2007 Subaru Legacy GT Spec B

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Subaru’s high-performance WRX STi sport sedan gets a lot of attention — which may not be a particularly good thing if you’re looking to move fast discretely. Cops draw a bead on the big-winged, gnarly-scooped jelly-belly hued Rex — even when it’s not doing a single MPH over the posted limit. And if you do get pulled while driving one, expect no mercy. It is a fantastic piece of equipment — a true hooligan capable of race car power slides and acceleration runs that’ll tighten the buns of anyone riding shotgun with you. But driving one is like wearing a Glock .40 on your hip in plain view. All eyes will be upon you.

Now the ’07 Legacy Spec B is more discrete — its turbocharged engine and six-speed gearbox packed in concealed-carry style. No over the top wings; a much more subtle hood scoop for the intercooler. A less gaudy color palette. And that makes it potentially much more real-world useful than the look-at-me WRX (and the even more audacious WRX STi.)

The Spec B began life as a fairly ordinary sedan that got a personality transformation via a souped-up engine and drivetrain. The Spec B’s turbocharged and intercooled 2.5 liter horizontally-opposed “boxer” engine offers 243 horsepower and 241 lbs.-ft. of torque — 68 more horsepower and 72 -lbs.-ft. more torque than the standard Legacy engine, which is rated at 175-hp and 169-lbs.-ft. of torque. The Spec. B is actually more potent than the standard-issue WRX — which comes with a 230-hp version of the 2.5 liter boxer four. The WRX STi raises the bar to a heady 300 horses — but it also raises the wing to 1970 Daytona Superbird heights and increases your “risk profile” commensurately.

Having 300 hp is one thing. Being able to actually use them more than a handful of times before losing your license (or your insurance, take your pick) is something else entirely. No such issues with the Spec B. Order it in a blend-into-traffic color like my tester’s gunmetal grey metallic. No one will know you’re there — until they’re staring down the barrel.

The Spec B’s 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds put its in some quick company — and several tenths ahead of competitors like the MazdaSpeed6 sedan (which needs about 6.1 seconds to do the deed). And the Soobie has some hollow points in its holster to assure its victims won’t be getting up off the ground anytime soon — specifically, a driver-adjustable Si-Drive controller that lets you tailor engine parameters such as throttle tip in and ignition curves from “Sport” to coffee-spilling “Super Sharp.” In between is an “Intelligent” setting that serves as a sort of auto-pilot, toning down torque output and switching to a more relaxed throttle response curve — ideal for stop-and-go traffic, when all-out settings are as useless as Clay Aiken at The World’s Strongest Man challenge. The “Intelligent” setting has the additional benefit of increasing fuel economy potential by as much as 10 percent, according to Subaru. That would mean roughly an extra 2-3 mpg overall, city/highway based on the Spec’s 19/25 EPA rating — and with gas at $3 per and rising, that’s money in your pocket.

A small digital bar graph/display box in the central instrument cluster shows the status of the SiDrive — and the three available “power curves.” To change the settting, just rotate the knob on the center console between the driver and passenger seats.

Spec B models also get a modified version of the same six-speed manual gearbox used in the WRX STi — which you can’t get in the standard Legacy or the step-up Legacy GT (which offers either a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic). This transmission has different gear ratios than the STI’s box — and has been tailored for smoother operation, to match the “gentleman’s GT” nature of the Spec B. (An automatic transmission is not available in the Spec B.) Other Spec B specifics include a unique-to-this-model interior, with Charcoal grey upholstery and contrasting Dusk Blue Alcantara (suede) inserts.

Spec B models also get ventilated rear disc brakes (vs. solid discs on other Legacy models) with larger rotors all around. ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) is standard.

Other than the car’s 0-60 and quarter mile postings, the color-keyed seats are the only obviously noticeable clues to the Spec B’s subtle firepower. The Bilstein inverted struts (again, similar to the set-up on the STi) aren’t visible. Neither are the aluminum lower control arms (up front) and the also-aluminum multi-link rear pieces, which replace the cast iron stuff used in the regular Legacy and Legacy GT. And the standard 18-inch rims don’t call attention to themselves with gold-toned anodizing (as on the WRX STi).

But the Spec B can claw its way around corners very much like its higher-visibility cousin. Its WRX-esque suspension is teamed with the latest generation of Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive, which is tied into the car’s also-standard VDC stability control system. There is a viscous-coupled locking center differential that splits power delivery front to rear exactly 50-50, with any slippage at either end countered by an immediate routing of power away from the wheel(s) with less traction to those with better grip. A Torsen limited slip rear differential completes the trifecta.

With AWD, you can push the car harder into a corner and maintain your line without having to make as many steering corrections to counteract the otherwise inevitable tail end power slide (or front end “understeer plow”). This inspires ever-higher confidence as you realize what the equipment is capable of letting you do. Just be aware that as the level of grip increases, you’ll be tempted to dive in deeper (and go ever faster) than you might in a rear-drive or front-drive only car. That’s fine so long as you don’t get ahead of yourself — and your own ability level. The Soobie is not Superman — and neither are you. Probe the limits gradually — and be aware that every car has its limits. Just like every driver — even the pros.

This is a high-trim as well as high-performance machine, so you’ll find climate control AC, heaters for the (power-actuated) driver and passenger buckets plus a surround sound WOW premium audio system with Windows Media Audio (WMA) playback and MP3/iPod connectivity. DVD navigation with in-dash multi-function LCD display is also included in the Spec B’s $33,995 as-it-sits base price.

That’s about a grand more than the cost of a new WRX STI — but you’re getting a bigger, better-equipped car with more room and very comparable all-around performance.

The lower profile’s yours at no additional charge!

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