The History Of Subaru Legacy B4

For the off-road, outdoor activity version of the Legacy, see Subaru Outback

The Legacy is a mid-size car introduced by the Japanese manufacturer Subaru in February 1989 as a larger companion to the company's Leone/ Loyale. Worldwide distribution started in 1990. In Australia, the Legacy bears the name Liberty out of respect for Legacy Australia, an organization which aids veterans and their families during and after wars. According to a press release from Subaru listed by Autoblog, as of November 2008, 3.6 million Legacies have been built since its 1989 introduction.

The standard equipped symmetrical all-wheel drive system is currently unique to the Legacy in this class size of vehicle.

In the USA market, the Legacy competes with the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, the Mitsubishi Galant, and the Nissan Altima. German automaker Volkswagen offers AWD as an option on the Volkswagen Group A5 PQ46 platform, however it is an extra cost option on upper trim level cars. The Ford CD3 platform can also be equipped with AWD for the USA market, but it too is an extra cost option only on the uplevel V6 models.

Main article: First Generation Subaru Legacy

The worldwide introduction of the Legacy was a notable departure from Subaru products in the past. Subaru had earned a reputation of building vehicles that were regarded as "quirky" and other Asian manufacturers were bringing more upscale and conventional appearing models to the market. The Legacy appeared at the same time as the USA introduction of Lexus and Infiniti and a couple years after Acura. However, Subaru didn't have a large displacement V6 or V8. The Legacy was more aerodynamic than previously built products, with soft edges and a more coherent appearance. The sedan has a break in the beltline where it drops down from the windshield to the front door glass, and then juts up from the rear door glass to the rear window, and the beltline is interrupted as it transitions down to the rear window on the wagon. The beltline treatment was used again on the SVX when it was introduced in 1992. The Legacy was interpreted by some as Subaru's attempt at participating in the growing, upscale market. The Legacy broke with many Subaru traditions, such as no longer locating the spare tire in the engine compartment, behind the engine and above the transmission. The Legacy was an all-new model, and slotted above the Leone in Subaru's model range. The Legacy also introduced an entirely new engine series, called the Subaru EJ engine, which was quieter than the previous Subaru EA engine.

The Legacy began with a 5 door wagon or 4 door sedan body styles with FWD and an optional full-time AWD package, and was introduced in the USA, UK, Germany, the Benelux region of Northern Europe, Japan and Australia. The car was built with many luxury and technological advancements normally found on more expensive vehicles as standard equipment, such as power windows, central locking, fuel injection, air conditioning, power assist rack-and-pinion steering, alloy wheels, 4-wheel independent suspension with both negative scrub and anti-dive and squat geometery, anti-sway bars front and rear, and 4-wheel disc brakes. Items that were optional that didn't make the vehicle too expensive were 4-channel ABS, licensed from Bosch and air suspension height control, which lowered the vehicle at speeds above 50mph (80.5km/ h), and also allowed the driver to increase the vehicles ground clearance for off-road conditions.

On vehicles equipped with power central locking, the feature is activated from the inside drivers door lock switch only, by pushing the rocker switch to lock or unlock all doors. The power door lock switch is not labeled, and the appearance of the driver's door lock rocker switch is the same as the door lock rocker switch on the other doors. Other doors can be locked or unlocked individually by pushing the respective door lock, but it will not lock or unlock the other doors. The outside key door lock can unlock the drivers door only by turning the key partially, or with a complete turn to the left to unlock all doors.

According to a translation of the Japanese Wikipedia article on the Subaru Legacy, the Aomori Prefecture and Ibaraki Prefecture police departments have used the Legacy Turbo for patrol cars since the car was introduced and continue to do so. Also mentioned in this translation was an article mentioning that when Subaru began to develop the Legacy, Subaru was facing financial pressure to improve sales from the successes from other Asian competitors and that they used an internal project code of "44B" to refer to the Legacy.

