CC Capsule: 1990 Subaru Loyale – Subaru Loyalty Near A Low Point

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The late eighties and early nineties were a difficult time for Subaru. In the seventies and early eighties, Subaru rode the huge tsunami of Japanese imports, distinguishing itself with its very modern FWD boxer four drivetrain, as well as the first popular four-wheel drive passenger cars. But as happens so often, Subaru unleashed a fad for AWD passenger cars, and suddenly seemingly everyone was getting into the act. Remember AWD Tempos? And Subaru’s conventional FWD cars, like this Loyale, were getting lost in the epic battle between Honda and Toyota for market share. There was a point in the early nineties that Subaru actually gave thought to abandoning the US market. Hard to imagine that now, with Subaru’s tremendous recent success. 

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What turned Subaru around was a rather bold decision to only sell AWD vehicles in the US, as a way to define the brand in a very crowded market. That, and the rather brilliant 1996 Outback turned the corner, and now it’s almost hard for us in the US to even imagine non-AWD Subarus. But here’s a living example, a Loyale FWD sedan from around 1990 (I’m not sure of the exact year). It was called Leone in Japan and many other markets, and DL in the US, until the larger Legacy came along in 1990, and Subaru kept the DL going alongside, dubbing it Loyale. Presumably for those buyers that were loyal to the DL, and wanted to keep buying it for a few more years?

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These cars were powered by the EA-82 1.8 L SOHC boxer four, an engine that developed a very good rep for reliability and ruggedness. This was well from before the common head gasket problem era, which really seems to have blossomed with the 2000 MY engine that reverted back to SOHC, after having been a DOHC for some years. Not exactly sporting, with their 90 hp, but they really helped cultivate the cult of the Pleiades.

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Now what makes you think this Subaru is owned by a woman?

The AWD wagon version is a cult favorite hereabouts, although they are getting a bit scarce after all these years. And there was a turbo version of them to boot. Ian Williams did a thorough CC on them here. And although the FWD Loyale sedan is a bit of a wall-flower, it least it’s a colorful one.

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