Subaru has done away with the twin turbocharger set-up used on the Legacy B4 in favour of a twin scroll titanium unit on the new GT.
The Legacy GT is now on sale in New Zealand at $59,990.
Subaru says the new set-up and other changes bring improved throttle response and more mid-range punch.
The turbocharged GT is the first variant of the fourth generation Legacy to go on sale here. It will retail for $59,990.
Initially the GT will be available only with a five-speed manual gearbox.
Subaru will introduce naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre models in October.
At the same time it will market the five-speed automatic version of the GT. Subaru builds the auto gearbox itself. Previous Legacy automatics used Jatco-made gearboxes. The auto has a Sportshift sequential manual gearshift. The GT auto will cost $62,990.
The new Legacy, marketed as a 2004 model, gets new styling, a new bodyshell, an 80 percent revised engine and new suspension and steering components.
The new GT's maximum power of 206kW at 6400rpm is the same as the previous model's, but peak torque of 343Nm is produced at 2400rpm instead of 5000rpm.
Subaru says the maximum torque is now produced within the power band most drivers use most of the time. The motor provides up to 40 percent quicker throttle response for faster and safer overtaking on the open road.
Subaru says the twin scroll turbo eliminates turbo lag, and the GT has a seamless surge of more accessible and instantaneously available power.
The turbo is complemented by the Active Valve Control System which has only been available on the Impreza WRX and STi until now.
A new exhaust system has two pipes feeding the turbocharger - one from each cylinder bank of the boxer motor. And at the rear there is now a twin exhaust system.
Subaru says both features help improve the low and mid-range torque and produce a new boxer sound from the engine.
The Legacy GT has an electronic throttle control system - drive by wire - for smoother and better engine response and reduced fuel consumption.
The five speed manual transmission is mated to a 4.444 diff ratio, which is aimed at strong acceleration. The gearbox has stronger double cone synchromesh on first gear.
The gearbox is mated to Subaru's unique Symmetrical All Wheel Drive transmission. The viscous centre diff distributes power to the wheels with the most grip, giving the Legacy GT high levels of active safety, particularly in wet and slippery conditions.
The new GT has larger four-wheel ventilated disc brakes fitted inside bigger 18-inch alloy wheels. A four channel ABS braking system is standard. A new brake master cylinder provides better braking feel. The brake disc rotors are fitted with two-pot callipers.
Though Subaru's traditional long travel independent suspension remains, the cast aluminium arms first introduced on the WRX are now fitted to the Legacy GT on both the front and rear suspensions.
New subframes locate the suspension more rigidly for better suspension performance.
The Bilstein dampers have revised valving. Subaru says a new steering box with a higher ratio provides more steering feel around the straight ahead position. It says the steering has been designed to be sharper and more accurate at all speeds.
Subaru engineers have also worked on improving the Legacy's already low centre of gravity. The engine is mounted lower in the chassis - 22mm lower at the front and 10mm at the rear.
Combined with the extensive use of weight saving high tensile steel and the increased use of aluminium - bonnet, tailgate and bumper beams - the new Legacy weighs in up to 50kg lighter than the outgoing model.
The latter is despite the car's slightly increased size. The wheelbase is up 20mm to 2670mm and the overall length has been increased by 30mm in the sedan to 4635mm.
The new Legacy is also wider by 35mm - it's now 1730mm - but the wagon has been lowered by 10mm to 1475mm. However, the sedan is marginally taller by 25mm, at 1435mm.
The body was designed for better aerodynamics and to provide wider track suspension. The drag co-efficient is down to 0.30 on the wagon and 0.28 on the sedan. A feature is the side-mounted indicators in the door mirrors.
The increased size has gone into providing more cabin room - specifically rear seat legroom and more shoulder and elbow room all round. And the cabin is quieter, with reductions in wind noise thanks to the better aerodynamics.
The GT has full leather upholstery, an eight way electrically adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, 13-speaker sound system and electro-luminescent instrument panel and in-car trip computer.
A user friendly feature of the new GT wagon is the one touch switch system for folding the rear seat down. There is no longer the need to remove the rear seat head restraints, fold the squab forward and then fold the back rest down.
Instead, the 60/40 split-folding backrest is simply folded forward by using the switches mounted on each side of the cargo bay. No more manual labour!
The extended luggage area retains a perfectly flat floor, and the cargo area cover can be stored under the floor.
Security includes a factory-fitted engine immobiliser and anti-theft warning system which can only be activated by the vehicle's specifically-programmed key.
It's co-ordinated with the remote-control central door-locking. And the data dot identification technology first used on the 2003 model Impreza is also standard on the new 2004 Legacy.
The GT's passive safety package includes dual front airbags and active head restraints as first fitted to the latest model Forester. The bodyshell has front and rear crumple zones and the cabin is surrounded by ring-shaped reinforcing beams which go through the A, B and C pillars and the roof and floor.
The Legacy GT is available in white, silver metallic, black pearl, garnet red, dark blue pearl, atlantic blue and pearl white.
The big impression left by brief, if vigorous, drives of the Legacy GT during the car's media launch is of the car's pace.
We drove manual versions of both the sedan and the wagon on a range of demanding roads. The new GT proved to have power in abundance and handling and roadholding to match.
There's good torque on tap in all gears, but shifting down to third and - occasionally - second for tighter corners produces a real punch in the back.
The five-speed manual shifts easily and quickly and matches well with the engine to provide exceptionally brisk cross-country pace.
Ride is moderately firm and though Subaru says the long-travel suspension is retained, you're more aware of bumps than you are in less sporting-oriented Legacys.
Roadholding and grip are phenomenal, even in slippery roads. Our only reservation about the car's road manners was the rather lifeless steering feel. Hitting mid-corner bumps also led to some vigorous transmission of shock back through the steering wheel. The otherwise comfortable seats could also have used a little more lateral support given the exceptionally-high cornering forces the chassis is capable of.
The new Boxer sound is less of an uneven beat and more of a metallic camshaft aria.
Certainly the GT provided an invigorating mid-winter drive. Our real assessment of the car will wait for an extended, multi-day test.
- Mike Stock.