Main article: Second Generation Subaru Legacy

Second generation sales in Japan began with model year 1993, and 1995 marked the second generation in North America with a full body and chassis revision. The exterior was designed by Olivier Boulay, who was hired by Subaru on a short-term basis. The tail light appearance on both the sedan and wagon was influenced by the taillights on the SVX. In 1996, Subaru decided to make AWD standard equipment in all vehicles produced for the USA market from that year to today's current date. Subaru still offered a choice between FWD and AWD for its domestic market vehicles for this generation.

GT models, first offered in 1990 as a turbocharged sedan or wagon in Japan, and as trim package for the USA version in 1994, became a top level model upgrade in 1996, using the new DOHC 2.5L naturally-aspirated engine. Limited trim level editions were introduced, offering heated leather, or cloth, seats and trim and a tinted, glass moonroof. The term "Limited" appeared on the "GT", known as the "GT Limited" in 1998. The term "Limited" was used by itself on the Outback in 1998. Driver and front passenger airbags were added with the redesigned interior as standard equipment in accordance with USA Federal Government regulations. New equipment added to the list of features included RF remote keyless entry, fog lights, a rear spoiler on the sedan, upgraded stereo systems, and speed-sensitive power steering. 1999 Marked the 30th anniversary of Subaru in America, and the last of the second generation in North America. There was a special 30th Anniversary Edition offered with upgraded interior and sunroof, spoiler, alloy wheels on the "L" trim level cars. The Brighton trim level also carried over from the facelifted first generation version that was priced below the "L" trim option.

The remote keyless entry can unlock just the drivers door by pushing the unlock button once, with two pushes unlocking all doors. Using the key to unlock the door after using the remote keyless entry to lock the doors will cause the alarm to sound, if equipped with a security system. The doors must be unlocked with the remote to avoid the security system from being set off.

In Japan, the GT-B was introduced June 1996 with the front and rear struts supplied by Bilstein , with the upgrade also available on the RS. The "B" designation stood for Bilstein. The GT-B can also be distinguished by upgraded projector beam headlight lenses.

Australia saw out the last of the second generation Liberty in 1998 with a special "Bilstein Edition RX", identifyable by a Bilstein badge on the right rear boot lid and a lower stance due to front and rear Bilstein struts, It also featured Leather seats and door inserts along with Momo sports leather steering wheel and 16in BBS alloys as standard equipment.

A unusual interior change placed the power window switches flat against the door panel, whereas the window switches for the first generation and third generation extended from the door panels and were oriented in a horizontal position and were located underneath the drivers or occupants hands for easy location and use, and integrated into the door pull and armrest. The express up feature for the driver's window was also removed, leaving express down only. The power door lock switch design was upgraded to a more conventional door lock switch, installed next to the power window switches, with a secondary power lock switch installed for the front passenger.

Side turn signal repeater lenses that were introduced on the USA 1992-1994 Legacy were replaced by a plastic cap that matched the color of the door rub strip on vehicles sold in North America.

According to the French Wikipedia, LPG is introduced as an alternative fuel source on European models with the 2.0 L and 2.2 L engines, and are outfitted by company Necam Koltec. The fuel tank is installed in the spare tire compartment, with the spare tire installed vertically on the left side of the trunk or cargo area.

Main article: Third Generation Subaru Legacy

Subaru launched the third generation Japanese and world-market Legacy in June 1998, while the North American model was introduced in 2000. All models were equipped with standard, symmetrical all wheel drive. The Legacy is the only vehicle in this class that provides AWD as standard equipment. World-market and Japanese models ranged from a normally-aspirated 2.0 liter flat-4 to the EZ30 in the 3.0R model. The SOHC four cylinder engine continued to use a timing belt that should be replaced around 100,000miles (160,934.4km), whereas the 3.0 L six cylinder engine uses a timing chain that doesn't require replacement under normal conditions. In 2001 the EZ30, a newly designed 3.0 L H6 was offered in the Outbacks.

Flat roof wagons are no longer manufactured worldwide, and instead the raised roof is used for both the Legacy wagon and Legacy Outback. Daytime running lamps were introduced on US models starting with the 2000 Model Year.

