2008 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited Review: 2008 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited (2023)

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Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited uit 2008

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The good

With its four-wheel drive and column-mounted paddle shifters, the 2008 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited can handle winding mountain roads at high speeds while also driving comfortably in traffic.

The bad

The cab technology is mediocre, with an average sounding stereo and a CD changer that does not display ID3 information from MP3 CDs.

It comes down to

The 2008 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited makes for a good car in a variety of driving conditions, but the cabin tech trumps a decent satnav, with only a passable stereo.

Among the decent commuter cars such as theToyota Camryand theHonda Accordfew offer the performance features of the 2008 Subaru Legacy. We tested the top-of-the-range R Limited, which comes with a 3.0-liter engine. Together with the four-wheel drive system, paddle shifters and transmission mode settings, the Legacy proved fun in the hills while being perfectly comfortable in traffic.

The Legacy 3.0 R Limited features interesting handling and powertrain technologies. The cab tech options are only average at best. Our test car had a good navigation system and a six-disc changer. Subaru offers Sirius and XM satellite radio, but the implementation isn't great. Bluetooth integration with mobile phones is not available.

Technology test: GPS-rally
One feature we like about the 2008 Subaru Legacy's navigation system is the ability to store multiple waypoints, which allows you to set up complex routes with many stops. This feature allows you to plan an entire road trip and enter it into the navigation system before you leave home. For our tech test, we started at CNET headquarters in San Francisco and entered four waypoints, taking us south of the city to the coast and then back to the office. For each waypoint, the navigation system gave an estimate of how long it would take to get there, and we tried to approximate that time as closely as possible.

We entered four addresses into the navigation system to define our GPS rally route.

Our first waypoint was 20 miles away, in South San Francisco, and we panicked a little when the sat nav only gave us 14 minutes to get there. We lost time waiting at traffic lights on city streets, which put us minutes behind schedule, but once we got on the highway, we fired on the Legacy and easily passed slower traffic as we made up the minutes. When the satnav told us to get off the highway, we felt good, with plenty of spare minutes. We were slowed down by some large trucks, but arrived at our first waypoint a minute later.

Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited uit 2008

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The next stop was 22 miles away and the car said we could do it in 24 minutes. Realizing that the surface roads were our biggest threat, we accelerated, trying to pick the right lanes to get the best time, hoping the traffic lights would be good for us. Once back on the highway we were able to maintain a good cruising speed and make up time if needed. This particular waypoint was right off the highway, making it easy to arrive exactly at the estimated time. We felt good.

But then we had to get to the coast, along a route that would take us past the perpetually busy Highway 92. Our destination in Moss Beach was 35 kilometers away, for which the navigation system gave us more than 39 minutes. Once again we hit the road, trying to get an early freeway lead. As we turned up the mountainous and winding Highway 92, we were surprised to see no large trucks; the only traffic obstruction was a reasonably fast VW bus. As we approached Moss Beach we noticed we had caught up with too much time and that we would arrive 10 minutes early. Not good. With a little bit of luck, the navigation system sent us the wrong way because the maps were not up to date for our destination. We had to walk back a bit and choose another way, which unfortunately only took an extra minute. We arrived at this waypoint nine minutes short of our estimated time.

Then we set off for our final destination and realized that the car wanted us to be all the way back to downtown San Francisco from Moss Beach in just 24 minutes, and the distance was 24 miles. We shot up Highway 1 and headed down the coast as fast as we could, knowing that the Legacy would be able to negotiate this very winding road at high speed, but also anticipating plenty of slow tourists on the road taking in the scenery. Due to the traffic, we could only reach about 60 km/h for the first part of this road and we lost a lot of time. We tried to catch up when we got onto a multi-lane highway, but when we took the exit for San Francisco, we realized we couldn't make up the time completely. We knew a less busy route to our office, but stuck to the route guidance, which basically tried to send us down a non-existent road. When we drove to our office, we saw that we had nine minutes left. Although we were stuck on our last two waypoints, our overall rally was pretty good. Taking into account all times and waypoints, we were only one minute short.

Inside the cabins
With the Limited version of the 2008 Legacy, Subaru at least does a very good job with the cabin materials and fit. We can't vouch for other models in the lineup, but the Legacy Limited's interior was very comfortable. Most of the buttons on the dashboard and steering wheel fit smoothly into a metal look. The navigation system uses an LCD touchscreen mounted at the top of the stack, with a row of buttons along the bottom. In fact, the stack is a bit display-happy, with separate monochrome screens for the climate and audio system, complemented by the navigation LCD.

Virtual gauges show average and instantaneous fuel consumption and acceleration.

