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Subaru Legacy 3.0 R

Subaru Legacy 3.0R MPG-o-Matic Subaru Legacy Review Summary: The Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited is a five-star safety rated American-made All Wheel Drive sport luxury sedan that competes with the Audi A4 Quattro, BMW 335xi, and Volkswagen Passat 4Motion.

The EPA gas mileage estimates for the 2008 Legacy 3.0 R come in at 17 city / 24 highway. In a week of driving, we found those estimates to be low, as we achieved 27.3 on the highway and 21.9 in suburban driving in mid-thirty degree weather.

Subaru Legacy 3.0R 3/4 front view

That’s not bad for an all wheel drive sedan with this much power.

The Legacy 3.0 R is fitted with a 3.0 liter six cylinder Subaru Boxer engine. The conventionally aspirated horizontally opposed six cranks out 245 horsepower and 215 foot pounds of torque.


Make no mistake about it. This is a driver’s car.

There’s plenty of power, the ride is smooth, and the handling is effortless with superb grip delivered by Subaru’s symmetrical all wheel drive.

Lets take a look inside the cabin …

The first time my teenage son settled into the shotgun seat he instantly remarked, “Wow, Dad … this is a Subaru? It looks like a BMW.” Not bad for a car built in Lafayette, Indiana.

The cabin has a high-end feel and is thoughtfully designed.

The perforated leather seats are comfortable and supportive. The heated front buckets with lumbar support are welcome respite after a long day on the slopes.

The rear seats’ 60/40 fold down with center pass-thru adds a good bit of flexibility on those winter trips … its great for keeping your skis and snowboards inside the car, instead of up on the roof.

The 3.0 R’s sound system rocks, with an integrated satellite radio, steering wheel controls, and a conveniently concealed iPod jack in the center console.

The grippy ribbed cupholder cover is a perfect spot for a cell phone and iPod.

Two features stand out for the sport and economy minded driver

The controls on the 3.0 R’s five speed automatic transmission let the sport sedan show its Jeckle and Hyde personality with just a flick.

A center console mounted knob allows the driver to instantly choose between Sport, Sport Sharp, an Intelligent transmission modes. Tool around in Intelligent mode and you find it to be smooth and quiet. Flick the knob to Sport or Sport Sharp for a more responsive throttle.

When you really want to take control, the shifter can be stirred as a manual slap stick … and for the boy or grrrrrl racer in you, the Legacy 3.0R’s steering wheel mounted paddle shifters are wicked cool.

Subaru Legacy 3.0R fuel efficiency monitor

Economy minded drivers will love the duel-mode fuel efficiency display … we know we did.

The flat panel display enables the driver to learn how to drive the Legacy 3.0R for maximum fuel efficiency. Spend a few hours driving with the fuel-economy display and you’ll optimize your mile per gallon ratings.

All-in-all, we found the Subaru Legacy 3.0 R to be an excellent choice for folks who enjoy spirited driving, while needing the safety and security of all wheel drive. The only nit we found to pick was the spaceship-inspired steering wheel … and we quickly got over it … after just one trip down our favorite twisty road.

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11 comments ↓

#1 Lynn on 04.13.08 at 5:09 pm

Nice review, but “the stereo rocks!” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? How much did Subie give you to say that? You totally lost credibility with that one statement!
The audio is junk & reminds us of our young daughter’s 2005 Suzuki Aerio (awful, even with optional subwoofer) The awful sound system in the 2008 Legacy 3.0 is the one amenity (among several others) that is disturbing us enough to possibly pass on this car. Too bad, as we love the drive. Subaru needs to offer some nice upgrades for those of us who would love an Audi but can’t afford one! We’ll gladly pay for excellent stereo (as long as you don’t packages on us to get it!) As baby-boomer audiophiles, a super audio upgrade would ROCK us enough to go for this purchase. Right now, we’re trying to decide between this car and a fully loaded amenitied ’08 Lincoln MKZ AWD for almost the same price (with incentives) Subaru Legacy 3.0 also needs upgrades of memory seating, Bluetooth, decent armrest, 8-way pass seats & even more, but I have to get back to my research….Just had to answer the audio remark as it’s sooooooo wrong!

