Subarus have long been known for their rugged AWD wagons and WRC participation, but they’ve hardly been considered a luxury brand competing against the likes of Lexus and BMW. However, with the latest iterations of the Legacy and Outback models, Subaru hopes to make the climb up the socio-automotive class structure and be considered as a sort of Japanese equal to Audi, rather than just the choice you take when you want an AWD vehicle but can’t afford the German brand.
Subaru certainly is not the first automaker to attempt the move upstream, and whether or not it works, they won’t be the last. Care to buy a $70,000 VW anyone? Thankfully, Subaru is choosing not be quite as extreme. While they may not be luxurious, the WRX and STi are two early examples of Subaru moving up the price ladder. In the case of those two models, they use uncompromising performance rather than plush luxury features to do it.
The new Legacy and Outback models will attempt to do a bit of both, and reestablish the heart of the Subaru line slightly north of where it has been. Subaru started with a sleek new body for both the wagon and oft-overlooked sedan. Now more likely to attract style-conscious near-luxury buyers, but still unlikely to offend. The two-tone paint schemes offered for Outback models have also been revised to appear more contemporary and less 1990’s.
The interior of the new Legacy and Outback is where you’ll fine real signs of Subaru’s luxury push. The design is slightly reminiscent of Saab layouts, though the quality is more Audi than Scooby. Like VW and Acura, Subaru offers trick lighting for the instrument gauges, which in this case, feature needles that sweep the dial at startup.
Of course, in this day and age, any new model better have the performance to be competitive or else face a pretty grim fate. If you ignore the base 2.5 engine for a moment, the Legacy and Outback certainly appear to have the guts. The enthusiast favorite is sure to be the 2.5 Turbo 4 cylinder with 250 hp and 250 ft-lbs. Yes you read that right. Already offered for a while in the Forester XT, a sleeper favorite, and in a slightly different form in the STi; this engine simply kicks. Placed in a vehicle that is a mere 200 lbs heavier than the WRX, you know the Legacy can now hang with the best of ‘em. If not roast them. In fact, Subaru claims it's faster than a stock Nissan 350Z. If you must have a 6 cylinder, the revised 3.0 H6 offered in the Outback now puts out 250 hp and 219 ft-lbs, though be prepared to pay a lot for it.
Starting prices for the Legacy range from $20,995 for the 168hp base 2.5L 4-cylinder sedan (add $1,000 for the wagon) to $29,695 for the loaded 2.5 Ltd. GT Wagon. The Outback starts at $23,995 for the base 2.5i Wagon to $33,395 for the loaded 3.0 R VDC Ltd. Wagon. Not quite Audi territory yet, but certainly the loaded models are getting a lot closer.
Also in the works for Subaru is an even more daring design direction, to be first seen in the new seven-passenger crossover they're working on at the moment. This new vehicle is expected to start north of where the current Outback leaves off, with pricing around and above $35,000. Get ready Audi, "the other AWD expert" is hungry for your lunch.