Subaru Legacy GT: Turbo, Throttle, and Miles Per Gallon


Driving a turbo-charged vehicle is an adjustment for me. I have been spoiled by the linear throttle response of previous cars. What have I driven before?  Let’s go through the list.

Out of high school, I drove a Toyota Corolla, graduated to a naturally-aspirated 1991 Toyota Mr2, progressed to the 1993 Mr2, an Mr2 Spyder, a 2007 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, and a Mazdaspeed Miata.  While the Miata also has a turbo, I didn’t keep it long enough to really get a feel for the thing.

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So what has it been like?  I have been adjusting to gas mileage and power the entire time. With the Corolla, I averaged 29 mpg.  With either Mr2, I averaged 27 mpg. While the power output was the same from both vehicles with 130 horsepower, I spent more driving time in the canyons with the Mr2.  The bigger displacement, 2.2 liter compared to 1.8 liters, gave additional punch at the bottom end in the Mr2.

The Police Interceptor was an adjustment for me. It was my first V8. No matter how I drove it, I averaged 18mpg. It got into overdrive very quickly, which is something I appreciated, but I simply didn’t need that much grunt.

The Mazdaspeed Miata averaged 22 mpg. I found that rather disappointing considering I drove it conservatively. After all, it only has 178 horsepower, 166 lb.ft. of torque. It was lighter than both of my Mr2s by a couple of hundred pounds, yet it seems that I was a faster driver in the Mr2. I could stay hard on the pedal, longer.

This leads me to my Subaru. It’s not the most powerful car I’ve owned with 243 horsepower and 243 lb.ft. of torque. The Police Interceptor had 250 horse with far more grunt at the bottom.

Frankly, I miss it.

The boost doesn’t kick in the Subaru until 2,500 rpm.  I adjusted the throttle mapping to, “Intelligence,” which causes earlier shifting and a linear throttle response.  The Sport and Sport Sharp settings simply hang onto the gears longer and give nearly 100% of the punch on 50% throttle to get you into the boost.

This car is easily the slowest off the line I’ve ever owned.  At least my sports cars were lightweight. The P71 compensated with a huge V8.

Worst of all, I average between 20-21mpg on a conservative foot.

While it isn’t the most pleasurable experience between the stop lights, it is easily the best freeway cruiser I’ve owned. That’s when it steps into its own. Freeway speeds are handled with ease, while the instantaneous trip computer consistently reads between 25-27 mpg on the highway. Passing cars is an easy affair with the turbo. Downshifts are rarely required. The car feels more connected to the road than my old Crown Victoria, which is a bit surprising considering the P71 had a handling package and added chassis bracing.

I’ve been fortunate to own the cars I’ve loved.  I’ve been asked to buy more recent cars, but I just can’t be bothered.  I can’t stand TPMS lights that don’t cancel out, or maintenance reminders that I can handle myself.

So, while the Legacy has been the best touring car I’ve owned, it’s far from perfect. I don’t need a lot of horsepower, just a proper chassis and driving dynamics will do just fine. The Subaru has that in spades.

I just wish it had the 3.0, six-cylinder engine.