Subaru Legacy 3.0R | Shed of the Week

Apparently Nottinghamshire has had double its normal amount of rainfall this summer. This tells us two things: one, don't go to Nottinghamshire without a stout umbrella; and two, if you live there, maybe you should already be looking ahead to the rigours of winter motoring and the idea of investing in a car that will see you through the worst of it.

If you fall into this category, you might want to point your peepers in the direction of the all-wheel-drive Subaru Legacy 3.0R. This one is a fourth-gen (2003-09) BL saloon, from a time when advertising still revolved around famous people pretending to like something in exchange for financial reward. Here is disgraced bicyclist Lance Armstrong 'getting ignition' in a WRX. Armstrong wasn't the only big name to pocket the Subaru shilling. Watch and weep as Mel 'Stovepipe Hat' Gibson gets all dewy-eyed about an earlier Legacy wagon - the perfect vehicle in which to transport large quantities of paper currency to the nearest branch of your Panamanian bank.

Today's more sophisticated viewing public would not be massively impressed by such insincere thespian associations, but in 2003 Subaru's dodgy advertising didn't stop the gen-4 Legacy from bagging a Car of the Year award. That was Japan's Car of the Year, admittedly, but the Legacy did go on to win various other trophies in the US, traditionally a big selling ground for Subarus. Far be it from Shed to suggest that any of those gongs would have been anything to do with the fact that the Legacy was by that time being built in Lafayette, Indiana, but we can be slightly less cynical about the International Engine of the Year award that was rightly won by Subaru's legendary EJ255 flat four in 2006.

That's not the motor that you see under our Legacy 3.0R's Shed's bonnet, however. What's we have here of course is the EZ30, the 3.0-litre four-cam flat six that was first seen in 220hp form in the 1999 Outback. Four years later, new cylinder heads and the addition of Subaru's AVLS (Active Valve Lift) and AVCS (Active Valve Control) systems took the power up to 250hp. AVLS changed which camshaft operated which of the intake valves, while AVCS advanced or retarded the camshaft rotation to suit engine loads.

Even so, despite its not overly heavy 1460kg kerb weight, the standard EZ30 never felt like a face-ripper whatever power number appeared on the tin. That was partly down to the five-speed auto that the straight 3.0R came with. While new to Subaru, it was already old in the coming dawn of smart six-speeders. The only manual choice was the close-ratio six-speed box in the Spec.B model which was a sometimes jerky drive if you weren't wearing lead boots.

Although the EZ's equal-length manifolds don't give you the classic boxer woofle, this 3.0 is a very nice naturally-aspirated six with excellent refinement and an ability to rev freely right through to 7,000rpm. You can turbocharge it, but you'll need to bring plenty of cash: along with all the usual Garrett turbo hardware you'll also need new low-compression pistons. That setup will yield 500hp easy, or more if you aren't afraid of turning up the boost. A less powerful but more cost-effective option would be supercharging it to around 350hp.

Even if you leave the chain-timed EZ engine as it is, you'll need to keep an eye on the cooling system. Blown head gaskets are not unknown, and replacing the stock radiator with an aluminium one isn't a bad shout either. Oil leaks from the front of the engine might be something as innocuous as a front drain plug leaking through a tired sump washer. Given our Shed's full service history (including a major one earlier this year) you'd like to think that the aux belt pulley bearings have been checked, as they are known to fail at around 100k miles, disabling the power steering and battery charge functions.

Wheel bearings go and the rear parking sensors rust out. Sticking front brake calipers can be refurbed to a state of goodness. The Y-pipe exhaust was known for corroding and blowing, and replacement systems used to be very hard to find, but Gerlach has stepped in with affordable and reportedly decent offerings. Genuine Subaru pipes will doubtless require some degree of remortgaging, but our Shed's owner has intelligently gone for the full stainless custom exhaust that on its own must be worth a goodly chunk of the car's Β£1495 asking price. It also has Spec.B wheels with (presumably) 45-section tyres. That might sound like a mixed blessing as they will have hardened up the ride, but the standard R suspension is pretty compliant and should be able to handle the mod. The recent arrival on this car of a box loads of suspension components is heartwarming.

The only downsides of the Legacy 3.0 are Β£325 a year road tax, fuel consumption that will easily dip into the teens if you cane it, and its non-wagon-ness. The strong upsides are its low mileage, excellent spec and apparently fine rust-free condition, all backed by an advisory-free MOT running right through to next July - conveniently coinciding with Nottinghamshire's next summer deluge.

See the full ad here

Search for a Subaru Legacy here

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (144) Join the discussion on the forum

  • aarondbs 16 Aug 2019

    I love this! Best shed of the year! I really wanted a Spec.B but always went another way and always regretted it. Scarcity was one reason, the wife another (that green 1980s display didn’t help). This is tempting!

  • Nerdherder 16 Aug 2019

    At shed money a definite yes for me.

  • janesmith1950 16 Aug 2019

    Looks very tidy. Would probably buy if manual.

  • C.MW 16 Aug 2019

    I love this generation Legacy. The exterior styling is spot on with the clean and simple surfaces and lines and the interior, while a bit outdated, doesn't look fussy at all and is modern enough to live with. A manual Spec B would be very good even as is but with a tune, it's going to be a blast to drive. A grown up WRX STI...

  • milu 16 Aug 2019

    I was looking at it just last night. I thought that would make a good shed of the week.
    I fancy it but it’s a long way from me

View all comments in the forums Make a comment