The Subaru Legacy GT Limited sedan couldn't have shown up at a better time to test the all-wheel drive that Subaru is known for. It was snowing, typical weather for December, and I had a 45-min trek into the snowbelt area of our fair city. And I'm happy to report our test vehicle performed flawlessly on the slippery, too-soon-to-be-salted roads, giving a sense of security not normally experienced in a compact sedan. Subaru offers two all-wheel-drive packages. Vehicles with manual transmissions, like our test car, have continuous all-wheel drive. A viscous-coupling center differential in the transmission case divides engine power equally between front and rear wheels. Vehicles with automatic transmissions have active all-wheel drive with a 90/10% power split.

For 2000, both the Legacy sedan and wagon feature a stiffer body structure, a new multilink rear suspension, and a redesigned, high-torque "boxer" engine. Engineers at Subaru made the switch from a DOHC to a SOHC, making room for larger, straighter tumble intake ports and larger valves. A new air intake pulls cool air from the outside to a larger air cleaner/torque chamber. The 2.5-liter boxer engine produces more low-end and midrange torque than its predecessor, improving overall throttle response. The powerplant delivers 165-hp at 5,600 rpm and 166 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. What this meant to me was enough power to get around a gentleman driving below the speed limit on the highway.

The five-speed manual tranny shifts smoothly and easily. Of course, my means of comparison is my 1992 Toyota Paseo. At any rate, I was impressed with the gear ratio. The gearing is tight, but not so close as to allow accidental shifting into the wrong gear, or so far apart that it's like shifting a truck. Working in concert with the gearshift is the smooth, nearly effortless clutch, making the Legacy a pleasure to drive.

The two-tone interior was surprisingly luxurious. The leather seats spoil drivers with six-way controls and lumbar support. And, if there were seat warmers, I could easily confuse the interior with that of an Audi. Other luxury touches included woodgrain and chrome accents on the center instrument panel as well as around the gearshift. One fun touch was the passenger cupholder located in the center instrument panel. A quick push of a button and out pops the cupholder. But the interior is not all flash and no substance. All the controls are easy to identify and access. This holds especially true for the power side-mirror controls which are conveniently located on the driver's door above the window controls.

And let's not forget the audio system which teeters on the edge of overkill. The GT Limited comes standard with an AM/FM cassette stereo with a single CD player, six speakers, and an integrated antenna in the rear window. However, our test vehicle came with an optional six-disc in-dash CD player, making it possible to have seven CDs at your fingertips. It was nearly too much to bear, but I adjusted. Something I appreciated was the absence of radio controls on the steering wheel, a feature I think is awkward and unnatural. That would have been overkill.

The backseat is comfortable with plenty of legroom, according to my seasoned reviewer (thank you, Christine). The trunk is also spacious, giving enough room to haul some last-minute Christmas gifts and groceries. And last, but not least, is one of my favorite options, the power moonroof, part of the standard equipment for the GT Limited.

But as with every rose, there are thorns. One minor irritation is the alarm on the remote key fob which is best described as very annoying. However, after perusing the owner's manual, I figured out how to silence it. This led to the glovebox latch which didn't want to stay shut and kept flying open while I was driving. I finally pulled over, gave it a good slam, and didn't open it for the rest of the week.

Let's talk price. Base price for the GT Limited is $24,295. Options on our test vehicle included $74 floor mats and $510 for the six-disc in-dash CD player. With a destination/delivery charge of $495, final price is $25,374. Considering what a solid platform this vehicle sits on, coupled with the plethora of standard amenities, I think it's a great price.

-- Sherri Koucky