Subaru has come a very long way from the time that it first introduced quirky little cars with horizontally-opposed engines to America.
Today the up-start car-maker has gone all mainstream with big cars with big engines with big horsepower.
Take for instance the new Subaru Legacy that I test drove this week with the 3.6L 6-cylinder powerplant putting out 256 horsepower and 247 lbs feet of
The last Legacy that I tested was still somewhat smallish with a turbo charger and only 4 cylinders.
This newest Legacy has not only gone to the gym, but it has also put on some weight and muscle with a steady diet of performance enhancing drugs…ah make that…engineering.
The the new Legacy feels more substantial, more serious, more powerful, and just more fun.
More importantly it comes with Subaru’s all-wheel drive. Sure lots of car’s claim that they are all-wheel-drive, but many are really mostly front wheel drive until the front wheels start to slip, and only than does the fancy powertrain send power to the rear wheels.
This is a great system to improve gas mileage, but it does not inspire the same sort of all weather confidence of permanent full time all-wheel-drive.
I was lucky, or perhaps unlucky enough, to drive the Legacy during a freezing week of rain, snow, and sleet.
Just like Audi’s well known Quattro all-wheel-drive system the Subaru’s Symatrical All-Wheel Drive sends power to all four wheels…all the time.
When pulling onto a busy and slick road while merging into heavy traffic it is great to know that the Subaru has your back.
You won’t spin the front or the rear wheels, but instead the Legacy just goes where you point it and it does so with the easy of an Olympic athlete.
Of course there are a few drawbacks.
1) Perhaps the all-wheel-drive inspires all most too much confidence as it quickly makes you forget that just because you can go so easy…you can also stop so easily…which of course you can’t.
2) There’s also a price to be paid in extra weight with that extra differential and drive shafts, and all this of course means lower gas mileage.
However I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised to average a real like 23.7 mpg in mixed city and highway driving.
I wasn’t as pleasantly surprised by the niggling feeling in the back of my head that the car still needs more power. Perhaps because the handling is so well sorted that you just expect…no make that…crave more power.
In the Outback with the very same 3.6L engine the engine power seemed thrilling and even bracing…but after all that’s a tall wagon/CUV. You just don’t except to be carving corners in the Outback but the Legacy…now that is a different story.
You want to go fast…no you need to go fast because the car just feels so well balanced for fast driving. So when you put you foot in it and wait for just under 2 seconds for the transmission to downshift and the power to go to all four wheels it just seems lacking.
FYI: I was able to get the Legacy to 60 mph in just under 8 seconds. You’ll probably get faster times if you live at sea level but in the mountains the lack of a turbo charger hurts the car’s performance.
Yes, the Legacy comes with paddle shifters that work well, but the 5-speed transmission is missing a gear at a time when many similar car’s now come with 6-speeds and even a dual clutch set-up.
In terms of comfort I can’t fault the Subaru in the slightest. Plenty of leg room combined with a generous back seat comfort make the Legacy a true road trip sedan.
Style wise the car’s a bit of a mash-up of European and Asian styling cues. From the side I can’t help but think of a Mercedes S class with the German’s sculpted wheel arches.
From the front the car’s grill certainly has a bit of Italy with a lot of Asia in the lights and perhaps the back brings to mind a chubby BMW 3 series.
But all in all this mash-up works surprisingly well to the point that I actually stared lovingly at the car as I left it for the last time in the airport valet parking lot on my recent trip.
My wife thought it looked like a Lexus. I’m not sure that’s good or bad. Perhaps a bit of both if you are today’s all grown up Subaru.
Because there is one thing for sure….Subaru no longer builds small quirky little cars. No, the Legacy is most certainly a big boy now, but just like grown boys while it’s gained stature and composure, it has lost a tad of that childish cuteness that makes small boys (and of course girls) adorable.
But don’t let my melancholy musing keep you from buying the newest and biggest Legacy. It will still easily put a huge smile on your face when you bury your foot in the gas pedal…especially if there’s rain, snow, or sleet on the pavement.
as Tested: $29,905.00
Transmission: Engine, Transmission: 3.6.L V-6 Horizontally-Opposed
with 5-Speed Auto Transmission with paddle shift
EPA Fuel Economy
City: 18 mpg
Highway: 25 mpg
As tested: 23.7 mpg
per year: 13,043 lbs
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Mica is a columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early
years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he's not reviewing cars
for the active set, you can find him training for triathlons and
writing about endurance sports for, EverymanTri.com.