Tuesday, August 6, 2013

2005 Subaru Legacy GT

In the used car market there is always something out there for what seems to be a real performance bargain. Most of those bargains have some deep dark secret that ties to a manufacturer defect or poor design, (ex early 996 Porsche 911s (99'-01'). The statement "If it is too good to be true it usually is" is accurate in the purest sense. So why should you look for one of these performance bargains? If you're like most people you can only really own one car. That car should be; reliable, easy/cheap to maintain, convenient, winter drivable and FAST!

Every so often there will be cars that don't hold value simply because of their image and associated demographic. This brings me to the deliciously under-valued Subaru Legacy GT (4th gen 05'-09'). The Subaru Legacy GT is one of those anomalies. The car itself has internals common to many perfectly normal and reliable Subaru's and is quite nicely packaged. It is also one of the most attractively styled Subaru's ever, (which I fear says more about how poor most others Subaru's look). So why the lower values? Well first off, they were primarily marketed to the older Subaru enthusiasts and a more mature audience in general. Any performance qualities were due to the shared components from the WRX and not employed by marketing to evoke much of a sporting persona. Secondly the car did share the chassis and many body panels with the Outback station wagon, thus condemning its memory to the "boring" file in most peoples minds. As a performance car in disguise this is shaping up to be quite the sleeper.

What you need to know about the Legacy GT!

The 05-09 Subaru Legacy GT used car values suffer from the immense success of its little brother, the Impreza, but there is no reason for it. The AWD is the Subaru symmetrical system that is an industry standard for capability and reliability. The motor is the same 2.5L boxer block as used in the top of the range Impreza WRX STI. To be reasonable the intake side of the block is equipped with the same turbo and inter-cooler as the slightly tamer WRX combining for a healthy 250hp & 250 ft.lbs of torque. So it's a Subaru with a bit more punch than most Subarus, right? Wrong! The 05' Legacy GT without Leather or a Sunroof would weigh in at an impressive 3300lbs. That is surprisingly light for an AWD car of that size and at 13.2 lbs/hp is lower than anyone would expect from such a politely styled 4-door sedan. Brakes are big and stop the car with great control and as fast as your eye sockets can handle. Sedans rear seats DO NOT fold down as there is a structure between the two seats to stiffen the chassis (wagons offer more convenience). So it's not fast, more of a "quick" car but has a good chassis, seating for five & common internals that should be easy to replace should anything go wrong. It seems like it really has become a deal for the knowledgeable consumer.

But what about the performance enthusiast? Surely the Impreza for grown ups isn't supported by the aftermarket. It's for the mature buyer who has no concern for how fast or how cool his car is. If that's what you're thinking you'd be wrong. While most Legacy GTs available are un-molested (unlike it's Impreza sibling) the common components underneath and worldwide market have let the aftermarket provide for a huge market of Legacy owners with minimal effort. The online community is full of support as Subaru owners in general are the most lively forum participants globally. If you'd like to tinker with your car and improve it to your liking, there are many reasons to buy a Legacy GT. Simple-to-use tuners can boost power to ~275hp without ever opening the hood or reaching for a jack. Because the motors are so common the tunes offered by companies like COBB have been tested on thousands of cars and are reliable (just use the right octane fuel). With that tuner and a $400 down pipe the dial can be safely turned to 11 on the turbo helping the car produce 300hp! Un-modified Legacy GTs are capable of hitting 60 in 5.3 seconds. With minimal modifications as mentioned above they can easily be around 4.8 seconds to 60. Remember this is a car that weighs 20lbs less than a new Impreza STI and 220 lbs less than a 291hp Mitsubishi EVO X GSR. Both of which are comparable vehicles but, if you aren't going to race around a track then Bilstein shocks and Brembro brakes are of diminished value in the pricier cars and simply increase the cost of servicing your daily driver. Consider that the 300hp STI and the 291hp EVO X both cost between $18,000 and $30,000 as used cars and are often abused by the previous owner. A clean elderly owned and well maintained Legacy GT can easily be found as they are the norm. Pricing currently (Aug 2013) for an 05'-09' Legacy GT ranges from $6,500-$15,000. A comparable WRX Impreza would likely be priced higher with less options, less HP and less cargo room! As an example, the 2005 Legacy GT with a 5 speed manual, that I own was purchased one year ago (Aug 2012) for $10,100 from a Subaru dealer with 55,100kms owned by a retired couple in their 70's. How's that for a performance bargain?

The Legacy GT is quite simply one of the best all around used cars available today. It has year-round capabilities, is convenient, reliable, cheap to maintain and with sub-5sec 0-60 it's FAST! What more could an enthusiast ask for?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

2007 Volkswagen GTI 4 door

2007 Volkswagen GTI - A true wolf in sheep's clothing in the 4-door variant
The vehicle in question is a long standing champion of the sport compact market. This last week I test drove a 2007 Volkswagen GTI 4 door. What can be said about the GTI? My first impression walking up to the vehicle is its relatively understated styling. It doesn't have any strong distinguishing features to separate itself from the Golf or Rabbit. The subtle differences that do hint at the performance are mature and an ode to the cars past with the red line trim surrounding the blacked out grill. The vehicle I was testing had winter rims and tires which added to the less conspicuous look. I understand the unique OEM rims to be impressive eye candy that further distinguishes the model as a standout in the VW line.

The Overall shape of the GTI has clearly grown since its earlier generations. The added size makes the "Mark V" GTI the first generation available in a 4-door variant. The space inside is tremendous to anyone who is familiar with any VW made in the 1980's. Once I stepped into the driver seat and peered around I was genuinely impressed with the amount of retro flannel fabric. Not only was the space impressive but the nod to past generations of GTI continues with the pattern on the seats. I can imagine how this becomes a dividing thing amongst any prospective buyers but I tend to be in favor of most "love it or hate it" design touches. The same is true of the seats. I love that VW has taken an out-dated pattern and made it cool again, at least for those of us that "get it". The feel in the drivers seat before the key is even turned on this car is that of a well built solid car that isn't about flashiness. The interior is simple, well laid out and wreaks of build quality. I will point out this car was clearly detailed by a professional and owned by a retired man. I've yet to see such a clean daily driver that's 5+ years old. Even this lightly used (87,000kms) VW hardly displays any signs of its age inside as all the controls and touch points have an affirming click, smooth and positive. The same adjectives can be used to describe the shifter feel. The wheel is another great piece. It's comfortable but the flat bottom and thumb indents are nice touches that inspire a sporty feel. Turn the key and the motor springs to life like any other. No hint of performance from the powertrain at idle but engage 1st and get the turbo spooled up: Then you'll see the other side of the GTI coin. Boost starts to build from the 2.0 Turbo early. The intake noise is rewarding from 2000rpm up and the 200hp is awesome. I was surprised to feel barely any noticeable torque steer in the lower gears. It takes corners well and is really responsive without the brake dive or body roll typical of any other 4 door hatchback.
I know! I was impressed with the cleanliness of the freshly detailed interior too.
I would argue the mark V GTI is one of the best FWD cars built in the 2005-2009 era. It is logical, convenient, efficient, fast, sporty and notably reliable. If you're looking for a true all rounder that really can impress in any given category with no real short comings it is one of your best options. It isn't flashy, it isn't obnoxious but it has a cult like following for a reason. It's just a smart decision, plain and simple. So long as a persons priorities don't require anything too specific I would recommend it to any friend and have made myself a promise to one day own one.