1994 Subaru Legacy

By November 10, 1999
1994 Subaru Legacy

Subaru calls its lineup of 1994 Legacy station wagons “active-lifestyle” vehicles, and there is evidence that the description is an apt one. Our test vehicle, the ’94 Subaru Legacy Outdoor TI Wagon Limited Edition, sported a luggage rack with both ski and bicycle attachments, flexible rear-seat storage, front and rear mud flaps and a removable cargo net. To further set the mood for traversing into the great outdoors, there’s even a decal on the side of the vehicle featuring pine-tree graphics.

And it’s all reasonably priced. Our Legacy Outdoor Wagon’s MSRP was $18,750. For another $2,250, we got an option package that included air suspension, a rear stabilizer bar and the aforementioned luggage rack. Subtract the factory savings and we ended up with a final price of $19,445.

Upon first inspection, we found a vehicle that was built for people on the go. But would the vehicle itself go-in terms of acceleration? Not really, especially when it came to highway passing. And while we could perhaps forgive the lack of zip-it’s a station wagon, after all-there were other areas that couldn’t be as easily dismissed, most notably a cumbersome steering wheel assembly and limited entry through all four doors.

Walkaround

Our White Pearl Legacy Outdoor Wagon was certainly a low rider, sitting barely six inches off the ground. This low stance, along with a protruding front bumper, slightly beveled sides and a windshield that swept back at a 45-degree angle, gave our wagon a sporty appearance to complement its owner’s presumably active lifestyle.

Fit, finish and trim match were good, but the rugged-styled wheel covers that were part of the option package were a disappointment. They appeared to be made of a high-grade aluminum, but upon closer inspection we found they were just plastic.

The functionality of our Legacy Outdoor Wagon’s external features was a mixed bag. The radio antenna was angled with the windshield, keeping it safely out of the way of cargo being transported on top of the car. However, the side molding offered little in the way of parking-lot protection due to the curve of the doors. And the rear doors extended over the wheel wells, further reducing the molding’s effectiveness.

Things didn’t seem to get much better-initially, anyway-when we opened the hood of our Legacy. We found it to be unusually heavy. Looking inside, though, we were happy to see that the battery, oil dipstick, coolant receptacle and wiper fluid reservoir were all easily accessible.

Interior Features

Our first impressions of the Legacy Outdoor Wagon’s interior weren’t good ones. First, it was not an easy vehicle to get into. Because it sat so low to the ground, we had to get into the car rear-first rather than the usual leg-first way.

Once inside, we struggled with the steering wheel. With an adjustment lever on the left of the wheel and a locking feature on the bottom, getting the wheel into position was awkward.

That said, much of the front suited us well. Legroom was fine, and our tall driver still had an ample two inches of headroom. The cockpit-like front console sported well-laid-out analog gauges and large, easy-to-use buttons.

There were a few more problems with the interior up front. The sun visors looked as if they had been cheaply made, there wasn’t any lighting on the floor and when we pulled out the cupholder tray, access to the radio was blocked, thereby eliminating the possibility of enjoying a soda and scanning for your favorite tunes.

The rear of the vehicle was more thoughtfully conceived, though, with an emphasis on storage and convenience. Again, we had to enter rear-first, and the seats were more than firm, they were pew-like. However, legroom was good, even with the front seats all the back. Subaru says the Legacy Outdoor Wagon seats five, and we found that to be accurate.

Our vehicle boasted a 60/40 folding rear seat, so we could store skis inside while still transporting a passenger in back. By folding down the rear seats all the way, we increased rear cargo length from four to seven feet.

The cargo area offered the most detail in the Legacy Outdoor Wagon. Underneath the carpeting was a formfitting plastic tray, a pleasant alternative to the standard pegboard. A canvas cargo mat folded out from the back of the front seat to cover any valuables stashed in the rear.

The rear wiper fluid reservoir and tire jack were neatly placed on one side of the cargo area, with a storage compartment on the other and the spare tire sitting underneath the plastic tray. The lug-nut wrench was fitted into a piece of formed plastic just over the wheel well. Another nice touch: A dome light illuminated the back when we lifted the Legacy’s hydraulic hatch lid.

Driving Impressions

Our Legacy Outdoor Wagon was powered by a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine that moved us from 0 to 45 mph quickly. This hinted at the possibility of some truly responsive highway passing, but unfortunately that extra oomph never quite materialized.

Going down expressway ramps, we tried merging across two lanes and experienced only slight acceleration. And at 60 mph in fourth gear, our driver had his foot to the floor. Responsiveness was much better in lower gears, though: We quickly darted around a stalled car while in second gear.

Despite this wagon’s lack of overall power, our drive was quiet and pleasing. The Legacy Outdoor Wagon’s five-speed manual transmission shifted smooth and the four-wheel independent suspension provided a firm, sure ride. Our test vehicle came with an adjustable air suspension feature. We used it, along with the standard four-wheel drive, to successfully tackle snowy terrain.

Our Legacy Outdoor Wagon was touted as a sporty vehicle, and its impressively small turning diameter gave proof to that claim. Our driver used just one finger to turn the vehicle in a relatively tight circle.

Visibility on the whole was good, but because the passenger-side windshield wiper extended so far onto the driver’s side, we think there could be problems due to streaking if the wipers ever got excessively dirty.

Summary

Our ’94 Subaru Legacy Outdoor Wagon was certainly geared toward active people. Thanks to the flexible luggage rack and the roomy, well-detailed cargo area, this vehicle could accommodate you and all your gear.

Unfortunately, other areas were lacking. Entering the vehicle was a bit of a struggle, and adjusting the steering wheel simply involved too much jockeying. The engine didn’t boast much acceleration on the highway, often requiring far more rpms than should have been necessary. If Subaru would smooth out these kinks, it would be easier for us to recommend this otherwise well-outfitted sport wagon.