18 July 1997



In this months Country Car Geoff Ashcroft tries Subarus Legacy Outback while Peter Jones revisits the new VW Passat. Meanwhile Andrew Pearce and David Cousins compare Cherokee with Ssangyong

FIRST impression of Subarus range topping Legacy Outback is one of an estate car on stilts, but despite the higher ride, handling does not seem to have suffered.

With 20cm (7.8in) ground clearance – an increase of 4cm (1.6in) over the standard Legacy estate – the Outback offers a half-way house appeal between four-wheel drive estate and true off-road four-wheel drive capability.

An uprated anti-roll bar on the rear of the Outback combined with full-time four-wheel drive keeps the car firmly in contact with the road surface.

Matching its higher ground clearance is a chunky, almost aggressive nose carrying large circular fog lamps – its not the most attractive looking front end, though the vehicle is boldly styled. But then the Outback is no sleek road-going racer, despite the 4Cam 148hp 2.5-litre flat-four boxer engine. 0-62mph comes up in 10.3 seconds, while top speed is 121mph.

Coupled to an electronically controlled four-speed auto box – standard on Outback – performance for a one-and-a-half tonner is brisk and its easy to feel safe out on the open road. ABS brakes and twin air-bags add to the reassurance factor.

But, for a vehicle that retails at £22,360, the interior fails to live up to the exteriors bold styling. Blacks and greys of the interior trim can only be broken by paying for suede-effect seat and door facings.

Control layout is straightforward, with push-button ventilation controls in the central dash console. Fog light and demister switches flank the steering column, below the main instrument binnacle and need to be looked for when required.

Door pockets and dash storage space is limited and theres no pockets behind the front seats, which could usefully stow a road map.

And its still disappointing to find air-conditioning remains a £1550 dealer-fit option for a car that clearly has everything else fitted as standard.

As you would expect of a Legacy estate, load capability is generous and with rear seats folded, the Outback offers a useful amount of load space.

Verdict: Legacy Outback is a

practical estate with generous load space, good handling and

comfortable ride. But you shouldnt have to pay extra for air-conditioning on a range topping motor.

Subarus Legacy Outback – high ground clearance kept in check with uprated suspension.


&#8226 Model: Subaru Legacy Outback estate.

&#8226 Price: £22,360.

&#8226 Engine: 2.5-litre, 4 cyl petrol.

&#8226 Top speed: 121mph.

&#8226 0-62mph: 10.3 secs.

&#8226 Test fuel consumption: 27.6mpg.

&#8226 Insurance group: 15.

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