2002 Subaru Legacy GT Limited:Not just for bad weather

Sept. 5, 2002
The all-wheel-drive system on Subarus has a reputation for being rugged and reliable in snow, mud, and rain. It is just the thing for foot-high drifts and mush.

So naturally, roads were bone dry during our time with the Legacy GT Limited. Nevertheless, the sporty sedan proved to be fun on the road even when the sun was out. It has the feel of a sports car with a firm ride and acceleration that is respectable for a four-cylinder engine. (The automatic transmission's quick first gear helps immensely here. A special automatic power mode engages with rapid use of the accelerator.)

The powerplant is a 2.5-liter single-cam boxer that puts out 165 hp and let us do 70 mph while turning 3k rpm. The suspension up front is a coil-spring strut type with lower L arms; struts and a multilink arrangement are in back. Both front and rear sport antiroll bars. The overall effect is that of a small, road-hugger that corners well and handles curves adeptly. Though it carries ground effects that give it the look of a bottle rocket, you probably wouldn't be tempted to drag race the GT. But it has enough oomph to make it a pleasing road car.

It is interesting to note that the GT Limited version of the Legacy seems to be somewhat of a secret, even among Subaru dealers. It carries numerous features as standard equipment that come at extra cost on ordinary Legacies. The sole option on the car we drove was the $800 four-speed automatic shifter. Subaru typically mints only a few thousand GT Limiteds yearly, which might explain why they are hard to find in dealer showrooms.

Some of the more interesting features on the GT Limited version include an all-weather package with a windshield wiper de-icer, heated exterior mirrors, and heated front seats. The Limited also gets UV-filtering glass, a high-quality sound system, and front-seat side air bags. Leather interior and a leather-trimmed steering wheel are standard as well and are a definite step up from the everyday Legacy, which has too much plastic for our tastes.

All GTs, including the Limited, carry a viscous limited-slip differential and sport-tuned suspension not found on ordinary Legacies. A power sunroof, six-way power driver's seat, keyless entry, and 16-in. alloy wheels are among the other notable upgrades. Worth mentioning is that the Legacy gets high marks for crashworthiness from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

There are a few caveats for potential buyers. The GT is a relatively quiet car but still has the unmistakable buzz of a four-cylinder engine. Tall drivers may find entrance and egress a little clumsy. The swing-up steering wheel does not have as much range of motion as some we've seen. Headroom in front is listed as slightly more than 38 in. And though it is a five-passenger car, things may be a little cramped when there are three adult back-seat passengers.

All in all, these are small nits for a sedan that combines AWD with a classy interior and sporty ride, and does so for an all-inclusive SRP of $26,020.-- Lee Teschler

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