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Subaru Legacy/Outback (1994 - 1999)


1999 Legacy Classic Estate

reviewed by Cabusa on 24 January 2012
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Overall reliability

Does what it says on the can

Actually regd Feb 1999 but the HJ review system seems to eliminate anything older than 10 yeArs which is a pity.

Bought it March 2000 and has now done 122,000. Note there was a model change in 1999 - from the Mk2 (the one you usually see - 1994 to 1998/9) to the Mk 3 1999 to 2003. No experience with the latter but I also have a 2003 (Mk 4 - 2003 to 2009) see separate review.

The "Classic" is a USA built 2.0l version of the Mk2 carried forward to the 1999 model year. I preferred the looks and lightness of the older model - at 1290 kgs it performs better than the heavier Mk3 replacement.

Good: very reliable, only major repair a front oil seal at 75.000 which with new cam-belt came to £400 odd. Otherwise, new ignition coil £15.00, front spring 100,000 (fitted 2nd hand struts from 2.5l Legacy). Brake callipers and discs variously replaced between 100,000 and 120,000 -these are not a Subaru strong point (tend to bind after 5 years or so - and are pretty feeble anyway). Part are readily available for cheap prices off internet, same as Subaru Imprezza of which many around.

On the whole this model makes an excellent banger - cheap to run, robust enough to cruise around 100 mph (where legal) and not too bad on fuel (28 - 32 mpg) Good 4WD system using viscous couplings like my old Ford Sierra 4x4, and is totally transparant in use. I was worried re. USA build quality but in practice it`s at least as good as Japanese build. Very good paint, no rust, no rot, car still on original exhaust after 13 years, (true! but for not much longer- new exhaust via internet around £80 not incl cats which remain fine.). Car is a bit gutless but goes quite well if you rev it up. Dual range gears useful if you want to tow horses in hilly regions. Will manage two in an Ivor Willliams but you will be over 1600 kg limit so be careful. One is no bother at all and just inside limit.

Bad. Road noise is far too high. Engine noisy when revved. Rattles like a concrete mixer when cold - worried me under warranty but dealer said "normal" - actually they were right as it still rattles but no more after another 100,000 miles and uses no oil. I would recommend the 2.0 litre engine V the 2.5 litre as it`s much smoother and the 2.5 is prone to head gasket problems (this is NOT just the USA ones, the later Euro/Brit version break H/G`s too.

Ground clearance/low front spoiler a problem - I fitted 2.5 ltre struts off ebay which gave about 1" extra clearance with 65 rather than 55 profile tyres - I recommend this.

Gearbox a weak point if you overheat it - I "did in" a bearing by making it tow a horse box too fast on a hot day (no horse inside - just an AGA cooker) - replacement off Ebay for £50 in good nick plus new clutch (not reqd strictly) at 105,000 cost total £350 inlc labour VAT etc, just DON`T go near a Subaru dealer - these cars are simple and quite easy to fix if you choose a garage who understands them.

Switchgear and seats nothing to shout about, but stand wear and tear well. Frameless windows on Mk 2 are a REAL bore (much better on Mk4). Air-con on Mk2 is a dealer kit add-on and pretty useless. Heating and ventilation also very crude - no control over central dash vents, car mists up badly, you cannot regulate vents V windscreen it`s one or the other. The Mk1 Legacy allowed this, but none of the later ones do - incl the Mk4 - but the air-co is much better on the latter.

Sum up - just the thing if you want a reliable banger which will do the school run, tow to the pony club, and pull your husband`s Audi out of the snow/mud. Can be picked up for £1500 or so, may be worth paying £2000 for a really nice one. Use, and junk when a big bill looms - they fetch quite a bit "spare and repairs" anyway - but iof you like it you will probably want to kep it anyway rather than pay £2000 p.a depreciation on a newer car.


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