The 4 speed automatic transmission, had a feature where the transmission could be instructed to ignore 1st gear from a standing stop to assist driving on traction limited situations, such as ice and snow. The system was activated by moving the gearshift from the "D" position down to "2nd". The car would then start in 2nd gear, and not 1st. The transmission also splits the delivered torque 50-50 between the front and rear wheels. Once the car stopped, the transmission would start back in 2nd and not 1st, until the system was upshifted to 4th.

The automatic transmission also has the ability to change the shift points, and hold the gears longer when the engine is operating at higher RPM. This is achieved by pressing the accelerator pedal rapidly, which causes the transmission to hold the gear until 5000 rpm before shifting to the next gear. No indicator light appears in the instrument cluster, unlike previous generations. The transmission also has engine over-rev protection by shifting the transmission to the next available gear once 6500 RPM has been achieved, even if the gear selector is in a low gear position.

Japanese-spec vehicles with the twin turbo had a Semi-automatic transmission, that allowed the driver to push the automatic gearshift selector to the left, and then allow the driver to shift the automatic like a manual transmission.

Main article: Fourth Generation Subaru Legacy

On May 23, 2003, Fuji Heavy Industries debuted the redesigned Legacy, known as the BL for sedan models and BP for wagons. It was released worldwide in 2004, with Subaru of America commencing production in January 2004 for the United States and Canadian markets. The large red plastic rear trim piece that first appeared in 1989, on both the sedan and wagon, with the word "Subaru" or "Legacy" (depending on the market) has been removed. The Subaru star logo reappears on the back of sedans and wagons, which was removed in MY 1992, with a blue background.

Lance Armstrong was used as an spokesman for both the sedan and wagon, and Sheryl Crow sang her 1996 hit "Everyday Is a Winding Road" in USA market commercials.

The chassis was redesigned and made stiffer, and it marked the return of a turbocharged engine to North American Legacies, featuring a 2.5 liter unit derived from that of the North American Impreza WRX STI. Due to advancements in turbocharger technology and tightening emission standards, the twin-turbo setup was dropped from the lineup. Turbocharged models and the H6 offered Subaru's first 5-speed automatic transmission, featuring SportShift technology licensed from Prodrive, Ltd.

As of the 2008 model year, the Legacy wagon and Outback sedan were discontinued in the United States, leaving the Legacy sedan and Outback wagon. The Legacy wagon was not discontinued in Canada. 2008 also brought the 3.0 L Flat-6 engine to the North American Legacy sedan. The Flat-6 has been available in the Outback sedan wagon since 2000.

On May 10, 2008, the Japanese-spec Legacy can be fitted with a new safety feature, called EyeSight. It consists of twin cameras, one on each side of the rear view mirror, that use human-like stereoscopic vision to judge distances and generally keep tabs on the driver. The system can help maintain a safe distance on the highway, a lane departure warning system, a driver alert warning for various safety situations, and even keeps an eye out for pedestrians. SI-Cruise has been integrated into the EyeSight feature as a driver safety aid.

The flat-4 diesel engine, the worlds first and only, is offered in both the Legacy and Outback sedans and wagons, identified as the Subaru Legacy 2.0D. The vehicle was released in the EU starting March 2008, and is offered with a 5 speed manual transmission only. The official introduction of the Legacy and Outback diesel was at the Geneva AutoShow in March, 2008.

According to the Subaru Insiders on-line newsletter dated March 2008, Subaru is "currently making modifications to the diesel so it meets the more stringent U.S. standards. Subaru diesel models should be domestically available in two to three years."

The Legacy/ Outback will likely be redesigned for the 2010 model year, in keeping with the 5-year life cycle. Multiple speculations of possible designs can be found on the Internet. At the 2009 Detroit Auto Show the 2009 Subaru Legacy Concept vehicle was displayed, hinting at the appearance of the fifth generation. A release date has not been officially announced yet.

