When my wife and I were shopping for a new car last fall, the Subaru Legacy GT was one of the vehicles that we wanted to see. We were attracted by the opportunity to get all-wheel-drive in a sedan rather than a truck, and for an affordable price.

Alas, every Subaru dealer we asked about the GT just shrugged. None had ever, in fact, seen one. There wasn't one to be had in the entire state of Ohio. It turns out that the GT accounts for only 5% of Subaru's entire production run, according to officials there. You may have to pester a dealer to get hold of one, at least in my part of the country.

That's too bad. The Legacy GT provides good handling, tight turning, and can zip through traffic on demand. Its 2.5-liter horizontally opposed SOHC powerplant puts out 165 hp at 5,600 rpm and 166lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Power output stacks up well against other AWD four-cylinder sedans that include turbocharged A4s and Passats, cars costing $31,000 and $30,000, respectively. A GT Limited carrying an automatic tranny and floor mats (the only options available) lists at $25,764.

Indeed, the Subaru is loaded with standard equipment. Among the most notable for the GT are a six-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustments, power moonroof, fog lights, cruise control, power door locks, mirrors and windows; remote keyless entry, A/C, and a viscous limited-slip rear differential. The top-of-the-line Limited trim level includes side airbags, leather interior, CD player with upgraded speakers and a weather band on the radio.

Subarus carrying automatic trannies get what's called active AWD which employs an electronically managed variable transfer clutch in the transaxle tailshaft. Clutch plates govern the power transfer. Does it work? Heck if I know. Its operation is transparent on the dry pavement we had during our week with the car.

A fully independent, sport-tuned suspension helps the GT Limited handle curves well. In no way does the car handle like a clunky sedan. The leather interior features aren't exactly sumptuous, but go a way toward avoiding a plastic, cheap feel. The interior space, though, feels tight, this despite ample leg room in both the front and rear. You will never mistake the interior of the GT for that of a Taurus. Trunk space, too, is ample, and a pass-through into the passenger compartment comes in handy for the occasional ski trip.

Outside styling could be called aggressive and belies the idea of a five-passenger vehicle. Aerodynamic ground effects and 16-in. wheels also give it a sporty look.

All in all, the GT is a worthy contender for those in search of both sportiness and AWD surefootedness. Good luck trying to find one.

Lee Teschler