which is very smooth in use and offers an economy mode, power mode -where each gear is held longer- and a fully manual mode where gears can be selected as required.

The 4 wheel drive system is permanently engaged with torque split between front and rear wheels relative to the amount of grip available.

The transmission is very quiet in use much more akin to a high performance car than an offroad vehicle.

Sophisticated was a word I used earlier and the standard specification certainly justifies it's use, with power windows and mirrors, power seats, power steering, A.B.S., central locking, a good stereo and an ingenious height adjustment system for the self leveling suspension.

The curving dashboard contains a comprehensive range of instruments, all very clear and all switchgear is large, solid and easily reached. The steering wheel flips out of the way for ease of access.

Handling is also surprisingly good, the well weighted power steering giving the car great stability and the suspension travel being well controlled, giving a very comfortable ride, high speed stability being particularly notable. Braking is very solid with discs all round - vented at the front - and A.B.S. is fitted as standard.

The Subaru seems to represent excellent value, a car that is as stout and dependable as a game keeper's walking stick, able to tackle any conditions, on or off road, equally at home in town or country yet with no hint of compromise in design or manufacture, there being no reduction in abilities in either environment.


  • PRICE AS TESTED £17,674
  • TOP SPEED 114 M.P.H.

First Published 1992 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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