starting a new legacy
Somebody went to the trouble of finding out how many CDs would fit in the glovebox of the Legacy. Either Subaru has a lot of people to keep occupied or they are obsessed with detail.
But the fifth-generation Legacy has more going for it than CD capacity. Not only is it built on a new platform, it is, to my reckoning, constructed around a new mindset.
Firstly, it has a fresher, more assured look -- from a Japanese maker that has never translated its engineering excellence into visual distinction. My jet-black test car had the sort of poise and position you'd expect from a German marque.
After languishing in the petrol-driven backwaters for so long, Subaru is also saying 'take that' to the market with an innovative and smooth new two-litre diesel engine.
Coupled with all-wheel-drive (excellent on slippy roads) and a more sophisticated suspension system, the Legacy can now mix it with the best.
Inside, a far roomier cabin is light years ahead of previous accommodation. My cream-upholstered interior had the look and feel of an executive motor, and the space was properly used. It also housed bigger seats -- heated in front, and with excellent adjustment. All passengers were similarly at their spacious ease.
The dashboard, meanwhile, is a lesson in stylish simplicity, while the dials and instrumentation are smartly portrayed. First crib though, the information I wanted -- temperature, kilometres left in tank etc -- was, for me, too far away and cluttered. But the idea of centrally displaying what gear you are/should be in is good.
Subarus always drove well. The only drawback was dovetailing all that technological enthusiasm with the sometimes subtle expectations of modern executive and family drivers. So how did the new Legacy do? I drove it hard and long and it was never less than smooth. The engine, even with only a few hundred kilometres on it, was extremely quiet. That's partly due to what they call a sub-frame, which isolates tensions from the car body.
A similar strategy is perhaps too successful at removing pressures from the electric, power-assisted steering -- which I felt was too light and lacked feedback. Against that, you'd park it with a whirl of your little finger.
The engine is called a 'Boxer'. Instead of its four cylinders going up and down conventionally, like legs on a bicycle, they go over and back -- like two sets of arms jabbing at each other. It is the only one of its kind in the world and does, like its petrol counterparts, provide a balanced, less distorting format. Unfortunately, it incurs €447 road tax on emissions. One gram lower would have saved €145.
While the Legacy sped me around on motorways, I sensed there was too much tyre and road noise on rougher surfaces. But that criticism is something of a backhanded compliment. The cabin is hush quiet and what would be small intrusions in a noisier car are more noticeable.
I've always felt the all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, meanwhile, is a great addition on byroads -- giving grip and assurance on slippery surfaces.
There are a few things against the Legacy as it faces a shrunken market -- where buyers are going to be less adventurous and stick to big names.
Even allowing for a high level of equipment, the mid-thirties price range is a hard place for a non-posh executive car. A Mercedes C-Class can be had for the same sort of money, while an E-Class lies around the corner, for another five or six grand. And while the Legacy is smoothly efficient, it lacks the driving firmness to rival the top Germans.
On the other hand, the Legacy is ultra-easy to drive, roomy, comfortable and smooth. It feels like it could go forever and it has looks, technology and backup -- with a three-year, 160,000km warranty. It is genuinely worth consideration.
Subaru has addressed many previous criticisms and come up with a few decent ideas of its own -- with evidence everywhere of extensive attention to detail in the Legacy. Such as finding out how many CDs will fit in the glovebox. It's 31 by the way.