Jack of all trades
That's a good thing, since the brand is offering a myriad of versions. The Legacy sedan can be had in 4 trim levels with two engine and three transmission choices. The Legacy Wagon comes in 3 trims and the same number of powertrain options. However, the most significant variation on the Legacy theme carries a different name and mission altogether; the Outback Wagon, available in 5 trim levels, with a choice of 3 engines and 3 gearboxes.
I've spent some time in a loaded Legacy sedan a few weeks ago. I was charmed by its sportiness, its quality and--above all--its looks. The only major complaint I have is the slow-witted four-speed automatic that drives the naturally-aspirated engine.
So, given the opportunity to try out an Outback Wagon with a 5-speed tranny, I was anxious to see if the manual gearbox would make the non-turbo 2.5-litre flat-four more responsive. It does. However, I learned something else from my time spent with the Outback.
In the Legacy, the ride is firm, sporty, and entices you to drive more enthusiastically. In the Outback, the ride is soft, body roll is more pronounced, and you probably won't drive it as hard. In short, I am surprised to see that much difference.
I'll admit that at first, I was disappointed. However, when I got the chance to slide the Outback off the pavement, its qualities started to shine. Although you can't (and won't) tackle hardcore rock-climbing, its high stance and "Symmetrical" all-wheel drive will help you get to places you wouldn't dare trying to reach in a regular Legacy. Progressively, I appreciated the Outback's smooth ride and competent powertrain.
The 4-cylinder Boxer engine develops 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque, enough to move this wagon smartly. The shift lever feels a little rubbery, a little loose in its shift gate, but otherwise works flawlessly. If you've never driven this type of engine (only Subaru and
Visually, a few things distinguish the Outback from its Legacy counterpart: a bigger front bumper with bigger fog lamps, fender flares and lower-body cladding, larger tires (225 versus 205 or 215) as well as the aforementioned increase in ride height. Although both cars look pretty similar, and many people will have a hard time telling the difference between the two, I prefer the more streamlined look of the Legacy.
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2006 Subaru Outback Wagon Specifications
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