We’ve been busy putting the latest edition of Caravan Cruise Ireland magazine to bed over the past couple of weeks, so opportunities to carry out additional caravan towing tests have been put on the long finger for now. That said, we have been racking up a few kilometres with the Subaru Legacy Tourer, and it definitely is a case of the more we drive it, the more we like it.
In my last update I talked about the Boxer Diesel engine, but this time I want to take a look at that other feature so characteristic of Subaru cars for nearly forty years – the permanent four wheel drive system.
There are indications that the past couple of winters have brought about a change in the attitude of Irish people towards four wheel drive. Whereas traditionally it would have been considered unnecessary unless you were specifically intending to take your car off-road, the difficulties experienced by many people last Winter have lead to a resurgence in interest in vehicles with four wheel drive. It’s a market segment that Subaru is in pole position to exploit, as outside of big SUV types, there are only a handful of cars on sale with all wheel drive capabilities.
Even then, there are differences between the types of four wheel drive systems available. While many manufacturers offers systems that normally operate in front wheel drive mode, and only transfer power to the rear wheels when traction is lost at the front, Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD is an always-on system, using a centre differential coupled to a viscous limited slip differential. It means each wheel is working at its optimum at all times, regardless of surface conditions. Furthermore, the design and layout – with the transmission and differential located between the axles – ensures a well balanced and neutral handling car.
At least that’s the theory, what about the reality? The nice thing about the Legacy’s AWD is that you really wouldn’t know it was there the vast majority of the time. There are no extra gearlevers or buttons that have to be pressed to activate the system, nor is there any drivetrain shunt or the clunkiness that you sometimes associate with 4WDs. What you do notice is how well balanced and stable the Subaru is on the move, making it a very assuring and relaxing car to drive. In particular on wet roads it’s notable that where other cars would be starting to scrabble for traction around corners, the Legacy just sticks to the line of trajectory like a limpet. And when I took it into a freshly cut but greasy field (all in the interests of research you understand…), its ability to negotiate gradients steep enough to warrant a second look at on tarmac without any drama whatsoever was, frankly, very impressive indeed.
Aha, you might say, but that four wheel drive means the Legacy will drink diesel like there’s no tomorrow. Well actually no, on recent runs to and from the office I’ve been averaging fuel consumption at 5.6 l/100 km – over 50 MPG. For a car weighing in excess of 1.5 tonnes, that’s a pretty decent figure by any standards.
Sometimes you come across something that makes so much sense you wonder why everyone isn’t doing it. Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD is one such example. It works so well that you have to believe that sooner or later the rest of the motor industry will follow the Japanese company’s long-term commitment to all-wheel traction motoring.
More kilometres ahead for the Subaru as we’re taking it to France for a ten day road trip, from where we’ll hopefully be providing a number of updates on living with the Legacy (internet connections permitting). Make sure to check back.