During our GPS rally, we found the navigation system's route guidance to be good, helping us get through a number of complex highway interchanges, exits, and on-ramps with precision. It did contain some erroneous street information, but since map navigators rely on only a few companies, we'd expect the same from other systems. This navigation system offered useful options for entering addresses, such as via the motorway entrance or telephone number. It also had a standard database of businesses, including gas stations, ATMs, and restaurants.

The navigation system included some other useful vehicle information features. The LCD screen can display a series of virtual gauges, displaying average and instantaneous fuel consumption. Another gauge shows acceleration, and there are other tools like service history and a calculator.

The stereo display does not show track titles, only file names of MP3 CDs.

The only other major technical feature in the interior is the audio system, which delivers 100 watts through six speakers. We found the audio quality to be about average, with good separation and surprisingly decent bass, and enhanced with processing called SRS WOW, designed to produce a surround sound effect. But the sound lost a lot of clarity in the highs, while bass-heavy tracks produced a very annoying speaker hum.

There is a six CD changer mounted in the stack that can play MP3 CDs. We found it easy enough to browse folders with buttons on the stack, but the stereo display only showed file and folder names, not the more informative ID3 track information for artist, album or song title. An auxiliary input is fitted in the center console, complete with a convenient pass-through for an MP3 player patch cable. You can opt for XM or Sirius satellite radio with the Legacy, but we noticed the satellite antenna was mounted on the inside of the windshield, similar to if you bought an aftermarket kit and fitted it yourself. We would like to see better integration with satellite radio, with a roof antenna.

Under the hood
The 2008 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited gets more interesting with its powertrain and platform technology. As a Subaru, it gets the company's Symmetric All-wheel-drive system, which in this implementation sends torque to the rear wheels but adjusts distribution depending on driving conditions through the use of a center differential and an electronic transfer clutch.

Subaru mounts the paddle shifters on the steering column, making them usable even when the steering wheel is turning.

This car is the only version of the Legacy with a six-cylinder, 3-liter engine, in the horizontally opposed design favored by Subaru. The engine produces 245 horsepower and 215 foot-pounds of torque. Other Legacy models use a horizontally mounted 2.5-liter four-cylinder, with the base model producing 170 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. The GT and spec.B models add an intercooled turbocharger that produces 243 horsepower and 241 foot-pounds of torque, offering potentially better performance than the 3-liter version. We found the 3-litre Legacy lively and offered good, but not overwhelming, acceleration. During our time with the car, we saw an average of 21.6 mpg, a pretty good number that fell within the EPA-estimated range of 17 mpg for the city and 24 mpg for the highway. The Legacy's emissions rating is unspectacular and deserves the minimumLEVII assessmentfrom the California Air Resources Board.

During our review period with the Legacy, we had some pretty consistent rain, so we took the car on a drive up Mount Hamilton, near San Jose, California. This road climbs up a hill and gains height as it twists and turns, before descending back into a valley. We used this drivetrain to test the car's various transmission settings. A button on the center console lets you choose between Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp modes. At first we bypassed Sport and went straight for Sport Sharp, but overall we're not overly impressed. As we attacked the corners we pressed the throttle, but had to wait a considerable moment before the car shifted down a gear. In addition, the transmission would not aggressively downshift under braking in any mode.

This dial allows you to set different performance characteristics for the transmission, although we preferred manual shifting.

We achieved our best performance by putting the shifter in manual gear selection mode and using the column-mounted paddle shifters. These paddle shifters are much better than most cars because they are mounted on the steering column so you always know which shifts up and which down. With paddles mounted on the steering wheel, like most cars, it gets jumbled up and down when you turn the wheel. We had a lot of fun using the paddles to downshift for corners, or get some speed on the straights. The transmission also gave us plenty of gear range to work with; For example, for the really twisty sections, we could keep it in second, which worked for approaching low-speed hairpins, while we could rev it up to 50 mph as the rev hit 6,000 rpm.

The Legacy's handling, aided by its four-wheel-drive system, also stood out on our mountain ride. We had rainy roads, but the Legacy showed good grip and compliance in the corners. We were able to tackle hard corners with speed while getting minimal slip in these conditions. The car also showed very little understeer and generally went where we pointed it. In the past, on trips to the Lake Tahoe ski area, we've noticed that most locals drive Subarus, and the Legacy showed us why.

In total
The 2008 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited is well equipped, with navigation, paddle shifters and a six-disc changer, for $31,295. Our test car added an auto-dimming mirror for $304 and XM satellite radio for $456, bringing the total, along with the $645 destination fee, to $32,700. The Legacy 2.5 GT, with a base price of $28,295, is another interesting choice due to the added torque of its turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

As a tech car, the Legacy excels for its performance technology, but is only average on the interior. We really like the driving experience, whether using this car on slippery roads or commuting in traffic, and would feel comfortable in light off-road conditions. Few cars offer this combination of well-mannered road performance and agile handling. But the cabin leaves us at least wanting a better-sounding stereo with more source options.


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