My first encounter with the Subaru Legacy was with the fourth generation model back in 2005, which seemed to have the right styling quota, luxury and performance to take on the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, even though it was not classified as a main rival to the Teutonic trio.
The 2.0l GT and its 3.0l flat-six sibling offered commendable performance credentials, which saw the former punch above its weight with many of its rivals still using normally aspirated engines. The fifth generation that followed seemed to have lost some of the essence that made its predecessor such an endearing car, largely due to the company now pandering more towards US rather than European tastes.
Now the sixth generation is available in SA and it seems to have attempted to emulate its two-generations-ago forbear. Although the model still has a softer façade, there is a notably more agreeable design language. The trapezoidal grille, 18-inch alloy wheels and dual exhausts lend the model an executive look not far removed from some German offerings — the Volkswagen Passat comes to mind.
The interior is even more impressive with high quality materials that again display a level of quality more associated with the German triumvirate.
Space is abundant in the head and legroom departments, particularly for rear occupants. Boot space measures a cavernous 506l. The infotainment system with its touchscreen facility is intuitive to use, while pairing one’s smartphone is a cinch. The electrically operated front leather seats are comfortable and offer good scope for adjustment.
Beating at the heart of our test model is a 3.6l flat-six engine making 191kW and 335Nm via a CVT (continuously variable transmission) gearbox. Thanks to the low-down torque available, the transmission does little in the way of the incessant droning that afflicts smaller engines paired to this gearbox. Instead, you are only really aware of the unconventional gearbox when you are pressing on, which is usually during overtaking slower moving traffic.
The steering offers relatively good feedback, while the overall handling is what we have come to expect of the brand — prodigious on most surfaces. In fact, hurled into corners, this big sedan manages to hug the road with such conviction that it leaves the impression of being a smaller vehicle.
During our daily commute between home and office, we managed to return around 11.2l/100km, which is off the claimed 9.9l/100km but still commendable for a vehicle of this size and the relatively big engine on offer.
Ride quality is also one of the model’s fortes as it manages to soak up most road imperfections with ease, while both road and wind noise were easily at the levels of some German rivals.
In a segment awash with German offerings, the Scooby (as Subaru is affectionately known among its legions of fans) offers a great deal of car at the price. However, brand conscious South African buyers still lean towards the more conventional premium brands. This means some undiscovered gems fall through the cracks, which is a pity.
The Legacy is a worthy alternative for those looking for a safe, well-equipped family sedan.
Alas, the Japanese manufacturer seems limited in the way of brand cache in this segment. Having not driven a Legacy for many years, I must say that I was suitably impressed by the latest iteration. It manages to tick most boxes — it is stylish, well-equipped, spacious and a joy to drive.
At R595 000 it will take some doing to lure customers out of their German sedans, even though they might be lesser specified than the Scooby. However, the biggest Achilles heel for the Legacy is its maintenance plan, which at three-years/75,000km is decidedly lower than the industry average, which could easily put many buyers off. Most buyers are looking for a comprehensive, lengthy maintenance plan for peace of mind.
That aside, though, the Subaru Legacy is worth putting on your shopping list should you be in the market for spacious family sedan. – Lerato Matebese
Fast Facts: Subaru Legacy 3.6R-S
Engine: 3630cc flat-six
Power: 191kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 4400rpm
0-100km/h: 7.2-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: N/A
Fuel: 9.9l/100km (achieved)
CO2: 230g/km (claimed)
Price: From R595 900