The Japanese Domestic Market, or JDM, is a highly segmented and picky market. The high standards and fickle tastes of the car buying Japanese results in short lived trends. Witness that in the past decade and a half, hit categories like personal coupes, utility wagons, mini-SUVs, grand executive transport and the like, have come and gone.
In this market, there will always be the steady executive saloon bracket, which will continue to exist for so long as the layers of Japanese corporate structure continue to exist. Today, this segment is dominated by Toyota's Crown with diminished participation from Nissan and Honda. Mazda no longer posits any top class car and Suzuki's Kishashi is lower down the corporate privilege chain. In this faceless and conservative crowd, one car stands out: The Subaru Legacy.
Its the look
Love it or loathe it, the Legacy is given due respect as a bona fide exec saloon. This benefits the hierarchical Japanese middle management executive car as the Legacy has some degree of sober respectability. Despite its heavy motorsport involvement and appeal, the Legacy does not lack for the kind of refinement that executive class transport requires. Even with 45-series low profile tires on 18 inch alloys, the Legacy is business class quiet. Electronic hill holder, parking brake, traction control and trip computer will satisfy those used to German sports sedans and/or those who live in an iPad world. Even the lashings of carbon fibre on the doors and dash make this man made material look as tasteful as tree walnut. But it doesn't mean you cannot have fun with it like a flamboyant motorsport celebrity.
Funny names, iffy pronunciation
Twenty years ago, in these islands, the Subaru Legacy would only be known, much less pronounceable to boys with colorful names like Blu, Dinggoy, Paeng, Robbie, Mandy, Vip and Art - Rallye boys who drove unmade dirt tracks in the dead of the night. Those were the halcyon days when Motorsports Rallye was the only kind of Rally that didn't have the PNP Metrocom/Capcom anti-riot battalions scrambling for their plate iron shields.
Then thanks to the Go-go 90's, the Asian century, the Alvarez group imported the Legacy wagon, cementing Subaru's relationship with its very loyal niche and select clientele. Working on the GM Autoworld multi-brand concept, one Mr. N. Mariano carried on with the Subaru brand after the Asian Crisis. Today, with the presence of Motor Image Pilipinas, reaching for a Subaru is no longer fraught with uncertainty.
One exhilarating experience
The Subaru experience is best summed behind the wheel - the best seating position to easily acclimatize to mated to one of the most comfortable seats made for a wide range of driving styles and sizes. Unbeatable panoramic views, as the driving position is not compromised by extreme windscreen slants as dictated by aerodynamic engineers. And further underneath, the marriage of supple long travel spring and damper units to anti-roll bars that give the best rough ride possible at high speeds and yet, at little sacrifice to cornering predictability. Subaru may have temporarily absented itself from WRC Rallying, but it never forgets to apply and refine the unique lessons it learned to street cars, especially in ride control. Rallying in the Philippines may have gone by the way of the Dodo, save for an annual hill climb in Subic or Tagaytay. Or a brief Rallycross in Clark. But the benefits of Rallying in suspension and drive development are still there to be enjoyed.
This is the reason why any Subaru model - the sedan/hatchback Impreza, the pocket rocket WRX-STI, the executive class Legacy/Outback up to the flagship Tribeca SUV - will always have a precise and instantly comfortable driving seat, long travel cushy suspension and all weather asymmetric all wheel drive. It will have the i-sharp performance adjustable technology to tailor the ECU to your driving style. It will always have the easiest access to monitoring engine health with its easy to use on-board computer. And it will always have a boxer engine, the best way to keep the car's center of gravity in balance.
Whatever they say
Twenty two years and 3.6 million units later, the Subaru Legacy has earned its namesake. Such a record is of no significance to those who wouldn't know what a Legacy is, much less pronounce Subaru right [accent on the 1st syllable in some regions, accent on the 2nd in some markets]. Much like a popular Korean SUV named after a place in Arizona, where the showroom sales people are instructed that since it is a hot selling car, however a customer pronounces it, the customer is always right for so long as they buy it.
Considering the shrinking share of the exec car segment, the Legacy will always be outsold by the more popular Forester SUV. Which is why Motor Image has chosen to fit this fifth generation Legacy GT with a 2.5-liter STI-spec 265hp turbo, which is slightly stronger than the Forester XT turbo engine. And the performance figures show: 0-100km/h in a little over 6 seconds, top speed close to the governed top speed of 250km/h, the Gentlemen's agreement top limit of most Autobahn bound brands. Driven cautiously under expressway radar surveillance, 12 to 13km/liter is a breeze.
The success of Motor Image and Subaru in nurturing and expanding the niche of enthusiast's cars mirrors BMW MINI's success around the world. The key ingredient is that the purveyors of cars for the enthusiasts should also share the same brand and motoring enthusiasm as well. The seeds of Motor Image's success was planted in 2006 when the Nicky Mariano-Ariel de Jesus team gathered auto industry professionals and enthusiasts like themselves to carry on the Subaru name. With its location on EDSA populated by distributors of Europe's best sporting cars, it was no cake walk.
Legacy and the competition
As an exec car, the Legacy GT is fitted with a 5-speed auto so anyone who always wanted an Impreza WRX-STI but just can't stand the heavy manual gearbox clutch for the daily drive now has a genuine exec car-like alternative. If it seems like a genuine alternative to fabled European sports sedans from Motor Image's EDSA neighbors, then the name Legacy is no mere marketing fluff.