Reviewing My Own Car
Followers of my newspaper column must have realized by now that I did in fact buy a Subaru back in 2016, a change in my driving life that I introduced to much fanfare (read it here:
Interview With A Critic). What follows up now is something I have not done before anywhere: REVIEW MY OWN CAR!! Here goes:
What is it? The creep sheet
Spec: GT-B (Rev D) E Tune II
Engine: 1998cc Subaru EJ208, horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine with 2-Stage twin turbo plus top-mount intercooler
Transmission: 5-speed manual gearbox, symmetrical AWD
Suspension: Bilstein shock absorbers.
Japanese cars (from before 2005 or thereabouts) aren't exactly known for their prime interiors, and most of them came with drab, monochromatic affairs. The BH5 Legacy is no exception. The blackness inside it is impossible to miss, and it makes parking in the sun a real tribulation. But we won't review the interior of just any old BH5 Legacy; we will talk about my old BH5 Legacy. And this is where another (positive) stereotype is manifest: interiors of pre-2005 Japanese cars are damn-near bulletproof.
The car is more than one and a half decades old, but it's hard to tell without looking at the odometer. Everything has held up surprisingly well over the years: the dashboard is clean, scratch-free and devoid of the "shine" that follows age for many car interiors. The seat covers and pedals are worn very little, the roof lining and upholstery are still very intact, properly threaded and free of dirt and gunk. In other words, the car looks ten years younger from inside than it really is. The only non-factory installations are a turbo timer below the steering column, a very bright white LED dome light and a thumping stereo.
The sellouts are the leather-covered gear knob and the rim of the Momo steering wheel. These seem to suggest that (one of) the previous owner(s) had palms with the surface consistency of sandpaper. The leather on the gear lever is almost all gone, leaving just traces of its previous existence while the steering wheel rim is... not so good. It has necessitated the deployment of a wheel cover as a new wheel is sought.
The outside of the car was "not so bad", to put it mildly. We all know what BH5 Legacy wagons look like, so again: this is not an analysis of any old BH5, it's an analysis of this particular BH5.
Over and above the stock looks of a Legacy GT, this car has had only one addendum: aftermarket rims. They are black multi-spoke affairs that gel well with the dark blue body paint, but being 15"s, they make the car look undershod in certain light conditions. Other times, they look fine: they give the car the menacing appearance that all turbo Subarus deserve.
The car scores a generally low 68% because the paint had faded somewhat and there were blisters somewhere on the front bumper (quickly sorted, now it's all good)
I'll let you in on a little secret: a 17-year old car will not be putting down the same horsepower figures it boasted of way back when the Twin Towers were brought down. The twin-turbo GT-B was good for 280hp, just about the same as an Impreza STi, but it sure as hell does not feel like an Impreza STi.
The Legacy is more subdued. Sure, the acceleration can be called "urgent", but it is not hectic; at least not as hectic as that of any STi. The 0-100 sprint occurs in probably seven seconds. The issue lies in the two turbos. Two turbos, theoretically, sound like the perfect recipe for monstrous performance (and may explain the 280hp output from the absence of manic urge), but the use in the GT-B is not what you think it is.
The setup is called a 2-Stage Twin Turbo and this is how it works: there is a slightly smaller primary turbo and a bigger secondary turbo. The first turbo spools up early, spun by one bank of cylinders. At higher rpm, the secondary turbo kicks in, spun by both banks of cylinders to give maximum boost. Odd, huh? Not as odd as the transition from one turbo to two.
To get the secondary turbo into play, exhaust gas pressure is slowly redirected from the first turbo to the second one to bring it up to speed. That means that boost pressure gradually drops from the first turbo as it slowly builds up in the secondary turbo. That also means there is a point where the boost in the primary turbine will be too little and boost in the secondary turbine is not enough. That point, typically between 4000rpm and 5500 rpm is the notorious "Valley Of Death", a situation where the GT-B is as good as naturally aspirated. That means this is a twin-turbo car that is sometimes on one turbo only, on two turbos or is naturally aspirated. Complicated thing, this is.
This was one of the pleasant surprises of the E Tune. The system is stock, but the pads are by Asimco; and boy, do they slow this wagon down when needed. The alacrity with which speed is shed can best be termed competitive. It is certainly reassuring. What is not reassuring is the fact that the ABS warning light goes on and off and sometimes the car will lock up when braked too hard. I repeat: this applies only to my car, not to all BH5s.
The "B" in GT-B stands for "Bilstein"; which is the brand of shock absorber this car comes with. That means the handling is good. Body roll is largely eliminated courtesy of a low c-of-g too. I say largely because much as the low slung, Bilstein-fitted wagon is factory set for good handling, the previous owner thought it fit to raise the ride height by fitting spacers. I don't blame him; some of the roads around here need good clearance to prevent damage to the undercarriage. This has compromised the sharpness and stance somewhat.
Subarus generally understeer, and the Legacy is no exception. The use of turn-resisting mechanical diffs plus engine placement ahead of the front axle is responsible for this. And that is why the car gets 5/6 rather than the full score.
Fuel Economy: 161%
161%? What is this? Let me explain: there are expectations and then there is reality. Typically reality falls short of expectation, but this is one of two cases where the reverse is true. What consumption figure would you expect from a high mileage twin-turbo Subaru estate car? 8km/l? 9? Maybe 7? Try 12. Think it is a fairy tale?
I was -and still am- as shocked as you are. I kid you not, the car returns a scarcely believable 12km/l from daily use (which tends to avoid heavy traffic inner city use but is compensated for by wide throttle opening bursts in a bypass when the police aren't watching). I learnt that "E Tune" actually means "Economy Tune" but still: 12km/l from the same engine that does 280hp is more than one can hope for, amirite?
Value for Money: 128%
This too may take some explaining; and if you know how and where to look, you will calculate for yourself exactly how much this car cost me to buy, because I am not going to reveal the price. Take 100% to be the median price of this vehicle. Now take the price difference as a percentage of this figure. If the car costs more than the median price, subtract this percentage from 100. If the car costs less than this median figure, add this percentage to 100. The number we are working with here is 128%, so do the math.
Thanks and see you later.
Motoring Press Agency
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