Car Lust: 1990 Subaru Legacy Wagon (“White Car Station Wagon”)

20 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Car Lust: 1990 Subaru Legacy Wagon (“White Car Station Wagon”)

1990 Subaru Legacy Wagon (White Car Station Wagon)

It#39;s winter prep time again, and the changing leaves are a reminder to us here in northeast Ohio that we#39;ll soon be driving in snow again. It seems as good a time as any to tell the story of the best snow car I#39;ve ever had: a 1990 Subaru Legacy station wagon.

Or, as my oldest son called it, the White Car Station Wagon.

The Legacy was, in one sense, a legacy of my CRX. After I lost the CRX to hydroplaning one rainy night, my wife and I decided that maybe our next car should come with that newfangled anti-lock braking system we#39;d been hearing so much about lately, and all-wheel drive might not be a bad thing either if we could fit it in. After a month of cross-shopping that saw us sampling everything from an AWD-equipped Camry to a Nissan Axxess. we settled on the newly-introduced Legacy.

The 1990 Legacy was Subaru#39;s first attempt at an upscale car. Coming from the people who had, up to that point, given us granola-flavored AWD station wagons and such lovable quirkmobiles as the BRAT. XT. and Justy. this was a rather momentous development.

It was bigger than the traditional Subaru wagon, roughly the same size as the competing Camy, Accord. Stanza. Tempo. Corsica. LeBaron. Passat. and 3-series BMW .

The first time I saw a Legacy, it was pretty obvious that Subaru was aiming it at the BMW#39;s yuppie demographic. It was tricked out with all the necessary yuppie-class luxury gadgets–climate control, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, 80-watt 4-speaker cassette stereo with equalizer, power sunroof, power-retracting radio antenna, and so on. The styling was firmly in BMW and Guigiaro territory, with sharp and clean lines.

The large glass area and low beltline gave it excellent outward visibility.

Under the hood was a fuel injected EJ series 2.2L SOHC flat-4 producing 135 HP and 186 pounds of torque. It drove all four wheels through a very good four speed automatic –my clutch-averse spouse had insisted on a slushbox so she could drive it, and she ended up using this particular car more than I did over the ten years we owned it.

It had a fully-independent suspension with McPherson struts all around, supplemented by a pneumatic active ride-height control system, rack and pinion steering, and four wheel disc brakes with ABS. The result was a car that had quite respectable driving dynamics. It wasn#39;t blazing fast, but the pickup was adequate, and you could hustle it down a twisty back road at a brisk pace without embarrassing yourself or the car.

It had a few odd features that we found truly endearing.

It had automatic shoulder belts that ran in a track around the front windows; when you got in and closed the door, the anchor ran around the track and wrapped the belt around you.

One day shortly after I got the car, I ended up driving some of my co-workers to an off-site luncheon, and the one in the passenger seat was so amused by the automatic seatbelt that she couldn#39;t stop giggling.

The climate control had a button you could press to get an outside temperature reading, which my wife thought was the greatest thing ever put on a dashboard.

The active suspension used supplemental pneumatic springs to conrol the ride height. When you got above fifty, it lowered the car an inch or so to improve the aerodynamics, or so the owners#39; manual said–you couldn#39;t tell from inside. About a minute after you shut the engine off, the system depressurized and the car dropped down a bit.

For months after we bought it, my wife and I would park somewhere, get out, and watch the car sink down, we were so fascinated.

What made it a great car was how it performed in snow. No matter how deep the snow, or how slippery the road, there was very little drama–the car just went where you pointed it and refused to get stuck, and when it came time to stop the ABS stopped you. If you were faced with deep snow (or a rough road), there was a button on the dash that caused the air suspension to jack the car up another inch and a half.

Just push the button, wait a moment for the stystem to fully pressurize, and then step on the gas and bull your way through.

We had the Legacy for ten years and drove the wheels off it. It brought both of my boys home from the hospital, took them to Montessori school and on long trips to the grandparents. My oldest wasn#39;t quite two years old when he started calling it the White Car Station Wagon, and the name stuck.

It#39;s been gone for over a decade, but we still miss it.

–Cookie the Dog#39;s Owner

The photo at the top is from Wikipedia ; it#39;s not my Legacy, but mine looked just like it. The gray RHD Legacy was photographed by Flickr user bramm77. The vintage catalog image of the black Legacy comes from Consumer Guide.

The final photo is the White Car Station Wagon herself; date and location unremembered, either one of the boys or one of the grandparents took it.

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