21 May 1999

4WD FAVOURITE

GETS MAKEOVER

SUBARUS new Legacy is the latest in a line of cars which look remarkably like the models they replace. Land Rover started the ball rolling with its new Discovery, Vauxhall followed with the latest Frontera and Jeep with the new Grand Cherokee. Are designers starting to lose their nerves, we wonder?

Having said that, the Legacy is reassuring for those who dont like too much change. It keeps the same rugged charm, chunky, purposeful body lines and of course, full-time four-wheel drive.

farmers weeklys test model was the Legacy 2.5 GX auto with luxury pack – the latter adding goodies such as climate control, leather trim, cruise control, and so on. But the real ace in the luxury pack is Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC).

VDC allows more torque to be fed to the rear wheels, giving the car rear-wheel drive characteristics – push it too far and VDC brakes individual wheels during hard cornering to keep the car on the road, and in the right direction. Its very secure and wet or dry tarmac makes no difference. In fact its easier to knit fog than unsettle the Legacy.

The 2.5 litre flat-four petrol engine has been refined to improve driveability – more torque and a slight power increase are the real gains, though its unnoticeable with the four-speed auto box (five-speed manual shaves over one second off the 0-60 time). The box really needs an extra ratio and also a means to prevent shifting from 3rd, through D and into neutral when working the gear lever manually.

Auto models lack a low range so off-road ability isnt as good as on manual models. However, air suspension allows the ride height to be increased by 30mm up front and 40mm at the rear, so a certain amount of rough terrain can be negotiated.

The verdict: Practical estate car motoring has never been sportier. The Subarus sure-footed handling and good driving position provide make for an impressive driving experience. A more powerful engine could only add to the excitement.

FREELANDER SPAWNS

COMMERCIAL VERSION

THIS commercial version of the Land Rover Freelander is based on the hardback model and goes on sale in September. Theres a choice of engines – 1.8 litre 120hp petrol or 2 litre 97hp diesel – and the payload is 580kg.

Standard features include permanent four-wheel drive, drivers airbag, alarm system with immobiliser, height adjustable steering column, electric front windows and radio cassette.

The usual Freelander options are available, including electronic traction control and LRs Hill Descent Control, as well as specific ones like checker-plate floor, shelving and racking systems and special stowage equipment. As with all commercial 4wd derivatives, VAT is reclaimable for VAT-registered users, reducing the normal £17,300 price-tag to a very reasonable £14,273.