#2 mpg-o-editor on 04.13.08 at 5:41 pm

@Lynn – Many thanks for the kind words (and for the dig), but neither Subaru, nor any other manufacturer has ever given us one thin dime to say anything. 🙂

FWIW, we were satisfied with the system in our 3.0 R test unit … it wasn’t the greatest we’ve ever tested, but we didn’t find huge shortcomings. (Maybe it was just the kid’s musical selections?)

Nevertheless, Subaru must have heard (ducking) what you’re saying … as they’ve partnered with Harman Kardon for the 2009 model year …

We haven’t driven the Lincoln MKZ yet, but hope to in the coming months.

#3 Lynn on 04.16.08 at 11:09 pm

Sorry I shouldn’t have been so mean but I was shocked by the audio remarks as it’s so well known that the new SRS WOW system is a joke.
The MKZ is fabulous but it rides like a boat so not as fun to drive as the Legacy.
Wait til you hear the sound in that baby – be sure to test one with the THX Certified II system!
Again, sorry I knee-jerked you. I should have counted to 10 first…..

#4 Frank on 05.14.08 at 11:56 pm

I totally agree that this vehicle is awesome. I have the wagon in 3.0 R with the upgraded suspension and the power and handling is just phenomenal. The 3Litre is also great for towing. The heated buckets seats are awesome in winter and most of the options on this vehicle will be lots of extra dollars if you considered the German rivals.

#5 wagges on 05.16.08 at 7:54 pm

Wow, who really wants that 2.5 turbo (with its lubrication problems and agricultural sound effects), as long as there is this gorgeous flat six, which is much more in line with the dignified character of this car! Still, step on it in SI mode and enjoy that subdued GRRRROWL from under the hood, watching the world go by in an awful hurry! This engine is vastly superior with camshafts driven by proper timing chains instead of cheap plastic belts. Who cares about a possible penalty of may be 0.5 seconds from zero to sixty, (–if you really do care, there are many cheapo turbo rockets which accelerate much faster than any Outback or Legacy). GO FOR THE SIX, you’ll never regret it!

#6 Mike on 07.31.08 at 5:18 pm

Honestly, who cares about the sound system? Most OEM setups can not compete with a decent aftermarket installation offered by your local Circuit City. For the cost of most premium OEM options, I doubt a retrofit will cost you any more.

#7 Vijay Anand on 09.16.08 at 7:23 am

Yet to get a 3.0R and fasinated by tis test drive.I do agree with the audio option but a real enthu.. bridges with after market option available.

Guys , thanks for your comments, I am gonna go for SUBARU LEGACY 3.0R.

Can any of advise me about the option of 3.0 R Legacy or Outback !!!!

#8 Mike T. on 12.21.08 at 6:58 am

This car will have far fewer mechanical problems than the Audi A4, the real competitor is the BMW 330i. But for the budget, you can’t beat this ride!

#9 nick on 01.30.09 at 7:58 pm

i have the new 2009 subaru legacy 3.0r and its such an amazing car i mean the gas mileage is alright since it is four wheel drive but everything else is great, i chose this car over the bmw 330i which was a good choice for me, this car is also really quick for automatic i put it in sport mode and it flies down the road i hit 60mph before i can even look how fast i am going, the sound system in the 2009 is really good with the harman kardon sound system it sounds really good and bumps a little to for a stock system.

#10 Max on 06.06.09 at 5:37 am

I find it strange that not more test drivers find the 3.0r to be one of the best cars out there. I had a 2005 2.5 liter legacy station and loved it, but just got my new 3.0r station (europe) and it doesn´t get much better. I´ve tried most of its rivals but none is as complete as the legacy. There are cars out there which are faster, more comfertable, better off-road, more space, but none is on a such a high level in all the criterias.

#11 Matt on 03.19.10 at 12:08 am

Just bought the very last brand new 2009 Legacy 3.0R I could find in the state of PA, and WOW am I happy I found it when I did (believe me, I got it well below invoice) 246 HP… Subaru, are you saying that’s all this car has? It’s 1-3/4 tons without driver, pushing a 5 speed automatic AWD transmission, and it takes off like it doesn’t care. 5EAT transmission is superb! I drove a 5 speed stick and was extremely reluctant to commit to an automatic, but I’ve never driven an AT that shifts as if you had mental control over the shifter the way this does.

Subaru, in 2009 you produced a winner. Let me not speak of what you did to the car you call “Legacy” for MY2010.

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