Rock solid, economical, utilitarian mountain car!
Replaced drive-side cv joint, A/C belt tension pulley bearing failed (cheap fix -$25), 4WD indicator light works sporadically, passenger-side front window does not operate, replaced battery.
Great car! Where else will you find rock-solid reliability, hi & lo range transfer case, up to 38mpg, loads of cargo room, full complement of dash gauges, very comfy seats, and ease of maintenance?
Ergonomics: I've taken several long road trips in this car and I never get tired from sitting in the seats; plenty of support and the adjustable lumbar helps too. I used to own a 240 series Volvo and I must say the seats in the Subaru are better (for me, but I'm slight-to-average build). Love the dash layout, everything is intuitive, and I really dig having an oil pressure gauge and ammeter instead of idiot lights for these two critical engine operating parameters. It's a shame the Legacy series got away from this practice. Good cargo room, not as cavernous as my Volvo wagon was, but close.
4WD: I love having a car that is front wheel drive that can be MANUALLY shifted into hi or low range. It's sooo good on snowy roads, and I'm running marginal all season tires and it still gets around great. The low range is incredible, lots of torque this car doesn't have, but it still managed to scrap its way through the spring melt mess on some local logging roads no problem. Plus, the part-time system yields better fuel economy and creates less wear on the vehicle.
Power: OK, there really isn't much at what, 88HP, but still she does OK. I used to own an '87 GL that was carburated and it was a real dog, and best mileage came in at 26mpg. But this '88 is fuel injected and it manages to hold its own. No, you're not going to win any drag races, but that is not a concern anyhow. But, I have managed 38 miles per gallon on a few occasions (proper tire pressure, no more than 60mph). On average, I'm seeing 32mpg highway, 23-26 city, that's with the original drivetrain that has close to 300K miles on it!!!
Reliability: Turn the key, it starts. The usual suspects at play here: cv axles (fail partly due to the incredible turning radius these cars have - don't use it all and save wear on the axles), timing belt intervals of around 30-45K miles as that drive-side belt has to stretch a long way.
Usefulness: I move a lot, and this car packs a lot of gear around. During one move I had so much weight in the back that, as driving through a downpour, I could feel the front end floating around. Threw it in 4 hi and problem solved. Anyhow, I mountain bike a fair bit and I like being able to just throw the bike in the back and not up top, still have plenty of room for gear. I'm 6'1" and have managed to sleep in it too, a la Hotel Subaru!
Overall: very satisfied, great car if you're not looking for anything fast, but something that is bulletproof, a good mountain car, can enable a fair bit of exploring on back roads, logging roads, mild 4WD trails, good hauling car, good road tripper, good all-weather vehicle. It fits the bill very well for all these rolls, and it just keeps on rolling too! Shame that Subaru discontinued the model, I'd much rather have a 'new' Loyale (or GL) with the 2.2L engine from the first Legacy series coupled with a 5 speed manual and part time transfer case than a new WRX, but that is just me.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 11th December, 2005