By Aaron Cole, THE AURORA SENTINEL
To quote a Subaru salesman who shall remain nameless for a lot of reasons:
“Subaru doesn’t make cars for you or me. As a matter of fact, I don’t know who they make cars for, they just make ‘em. And they make ‘em really good sometimes — and really strange sometimes.”
I’m serious. In the middle of a sales pitch, a Subaru dealer told me he thinks his employer — the people who sign his checks every two weeks — doesn’t listen to the customer.
And in a way, he’s right. Subaru has always been a little out there. From huge-winged, street-legal rally cars to the horizontally opposed boxer engine that powers all their cars, Subaru is the Apple Computers of the automotive world. They’ll do it their way, your opinion be damned.
For better or worse, the streak has been broken. The 2010 Subaru Legacy is the first car, I believe, that has been built with the customer in mind first.
Oh, sure, the quirky characteristics of a Subaru have made the trip with the all-new Legacy. Subaru still puts their perplexing, clattering boxer engine in the Legacy. And like every Subaru built since the Big Bang, the new Legacy gets all-wheel drive.
But rather it’s the size, build and feel of the new Legacy that makes me think that my salesman friend may need to sing a different tune.
Firstly, the new Legacy feels — and actually is — bigger than last year.
This is the 20th year Subaru has offered the Legacy, but this year the mid-sized sedan finally hit puberty. The Legacy grew 3 inches taller, and nearly 4 inches wider with a longer wheelbase to boot and a more-aggressive, blunter nose. What that means inside the Legacy is more headroom, a little more legroom and a more grown-up style that previous offerings didn’t have.
Last year’s Legacy, although refined, felt more like a bigger Impreza, whereas this year’s model has an identity all its own. The interior feels separate from other Subaru vehicles, which typically means that the Legacy will carry the standard that other models will soon follow.
The center console is stacked taller, and the climate controls feel a little more intuitive than last year’s offering. Legroom in the back is also vastly improved, adding more than four inches from last year according to the manufacturer, or an acre and a half according to me.
But all of the improvements smack of complaints dropped into a “Customer Comment Box.”
“More legroom,” wrote Cam from Kentucky. “More headroom,” wrote Stephen from Virginia. “I’m too stupid, I don’t know how to turn the A/C on,” wrote Aaron from Colorado. All of the above went into the latest design for the Legacy, and it shows.
As for the numbers, Subaru offers the Legacy in essentially three different models: The 2.5i, the 2.5 GT and the 3.6R. All of the above have different combinations of comforts that will win you different combinations of letters and words after the above-mentioned titles; however, the difference lies in the powertrains.
The 2.5i is a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine worth 170 bhp. As this was the model given to me to test, I can affirm that, indeed, a mid-sized sedan can have all-wheel drive and be powered by this engine. Ours was mated with a 6-speed manual gearbox that offers the best engine-transmission combo for this model, as Subaru’s CVT automatic probably won’t set any hearts on fire.
The 2.5 GT is fitted with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four banger that was fitted in a 2.5 GT Impreza that I tested about a year ago. This is also the engine that was fitted into the WRX last year, and while it offers a lot of smiles when the boost kicks in, the turbo lag in the Impreza was a little too much.
Much more intriguing is the 3.6R that is fitted with a normally breathing 6-cylinder, 256 bhp engine that is sure to scream through four tires in minutes.
Handling in the new Legacy is a dream — as most Subarus have always been — partly because the low-slung engine offers a low center of gravity that keeps the rubbers glued to the road at all times.
That is proof enough that while Subaru has definitely taken some comments to heart, others, like the boxer engine, will remain no matter the objections.
And it’s enough to leave me wondering: If Subaru were allowed to build the car they really want, how much different would it look like?
FINAL VERDICT: Two and three quarter stars out of four. The 2010 Subaru Legacy comes in as the cheapest all-wheel drive, mid-sized sedan money can buy. But with more legroom, and a smarter interior, has Subaru dampened the unique flavor that it offered compared to its rivals?\
Aaron Cole is the managing editor of The Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters