Posted: October 18, 2009
Executive Wheels: Think you don’t like Subarus?
Think again. This is the best car on the market for the moneyBy Jeff Rundles
2010 SUBARU LEGACY 2.5i Premium
For the money, the 2010 Subaru Legacy is the finest car on the American market.
Better than any Toyota. Better than any Honda. Better than any Hyundai. Better than any Nissan. And for that matter, better even than any Lexus, Infiniti, Genesis (the luxury Hyundai brand) or Acura.
Really. Trust me.
I had some preconceptions about Subaru. On the plus side, I considered them very reliable, and with all-wheel-drive as the main feature, they offer a safety feature that only a handful of competitors can match.
On the down side -- cheaply made, too small, worse-than-average styling, limited leg room in the back seat, underpowered, and seem to attract buyers that you would only ever see anywhere else in a Birkenstock store. I have had a running joke with my children for many years that if we get into the slow lane in traffic, nine times out of 10, the culprit is a Subaru driver.
Let me begin with the outward appearance. The new Legacy looks very much like the Honda Accord - same size, same shape, same styling details except for slightly different light fixtures. But the Accord sedan is about $1,000 more on MSRP, and AWD isn't even an option. I am not dissing the Accord -- it's a nice car; but for the money there is, now, no comparison. The Legacy is better.
It's larger than in years past, or so it seems. While the new model is actually only 1.4 inches longer, they moved the wheels both forward and back. This translates into a much more stable vehicle, with nearly four more inches of legroom in the rear seats, larger passenger volume all around and a spacious trunk. You won't think of Subaru sitting it; this is a much more substantial car.
That's due in part to the windows. Previously, the doors did not rim the windows, which often gave the cars the tinny feeling. Not anymore. The doors are complete now, with the windows fully rimmed, and just seem all the more substantial.
Another feature that I have always disliked about Subaru was the two-tone styling detail -- a broad, maybe six-inch muted-gold panel running the length of the car. It's gone now, and the solid color gives the Legacy the class and elegance of my favorite car lines: Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, BMW.
Subaru has pretty much kept intact its basic engines on the low end, but updated them, and it has gone buff on the high end. This sedan is available with a 2.5-liter H4 engine, with 170 hp and improved gas mileage. The 2.5 comes in the base 2.5i model, the 2.5i Premium, and the 2.5i Limited.
Then there's a revised turbo/intercooled 2.5-liter Boxer engine, featuring 256-hp and available on the 2.5GT Premium and Limited. There's also an all-new 3.6 -liter H6 engine, with 256 hp, that comes in two trims, the 3.6R Limited and Premium.
They also offer several different transmission and all-wheel-drive systems to suit just about any need. For the 2.5, they have a standard 6-speed manual transmission as well as a Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic.
Mileage-wise, the Premium I drove is rated at 19/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined, while the CVT is 22/31/26.
A lot comes standard in this very nice car, including ABS and Brake Assist; 60/40 split fold-down rear seat; 3-spoke steering wheel with audio and cruise control switches; AC; multi-information display with readouts for clock, trip computer, and outside temperature; cruise control; power doors locks, mirrors and windows; remote keyless entry; tilt/telescoping steering wheel; tire pressure monitoring; and Vehicle Dynamics Control with traction control.
The 6-speed manual transmission is excellent; a nice tight clutch, great gearing ratios. I felt in total control at all times. This 170-hp engine is smooth as silk, and surprisingly powerful. This car can fly, with power to spare.
The driving was also special. No lean in the corners, very tight, responsive steering. I have driven cars that cost nearly twice as much that I didn't like half as well.
I bring this up because price is the issue here. The base price on the 2.5i is a mere $19,995, or $20,995 with the CVT. For the Premium, the MSRP rises to $20,995 and $21,995, respectively. That is an excellent price considering this is an AWD vehicle.
My test-drive model had the power glass moonroof, a $995 option. You can also get an all-weather package - heated front seats, windshield wiper deicer and heated exterior mirrors - for $500, and for $995 a Harmon-Kardon audio system with a 6-CD changer, 440 watt amplifier, nine speakers and hands-free Bluetooth phone capability.
So my test-drive model, as near as I can tell, carried a price of $21,990. I have not been in a car with this many features including AWD for anywhere near that price. And this 2010 model is about $1,000 less than last year's model.
That is amazing. This car is amazing. It overcomes every objection you've ever had to a Subaru, has all of the great Subaru stuff enhanced, and costs less. It's a steal, and quite a legacy - in every sense of the term - for Subaru.
RATING: FIVE WHEELS (OUT OF FOUR). [It's that good].
Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.