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1996 Subaru Legacy L

Created by dave. Last edited by dave, 15 years and 306 days ago. Viewed 7,337 times. #4
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1996 Subaru Legacy L

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White four-door sedan, black door trim, black mirrors

Single owner: leased new May 1996, purchased April 2000

Traded in April 2008 against the 2008 Toyota Yaris.

Odometer at delivery: 17Km
Odometer at May 2005: 137000Km
Odometer at sale, April 2008: 164436 Km

Engine: 2.2L H4

Drivetrain: All-wheel drive

Transmission: 5 speed manual, cruise control

Brakes: power disc/disc, 4-channel ABS

Interior appointments:

  • Air Conditioning (still working)
  • power steering
  • power windows
  • power mirrors
  • 4 speaker AM/FM Cassette (Subaru Original Equiptment)
Options at delivery:
  • engine block heater
  • splash guards
  • floor mats (front mats missing, rear mats very clean)
  • rear deck spoiler
Wheels and tyres:
  • standard steel wheels, standard plastic wheel covers, minor curb damage
  • Toyo Touring 205/75H15 tyres, installed at 60000Km, still have tread life
Service history:
  • majority of service was performed by dealer, Westboro Import Auto (Westboro Subaru)
  • couple of oil changes performed by Mr. Lube
  • all scheduled services up to date as of September 2004, including engine timing belt
  • all manufacturer recalls up to date as of September 2004
Outstanding "Up" gripes:
  • occasional grinding and/or squeeking from front left under light braking (repeated service inspections have found nothing wrong) -- service eventually replaced the front left wheel bearing assembly and the noise went away.
Body Condition:
  • front white cosmetic vynal bumper cover damaged
  • minor stone chips on front hood (under bug deflector)
  • minor rust in stone chips throughout body
  • rear trunk starting to rust behind reflector assembly and upper corner edges (rust bleeds down rear bumper)
  • other than these minor defects, body and frame are tight and solid (2005).
  • at sale (2008): rust bleeds on trunk lid resulted in 5cm hole on trailing edge of trunk lid (under where the "Legacy" logo was). There was also well-progressed rust on the fenders behind the rear wheels, immediately above the bumper line.
Government Documentation:
  • registration
  • Safety Inspection pass (for October 2004)
  • DriveClean Emissions pass (until October 2005)
  • Used Vehicle Information Package
General Comments:

This was my first new car, leased after two years with a 1986 Honda Civic sedan. I had suffered a tractor noise in the transmission, and after replacing the transmission and most of the clutch assembly, the noise was still present. I was later told that there is a throw-out bearing which is a $30 part which probably wasn't replaced during this entire exercise, which probably was the cause of the noise. No matter, if I was going to spend this amount of money on a car, I figured I should drive a nice one.

I went down to Westboro Import Auto in March 1996 to look at the 1996 Subaru Impreza, which was a new model that year. When I got one, I was told that Subaru had allotted a total of 135 for all of Canada. The salesman told me that I could probably have one, but it would be sight-unseen, I might not be able to get the trim level (let alone color) I'd like, and there would be no movement on the price. So, since I was down there anyways, I test-drove a 1996 Legacy L wagon.

Two weeks later, I went in to a local Honda dealership, seeing as how I was a happy Civic owner and wanted to try a new one. I was not treated with any respect. I was given some pamphlets and that was it. The salesman didn't want to talk about the car; didn't want to go for a test drive; nothing. They did absolutely nothing to encourage me to do business with them.

So, two weeks after that, I had decided that it wasn't my place to chase Honda to sell me a car; so I went back to Westboro, and ended up with a car that cost half again as compared the Civic I was considering.

After the usual dance with financing and options, we ended up doing a lease on the car over four years. The lease had 24000Km per year, and at the lease end I had only done about 60000Km, so it just made sense to buy it out.

The first four years the car was basically a parking-lot bunny, as I took the bus to and from work. It got run on evening and weekends, and as the milage at lease end shows even that didn't add up to much. I drove it so little that the brakes had to be replaced twice because they were not getting driven enough to keep the rust from rotting them out. Since I changed jobs, the car has been a daily driver, and with the exception of my "up" gripe, the brakes have behaved since.

There have not been any major problems with the engine. The most exciting item was a vacuum connection to an O2 sensor which broke, resulting in a Check Engine light. This required a couple of visits to fix, but once corrected there have been no further problems.

In cold weather the car usually starts quickly. It has never stranded me. I have tried to ensure that the block heater was plugged in when it was parked outside overnight, but on the few occasions that this was not possible it still started OK the next morning. The transmission hates the cold, requiring several minutes of driving before it loosens up.

As far as the transmission goes in general, the stick has a few mm of slop when it is in gear, but it is still easy to find all five gears without having to hunt for them. The clutch has a bit of a squeek when doing an agressive take-up under high engine loads, but this has been the case since the car was about eight months old, and it has not got any worse over the years. If nothing else, it encourages more conservative driving habits.

The main attraction of this car is, of course, the all wheel drive. Even with the replacement Toyo tyres, the car has incredible traction under all conditions. The car tends to understeer when pushed or when braking, but under a steady throttle the car's behavior is very neutral. When playing with the car on gravel or on snow, the power oversteer is very progressive, the car telling you exactly what it is about to do. I never found the car willing to snap-oversteer (you had to ask for oversteer), and the back end was very well behaved under braking. The steering is a bit over-assisted for my taste, but fast enough to keep up with the car under all but the most extreme requirements.

Realistically, in my hands the car would be good for at least another 100000Km. I don't see any reason why it would not do well in other hands, differences in driving styles permitting.

I have really enjoyed having this car, and hope that some day I'll be able to afford another similar car. I am glad that things worked out such that I was able to get this car instead of the Honda.

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