This new Subaru Legacy reminds me of the BMW 3 Series – no, not the World Car of the Year-winning E90, but the Threes of old – cars like the E36, built in the days that Munich still produced seat-of-the-pants sporty compact saloons that were far less “corporate suit” than they are today. Subaru and its all-wheel drive systems appeal to enthusiasts and, when compelling driving dynamics come packaged in the shape of the Legacy (arguably the best looking Subaru ever to reach the South African market), I sit up and take notice.
Make no mistake, the facelifted Subaru Legacy won’t win any design awards – its lines are neat, unfussy and do a good job of hiding the medium-sized saloon’s proportions. The front of the 2,0R has more character than before – the revised half-teardrop headlights were clearly the work of Subaru design chief Andreas Zapatinas, but the grille may just as well have fallen of a Honda Accord or Mazda6 parts truck. The rear bumper of the 2,0R is not as sporty as that of the 2,5 GT, but innocuous enough – when you open the bootlid, it reveals a long, but not very deep luggage area, but the payoff is a full-sized spare wheel.
The Subaru Legacy’s interior strikes a reasonable balance between Japanese functionality and sports saloon verve. The centre console has been tidied up nicely and looks smart with its silver-coloured dials and buttons set against the matt black panel. Not everyone will like the oversized and oddly-positioned hazard switch (to the top and left of hang-down section), the comparatively VCR-like digital clock and the banality of the anthracite seat trim (a tad of tactile texture would not have gone amiss, folks), but you still get all the Subaru party tricks – the dials and ignition surround that light up in red (the former swishing from zero to maximum speed and then back at start up), the sporty steering wheel and the window frameless doors.
Of course, the two-litre Subaru Legacy would be an abject failure if it didn’t invite its driver to frequently explore the limits of Subaru’s much-vaunted four-wheel traction. You’ve got to really fling an all-wheel drive saloon about to enjoy the benefits of four-wheel traction, but guide the 2,0R to your favourite a twisty road and it won’t leave you disappointed.
The handling is nicely balanced, there’s an abundance of grip from the 17-inch gumballs and the engine feels torquey and responsive when hustled through the meaty five-speed transmission. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a 2,0-litre medium-sized four-door this much, because, let’s face it, some 2,0-litre compact saloons are soberly-specced entry-level models that deliver rather insular driving experiences.