Subaru chose to use an aluminum alloy boxer engine in the Legacy, as well as their other products, to simplify the powertrain implementation of all-wheel drive, in order to reduce powertrain weight, and because of the natural smoothness of the engine design. According to Subaru, because the engine sits in-line, or longitudinal, with the transmission, instead of being offset, or transverse, as can be commonly found by other FWD and AWD vehicles, body roll is minimized. The weight of the engine and transmission are balanced instead of being offset, which can cause the weight of the engine and transmission to be unbalanced in the engine bay in other vehicles. The power delivery is also direct from the transmission to the front wheels, and to the rear wheels through a rear differential, which is limited slip on some models. The transfer case is integrated into the Subaru transmission. Other AWD vehicles were first engineered as either front or rear wheel drive, but were modified with an additional, external transfer case and asymmetrical drive shafts to power the additional wheels, which adds a degree of complexity.

The boxer engine also affords a low center of gravity, and a balanced chassis because the engine sits low in the engine bay and close to the ground, as opposed to other vehicles, allowing the vehicle to stay more stable than some vehicles in moderate to high speed manoeuvres. Other manufacturers attempt to counteract the offset weight by making their powertrains' weight evenly distributed, which overall can cause the powertrain to be heavier than the Subaru system.

The boxer design also provides near-perfect vibration mitigation due to the fact that the movement of each piston is exactly countered by the corresponding piston in the opposing cylinder bank, eliminating the need for an inefficient harmonic balancer attached to the front of the engine at the crankshaft. The only vibration caused by the boxer engine is secondary vibration caused by the cylinders being offset slightly on opposing banks. This vibration, however, is minimal and is all but eliminated when the engine is mounted in the engine bay. Torque steer is also reduced with this type of power train layout. This is achieved by having the front driveshafts being of equal weight and length, and extend from the transmission to the front wheels at almost perpendicular from the transmission.


In 1990, the Legacy was declared the number one selling 4-wheel drive car in the USA by R.L. Polk & Company, based on registration statistics for CYE 1989. According to AutoFacts Inc. AutoGuide, dated June 28,1990, the Legacy was the least expensive Sedan or Wagon offering both 4-wheel drive and ABS. The Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) voted the Legacy "1990's Best New Sedan".

In Australia, it was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 1994 and again for 1998. Upon the Turbo's introduction to the Australian market it was claimed to be the fastest accelerating car for under $100,000 on the Australian car market. The BL/ BP chassis Legacy was the Car of the Year Japan for 2003-04. It was also joint Top Gear car of the year for 2007 with the Ford Mondeo.

Performance Enhancements

The EZ series of flat-6 cylinder engines, used in current Legacy products, replaced the EG series found in the Subaru SVX. Subaru has produced high performance versions of the Legacy with a Bilstein suspension and tuned turbocharged engines equivalent to the homologized rally version WRX STI (generating 205kW (275 hp) on manufacturer's figures for the 2.0L equivalent engine with manual transmission). Recent 3.0L engines move close to the 2.0L turbo output and share the Bilstein suspension. 2.0 L-engined turbocharged models with the Bilstein suspension were named either the GT-B (for wagons), or Spec B, or RSK-B4 (for sedans). The new 2003 model moved many models to simply B4 or even GT in some countries. The Spec B badge still exists in the UK, where the 3.0R stands as the premier MY06 model. In Australia, the 2.5GT (SatNav) marks the top of the pile for the Legacy/ Liberty range.

In North America, early sporty models were known simply as the Sport Sedan and Touring Wagon. Later models were given the GT and GT Limited nomenclature. The 2006 Legacy model brought forth a limited run of 500 Spec B models. For 2007 the Spec B became a regular production model (albeit a somewhat limited run). The Spec B model features a 6-speed manual transmission, an improved suspension system by Bilstein, navigation system (making the Spec. B the sole MT Legacy to get one), exclusive (to the Spec B) interior, 18" wheels, and additional aesthetic modifications.

