The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times staff writers

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Subaru Legacy Limited's substance trumps its style

When we think of Subaru, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Sturdy wagons and SUVs? Crunchy granola? States with snow? But sedans? Not so much. Maybe that's why there's nothing flashy about the midsize Legacy. It's solid with plenty of safety features, and, of course, there's standard all-wheel drive.

Appearance: It doesn't stand out from the midsize crowd in the looks department — it's Sedan Design 101. But compared with earlier models, there is a bit more flair: The 2011 Legacy is slightly wider and taller, and rides on a longer wheelbase. Large wedge-shaped headlights anchor the chrome-trimmed grille. The side ground effects give it a slightly sporty look, along with fender flares. If there is one thing that sets the look apart it is the Caramel Bronze Pearl paint color. We think it's one of the more unique colors we've seen, especially for a car in this class.

Performance: Much like the design, the performance doesn't stand out from the midsize pack, especially with our tester's 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that puts out 170 horsepower, which is up to the challenge of interstate merging, but by no means thrilling. Peter was underwhelmed by the car's Continuously Variable Transmission, which may help maximize fuel economy, but doesn't make for aggressive shifts. The 6-speed manual mode with paddle shifters was slightly better, but it's no substitute for the real thing. Of course, there's Subaru's excellent Symmetrical AWD, which is part of the brand's legacy. The speed-sensing power steering is responsive. And, of course, the AWD can come in handy in Florida's wet weather. The Legacy also gets decent gas mileage: 23 in the city and 31 on the highway. The Legacy is rated as a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV). The car also gets outstanding crash-test ratings.

Interior: The center console has an almost Volvo appearance, with a brushed aluminum and glassy finish. The doors and the dash have polished wood-grain accents, which Peter thought looked a little too faux for his taste. The well-bolstered leather seats aren't quite as comfortable as the Subaru Outback, which we think has some of the best ones of any car we've driven. The driver's seat does have a 10-way power adjustment. Unlike some cars, Lyra had no problem fitting her son's booster seat in the 60/40 split rear seats. Our tester came with technology that includes Bluetooth, voice-activated navigation, a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, USB interface for iPod or MP3 device and a crisp 8-inch LCD screen. Perhaps even more impressive, especially for families: There are eight cup holders.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Color: The bronze hue isn't one you see in most sedans.

Seats: As in most Subarus, they are comfortable and supportive.

AWD: It's not as unique as it once was for a sedan, but it's nice in a world of front-wheel drivers.

Lyra Solochek

Handling: AWD with vehicle control systems make for a planted ride.

Bright interior: The light beige is perfect for Florida weather.

Steering: Responsive and precise.

The bottom line: If you like having the extra security of all-wheel drive and don't much care for standing out in the crowd, then the Legacy is definitely worth a look. And there's a price point for every budget.

2011 Subaru Legacy Limited AWD

Price: $29,315 as tested

Powertrain: 2.5-liter SOHC 4-cylinder with Lineartronic CVT with 6-speed manual mode with paddle shifters, symmetrical AWD

Horsepower: 170 at 5,600 rpm

Torque: 170 pound-

feet at 4,000 rpm

Curb weight: 3,270 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 108.3

Length, 186.4

Width, 71.7

Fuel economy:

23 miles per gallon city, 31 highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded

Safety features: Air bags and curtains, collapsible steering column, reinforced frame body structure, vehicle dynamic control with traction control, brake assist, ABS

Other trim levels: 6 others starting with base 2.5i at $19,995 to the 3.6R Limited at $28,295.

Website: subaru.com/legacy

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Subaru Legacy Limited's substance trumps its style 11/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 19, 2010 3:30am]

    

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