There can't be anything that says as much about the changing face of fast cars than the demise of the sports saloon. A little over a decade ago your fast four door at around £25k could have had an atmospheric flat six like this Subaru Legacy 3.0R, a straight six in a BMW 3 Series, a V6 in a Mondeo ST220, a four-cylinder turbo in a Mazda 6 MPS or even a V8 in an MG ZT. Those and many more, surely.
As the 2020s approach, though, nothing is arguably less fashionable than a performance orientated four-door family saloon at anything less than BMW M3 level. Those that do endure are typically now four-cylinder only as well. Shame.
But then, let's be honest, the cars never sold especially well, did they? Premium aspirations were well under way by the mid 2000s, meaning the mainstream manufacturers were already struggling in a sector so often dominated by the Germans. And nowadays as new prospects, cars like the Subaru would be seen as lacking torque, a bit boring to look at and, crucially, not riding high enough.
Still, for those after a more traditional approach to the fast family car, there's a lot to be said for this Legacy. Ordinary styling might not pull in the fashionable buyers new, but it means a discreet way into a 150mph saloon secondhand. Furthermore, while durability and reliability are not exactly sexy topics in the showroom, a car that can be depended on a decade and a half later is much appreciated by a later owner. Plus, the fact, let's not forget, that this is a Legacy with a bit of Impreza influence, worthwhile upgrades including Bilstein dampers and the timeless appeal of a large capacity engine unsullied by forced induction. Sure, the 3.0R wasn't the sharpest Subaru of all time, but it shouldn't be discounted.
This one is particularly worthy of attention. One of the biggest drawbacks to a 3.0R is the prohibitive tax band that later cars fall into; nobody wants to pay a chunk of the purchase price on road tax year after year. But as a car registered in 2005, this Legacy costs only - all things being relative - £290 per annum. It has the manual gearbox, too, which is welcome, and appears to be in reasonable order. It's even averaging nearly 30mpg...
And the best bit? It's £2,500. Otherwise known as really not much money at all. Sure, the mileage is comfortably into six figures and it sounds like there aren't as many receipts as you'd like to see, but this still appears very interesting. Research similar cars at this money and it's typically older, scabbier, less interesting BMWs, Jags and Lexuses that are found - the Subaru shines bright in every sense amongst that selection.
So for those in need of some tough and affordable winter wheels, fearing a repeat of last winter, there surely can't be much to surpass the Legacy 3.0R. It'll be better to drive than a dedicated off-roader, more capable in adverse conditions than many similar saloons and probably the most reliable of the lot. And possibly even the cheapest. You saw it here first...
SUBARU LEGACY 3.0R SPEC B
Engine: 3,000cc boxer six
Transmission: 6-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 245@6,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 219@4,200rpm
MPG: 24.1mpg (NEDC combined)
First registered: 2005
Recorded mileage: 115,000
Price new: £26,500
Yours for: £2,500
See the original advert here.