SAN FRANCISCO: A few years ago, Subaru, which was suffering through some lean years, hit
paydirt with the Outback, an all-wheel-drive Legacy station wagon modified for off-road
use. The model became such an overwhelming hit that it drove the company into the black
and inspired Subaru to become an exclusively all-wheel-drive company.
It seems obvious in hindsight, but Subaru's next step was to introduce
a sedan version of the Legacy Outback, and call it the Sport Utility Sedan (SUS). The real
point of the SUS is to deliver the Outback's balance of car-like ride and off-road ability
in a more intimate package. The extra 1.2 inches of ride height, oversized fog lamps with
stone shields, grid-type grille, hood scoop, two-toning, and rugged five-spoke alloy
wheels say "off-road" with a trunk.
With its 1999 models, Subaru commemorates 30 years of selling cars in
America. My test car featured not only the "Limited" package, but wore the 30th
Anniversary badges and features too. This meant an already complete car was sprinkled with
a two-way power moonroof, special wheels and tires, power antenna, rear spoiler and
driver's seat height adjuster.
Standard equipment includes a great sounding entertainment center, with
AM, FM, CD, cassette and even the Weather Band. The leather interior and trim, darkly
tinted side glass, power windows, door locks and mirrors, cruise control, air
conditioning, and other conveniences add upscale flavor.
Sesame Street graduates will go nuts reading the outside of this car.
Badges are everywhere, from "Subaru" to "SUS"", Limited,"
"AWD"", 30th Anniversary Edition," "ABS" (anti-lock brakes)
and even "Team Crafted in Indiana." Yes, the car is built in Lafayette, Indiana,
by Americans, who may choose to drive out on the midwestern dirt, or simply fantasize
about it. That's the whole point of sport utility vehicles anyway, isn't it?
The SUS is surprisingly quiet on the road, and the 165-horsepower
engine, with dual overhead cams and just four cylinders, pulls strongly. The
all-wheel-drive platform puts most of the power through the front wheels, until traction
is lost, at which time the system senses which wheel's got a grip on the road and sends
the power there. There are no extra levers to operate or buttons to push. Mileage is a
respectable 21 city, 27 highway with the automatic.
Drivers will appreciate the SUS's surefootedness and balance, with
slightly heavy steering imparting a feeling of control. The car seems glued to the road.
On a trip along a winding back road, calm, neutral handling prevailed, while my son slept
in back and the stereo played with hardly a whisper of wind or road noise to intrude. The
electronic, four-speed automatic transmission is so good I didn't even crave a manual.
All Legacy models have a casual, competent feeling about them. The
comfortably cushioned door surfaces have a rakishly slanted armrest-level panel, which
shifts everything off the horizon line like an amusement park roller coaster. A
full-length pocket runs along the door bottom. The climate controls at center dash
resemble Winston Churchill's face, with vent eyes, triangular flasher nose, a mouth made
of the slider control and the fan button acting as the cigar.
When you buy a Subaru SUS Limited AWD 30th Anniversary Edition, there's
nothing to add, so your price sticker simply says, "$26,090 (including destination
charges). For that, you will pilot a vehicle that will take you and your family anywhere
in comfort, and offer a degree of exclusivity in the bargain. By Steve Schaefer ©
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Subaru Home Page
Byline: By Steve
Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name: Sport Utility Sedan
Topic: '99 Subaru Legacy SUS
Word Count: 571
Photo Caption: '99 Subaru Legacy SUS
Photo Credits: Subaru PR
Series #: 1999 - 29