Starting the engine treats the driver to the über-cool gauge needle sweep. At this point, I took a mental note on how exceptionally smooth the Boxer 4-cylinder engine is at idle. There is a friendly blue temperature icon to remind you that the engine is still cold. It goes away once warmed up. Other than the gauge sweep, and sporty steering wheel, there’s not much here in the way of performance.
For anyone that has not driven a CVT before, it is very smooth because it doesn’t change fixed gears, but constantly and steplessly adjusts ratios. Mash the gas from a stop and the engine revs happily. Holding at peak torque, the car accelerates while holding the same engine speed. Very cool technology – kinda weird, yet buttery smooth. If you get frustrated and need a burst of power, you can stomp on the gas and the CVT will “reward” you by simulating a step-down mechanical gear-ratio change. At the same time, it penalizes you by dropping the real-time gas consumption meter near zero MPG while you are on the gas hard! Drive with a gentle foot and let the CVT do its thing automatically and you’ll stay at the top-end of the MPG meter.
Like I mentioned earlier, The Legacy 2.5 has okay around-town grunt, but it is anemic at freeway speeds. The only saving grace of the CVT for shifting enthusiasts, are the paddle-shifters. There are two modes on the tranny – fully auto and manual. In manual, you get full control of six locked-in gear ratios and the shifting is left to you and the paddle shifters. The tranny will hold a fixed ratio until you select up or down – it even provides engine braking – it’s that locked-in. In auto mode you can still grab a handful of pre-selected gear ratio by just tugging on the paddle shifter a couple times, as if preparing to pass, and the tranny will hold that locked-in ratio for a few seconds, waiting for you to stomp the gas. If you decide not to stomp the gas, the tranny will go back to auto mode and upshift back to where it was.
Subaru used generous anti-roll bars and quick-ratio steering to give it a confidence-inspiring feeling under normal to moderate cornering. If you push it much past that point it becomes very apparent that they were after a sporty feeling and not much more. This could be due to the skinny 205-width tires for a 3379 pound sedan. Pushed hard, they have it set up for terminally safe, terminal understeer. The power steering is very easy at parking lot speeds and is nicely weighted at highway speeds. Its on-center feel is also very tight. It cuts a nice, tight u-turn with a 36-foot turning radius. At highway speeds, the combination of perfectly sprung, well-damped suspension and generous wheel articulation in the suspension erases most if not all pavement irregularities and undulations. This is an exceptional car for road-trips minus a bit of road noise.
You wouldn’t know the 2010 Legacy is related to the outgoing model if it weren’t for the badging on the car. With tastefully flared fenders, prominent rocker panel side skirts and raked side profile, it conveys a more aggressive and sporty personality than the outgoing model. The graceful lines in the hood flow with the sculpted front bumper and dramatic headlights to give the new design a very well-integrated look. The car is very 3-dimensional. Your two-dimensional computer screen will not do justice for this car. You have to see it up close and personal before drawing conclusions on its exterior styling.
The visual transformation of the fifth generation Legacy does not stop with a revamped exterior. When I opened the door, my first impression was that the updated interior looked very high-end. All black materials with just the right amount of satin and brushed aluminum accents. The sporty, 3-spoked, thick steering wheel looks great and with the tilt and telescoping adjustments I was able to get a perfect fit. The chrome rings around the gauges in the instrument cluster are very classy. Well done, Subaru!
With the new Legacy, Subaru set out to build a high-quality, premium, mid-sized sedan first and then asked themselves how to reduce the price of entry later – which they did by using a smaller, less complex engine, simpler electronics, and cloth seats. The only thing entry-level about this car is the price tag, engine, seats, and rubber. Otherwise you get a very well thought out car for your money. Contrast this to manufacturers who set out to build as cheap of a car as possible and then ask themselves how to tack things on to drive the cost up and make a buck. With the new Legacy, I never felt like I was driving an entry-level car.
Who should buy it?
With its low price of entry, low emissions, and low cost of ownership, this car would be great for a number of buyers. A young family with an adventurous spirit will appreciate the AWD, spacious cabin, and great gas mileage. The commuter/carpooler will appreciate its smooth CVT transmission, smooth ride, and room for four full-sized adults. The parents of college-aged kids will appreciate the safety features, airbags, and low cost of ownership and the comfort of knowing their kids are not driving a coffin-on-wheels small car. The thinking owner will appreciate all of these aspects and will realize that this car is a bargain and infinitely practical.
The enthusiasts will want to pass on the 2.5i and shell out some coin for the 2.5GT or 3.6R if you need room and a need for speed; either of those models would do nicely.
I think “The big three” have just become “The big four” with Subaru’s latest entry aimed squarely at the Camry, Accord, and Altima trio of mid-sized sedan contenders. However, the Legacy brings an AWD advantage to the table even at the most entry-level price point. Family? Budget? Eco-friendly? Snow sports? Whatever your requirements are, be sure to add the legacy to your short-list of mid-sized sedans to check out. You won’t be disappointed.
|Official website for Subaru of America – www.subaru.com|
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