SUBARU BUILD SUPERB NEW DIESEL.
SUBARU may have been the last significant car maker to join the diesel market but if a brief test drive of its new powerplant is any guide, the wait seems to have been worth it.
Subaru resisted the temptation to buy a diesel off the shelf, so to speak, from another car maker because it said that the unique `boxer' design of its engines whereby the cylinders lie flat, horizontally opposed to each other instead of the more conventional vee or in-line layout, is a fundamental part of Subaru's brand image and it wanted the diesel to retain the boxer concept.
In part too, it is not that easy to take a conventional engine and attach it to the four-wheel drive system that is also a big element in Subaru's appeal.
The delay has cost it dear in terms of sales, especially fleet ones, because of the obvious benefits a diesel has in CO2-related tax, but it now has its own diesel, a 2.0 turbo unit, which is appearing initially in the Legacy and Outback but soon too in the new Forester and the Impreza as well. I am reliably informed by Subaru sources that there will be more powerful derivatives of this on the way.
To the best of my knowledge this is the only boxer diesel in the car world and it is a cracking engine. At idle it is unusually clattery and I have to say that my first impressions were not that good but crikey, once on the move the Subaru is sensational.
This feels more like a petrol engine than a diesel, in its throttle response, smoothness and the way it revs and yet it returns 50 mpg-ish.
I don't think that Subaru will ever be a mainstream company and it will always be led more by engineering than any other consideration. That may sometimes cost it but it is why owners love it.
For those who wanted to buy into the Subaru experience but were deterred by the lack of a tax-friendly diesel, the time has now come to do so.
Aside from the engine, I've always thought the Legacy to be a much under-rated car but slotting in this wonderful diesel is a marriage made in heaven and the combination of this car and this engine is an alluring one.
Our thanks to North Staffordshire Subaru dealers, Holdcroft Subaru, of Newcastle, Staffs, for the loan of the car used in preparing this test.
Subaru Legacy diesel
0 to 60 8.5 seconds
Top speed 126 mph
Fuel consumption; 40 mpg urban, 57 extra-urban (main roads and motorways) 50 average.
Co2 151 g/km
Service intervals 12,000 miles.