World Rally Championship

The Legacy was campaigned by the Subaru World Rally Team in the World Rally Championship and British Rally Championship, with the help of Prodrive, beginning in 1990. It wasn't considered a truly competitive model at first, but showed promise under the command of Markku Alen, who in 1991 managed a third-place finish at the Swedish Rally. 1992 debuted the combination of experienced Group B, Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, and WRC driver Ari Vatanen, paired with the up-and-coming Scottish driver Colin McRae for Subaru's WRC effort. Two second place finishes, one by each driver, strengthened the commitment of Subaru to the World Rally Championship, the Legacy, and their drivers. The Legacy's primary competitor, with a turbocharged engine and AWD, was the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4.

1993 became a breakout year for Subaru as Colin McRae and Ari Vatanen pushed the Legacy to a third place finish at the Swedish Rally and a one-two placing after the first leg of the Acropolis Rally. Prodrive boss David Garraway was eager to prove the potential of the new Impreza WRC car, but was charged with gaining a victory in the Legacy before the Impreza could debut. At Round 8 held in New Zealand, Subaru finally struck gold when McRae managed to hold back Francois Delecour in his Ford Escort WRC for the win. This would be the last WRC event for the Legacy, as the Impreza debuted at the following event, where it placed second in the hands of Vatanen.

Richard Burns was successful in numerous events with the car during 1992 before joining the World Rally team to drive the Impreza in 1993. Alister McRae, Per Eklund, Possum Bourne and Hannu Mikkola also competed in the Legacy during its WRC participation.


The Legacy remains an ever-present competitor in rallies around the world. SCCA ProRally and Rally America participation from many teams has been impressive. The Legacy and the Impreza have many interchangeable parts which makes for a very competent and reliable entry.

The Legacy, and its Outback stablemate, has won the Alcan Winter Rally several times; the first win was in 1990 followed by another win in 1992, 2002 and 2006.

A 1990 Legacy was the first Group N car to ever finish the WRC Safari Rally. This rally is considered the world's most gruelling rally under the World Rally Championship. In 1990 the 38th Safari Rally had 59 competitors total, only 10 of which were able to reach the finish. The Legacy was the only Group N car able to reach the finish and was in 8th place overall.

Speed records

On April 23, 1998, a Generation III Subaru Legacy set a new world speed record for mass-produced turbocharged station wagons (1600cc-2000cc class), clocking 270.532km/ h (168.101 mph) over one kilometer on Highway 10 in La Junta, Colorado. This record was previously set by a Generation II Subaru Legacy in 1993 at 249.981km/ h (155.331mph).

The original Legacy speed record was set between January 2 and January 21, 1989, with three Japanese-spec turbocharged RS sedans at the Arizona Test Center outside of Phoenix, Arizona. It broke the 100,000 km FIA World Land Endurance Record by maintaining an average speed of 138.780mph (223.345km/ h) for 447 hours, 44 minutes and 9.887 seconds, or 18½ days. Pit stops were made every two hours with a driver change and refueling, while tire changes were made at 96 hour intervals, or every 13,400 miles (21,600 km) driven.

Models have typically been released into Japan and selected World markets such as New Zealand and Chile in advance of the Continental European and North American markets, perhaps because the first two are right-hand drive markets and Subaru has a strong presence in Chile.

  • Generation I: 1989–1992
  • Generation II: 1993–1997
  • Generation III: 1998–2003
  • Generation IV: 2003–present
  • Generation V: production scheduled to start in 2009

North American market release schedule

North America usually releases its models two years after Japan does, due to the fact that all current Legacies for the North American market have been built at Subaru of Indiana located in Lafayette, Indiana since 2004. Previously, all USA Legacies were built at either the Indiana plant or the Ōta, Gunma plant in Japan starting in 1989.

  • Generation I: 1990–1994 (production started 1989)
  • Generation II: 1995–1999 (production started 1994)
  • Generation III: 2000–2004 (production started 1999)
  • Generation IV: 2005–present (production started 2004)
  • Generation V: (production scheduled to start 2009 for 2010 model year)

On March 14, 2005, Subaru sold its three-millionth Legacy worldwide.

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