Let’s say we were asked to pick an Official Car for the Inland Northwest.
We’d want something sturdy and reliable. Something that would soldier through a rugged winter. And to handle the demands of our outdoorsy lifestyles.
We’d want it to be comfortable, of course, and we’d expect it to be available with the driver-assist functions that define modern safety.
Pretty much, we’d want a Subaru.
Every Subaru built since 1995 has included all-wheel-drive. Some models — Forester, Outback, Crosstrek Hybrid — carry a dollop of extra ground clearance, a boon when driving beyond the asphalt. A godsend during those winters when piles of frozen snow and deeply rutted streets ambush the citizenry.
Substance vs. Flash
Other Subaru qualities resonate in our region as well. Its cars dispense with glitz and ostentation. Their low-key aesthetic connects with folks who value substance over flash.
They are comfort cars. Chicken potpie to the competition’s cordon bleu.
Today, we test the Legacy midsize sedan. With a starting price of $19,995, the five-passenger, four-door is one of the country’s most affordable AWD sedans. Standard Legacy gear includes AWD, automatic headlights, A/C, cloth upholstery, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a rearview camera and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
Seventeen-inch steel wheels are standard; 17-inch alloys are a $350 option.
Legacy is available with two engine choices, a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four and a 256-hp 3.6-liter six. Both are based on the horizontally opposed architecture best known here for its use in early Volkswagens, and for its ongoing use by Porsche.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the four is 29 mpg combined (25 city/34 highway); the six is rated at 23/20/28.
Both engines are paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) programmed with six stops that simulate fixed gear ratios.
Low center of gravity
The horizontal configuration of the engine and AWD system creates a low center of gravity, minimizing lean in corners and reducing the need for stiff suspension settings. The Legacy rides comfortably and handles confidently.
It appears Legacy drivers are not hurriers, though. With either engine, acceleration trails the competition.
Historically, Subaru has been faulted for designing lackluster interiors and finishing them in subpar materials. Its infotainment and audio systems fell short of the mark.
Recently Subaru has upped its game, though. The Legacy’s cabin design is crisp and contemporary. Materials quality is up dramatically and soft-touch surfaces replace the hard plastics of earlier iterations.
Front-seat occupants enjoy plenty of legroom and headroom. The seats, which are positioned slightly higher than those in other sedans, are supportive and comfortable, even on daylong adventures. Visibility is excellent in all directions.
Legacy’s rear seating area is less spacious than its major competitors and its trunk is slightly smaller, too.
Optional Starlink infotainment
Subaru’s optional Starlink infotainment system features sharply rendered graphics and user-friendly menus in a 6.2-inch touchscreen. It includes Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, hi-def and satellite radio, radio data services and cloud-based music services.
Smartphone integration is limited, though, and audio quality is so-so.
Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package is optional on all Legacys but the base 2.5i. It includes forward-collision warning, with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; reverse automatic braking; and lane-departure warning, with automatic intervention.
We tested a new-for-2017 trim called 2.5i Sport. The package includes Eyesight and an upgraded version of Starlink and adds a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, 18-inch alloys, dark gray grille, fog lights, chrome-accent rocker trim and silver-finished rearview mirrors with integrated turn signals. Inside, blue accent stitching and piano black and faux carbon-fiber trim bits jazz up the two-tone color scheme.
Post-recession, Subaru has been an unstoppable force. Its U.S. sales have grown during each of the past eight years. Despite a slowdown affecting the entire industry, Subaru expects 2017 to be another record-setting year.
If Inland Northwest drivers have anything to say about it, the string appears safe.
2017 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Sport
Vehicle base price: $19,995
Trim level base price: $23,995
As tested: $28,901 (including destination)
Options included the $4,095 Sport Package including sunroof, autodimming mirror with compass, keyless entry and ignition,18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, carpeted floor mats with Sport badging, Eyesight Driver-Assist and Starlink 7.0 multimedia system.
EPA ratings: 29 combined/25 city/34 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified