In a class all of its own

BRIAN BAS­SETT takes a short cut where an­gels fear to tread in the new Subaru Le­gacy

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

SUBARU is the Ja­panese name for a star clus­ter called the Pleiades, a group of seven stars of which only six are vis­i­ble —hence the six-starred Subaru badge.

The car­maker is the mo­tor di­vi­sion of Fuji Heavy in­dus­tries, with Toy­ota own­ing some 17% of its shares, hence the oc­ca­sional tech­nol­ogy shar­ing be­tween the two brands.

The Subaru Le­gacy has been in pro­duc­tion since 1989 and this, the sixth gen­er­a­tion of the ve­hi­cle, was un­veiled at the Chicago Mo­tor Show in 2014.

Since 1989, four mil­lion Lega­cies have been pro­duced and the car has ac­quired a rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and all-weather dura­bil­ity with its iconic Boxer en­gine and per­ma­nent four-wheel drive.

Styling

The Le­gacy is a mid-sized car with an ag­gres­sive front-end de­sign. A slat­ted grill hous­ing with a centrally mounted Subaru badge and flanked by two in­ward-slop­ing head lamps, is un­der­scored by a hor­i­zon­tal air­dam, in turn flanked by two fog lamps.

The sculpted side pan­els lead the eye to the rear shoul­ders, where en­larged tailpipes hint at the sporty per­for­mance at which Subaru aims. The whole ef­fect is fin­ished off by a set of multi-spoke 18inch al­loy wheels with high-per­for­mance tyres.

in­te­rior

The Le­gacy’s in­te­rior is well-de­signed, wel­com­ing and of the best qual­ity.

Wide, elec­tri­cally ad­justable front seats with built-in mem­ory and a fully ad­justable steer­ing col­umn mean a com­fort­able ride for the driver and front pas­sen­ger, what­ever the dis­tance.

Space be­hind the front seats is gen­er­ous and the com­fort lev­els for three rear pas­sen­gers are high. The in­te­rior is el­e­gant in an un­der­stated way. All the lux­u­ries you can ex­pect for a car that costs over half a bar are within fin­ger-tip reach, in­clud­ing a Har­mon Kar­don sound sys­tem and flappy pad­dles to change the gears.

A 6,2-inch touch screen at the cen­tre of the dash dis­plays a wide range of in­for­ma­tion as well as the im­age from the rear-view cam­era with re­verse en­gaged. This was for me one of the most use­ful pieces of kit in the large sedan. The boot is gen­er­ous and should you need more space, the rear seats fold down in 60:40 fash­ion.

Safety and se­cu­rity

Subaru are big on safety and the Le­gacy has a five-star ANCAP safety rat­ing. There is the usual ABS with EBD, along with key­less en­try, rain-sens­ing wipers, dusk-sens­ing head­lights and seven SRS air bags, as well as seat­belts and head re­straints for all five pas­sen­gers.

The sym­met­ri­cal, all-wheel drive and Ve­hi­cle Dy­nam­ics Con­trol add to the over­all safety pack­age. While for the chil­dren there are Isofix seat an­chors and child locks. If the bad­dies do some­how get into your car, a loud alarm will tell the world about it.

Per­for­mance and han­dling

At the heart of the Le­gacy is the Subaru flat 6, 3.6l hor­i­zon­tally op­posed 191 kW/235 Nm Boxer petrol en­gine, which ex­presses its power on road via a CVT gear­box. Zero to 100 km/h comes up in about seven sec­onds and top speed, should you fancy a fine, is 240 km/h.

Han­dling in town is pre­cise and the high driv­ing po­si­tion and rear-view cam­era make park­ing easy. On the N3, the power comes through and driv­ing at speed is plea­sur­able, with the AWD sys­tem pro­vid­ing ab­so­lute sta­bil­ity. Dis­trict roads in the Mid­lands pro­vided no chal­lenge at all and even wet farm roads yielded to the power and all-wheel grip of this re­mark­able ve­hi­cle.

Over the long week­end, Al­wyn Viljoen, Wit­ness Wheels edi­tor, sug­gested we take a short cut so that I could see how ca­pa­ble the Le­gacy’s all-wheel-drive sys­tem is on rough dirt roads.

The “short cut” was the type of road I would nor­mally use to eval­u­ate a 4x4 ve­hi­cle, not a so­phis­ti­cated, com­fort­able sa­loon.

This is not off-road, this is none-road, I ex­claimed, but the Le­gacy climbed slowly and pur­pose­fully up the in­clines with­out miss­ing a beat or scrap­ing.

I was enor­mously im­pressed and left with the con­vic­tion that this is in­deed a car for Africa, at home on both con­ven­tional roads and the rough­est ter­rain.

Fuel con­sump­tion for the com­bined cy­cle, in­clud­ing our moun­taineer­ing ex­pe­di­tion, was around 12 l/100 km.

Costs and guar­an­tees

There is only one Le­gacy model avail­able; the 3,6 R-S Pre­mium, which will cost about R530 000, which in­cludes a three­year or 100 000 km war­ranty and three­year or 75 000 km main­te­nance plan. With its abil­ity to tra­verse dirt tracks or hair­pin cor­ners with equal aplomb, as well as all the lux­u­ries on of­fer, there is no di­rect com­peti­tor for the Le­gacy from any other sa­loon in SA that won’t cost about R100 k more. This sa­loon re­ally is in a class of its own.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

Writer Brian Bas­sett be­hind the wheel of the Subaru Le­gacy, which uses sym­met­ri­cal, all-wheel drive and Ve­hi­cle Dy­nam­ics Con­trol to re­main as un­ruf­fled on dirt as it does around fast cor­ners. Tune to Cap­i­tal 104fm on Satur­day be­tween 9 to 10 am, when Bas­sett hosts the driv­ing show In­qola Yami for more on this ve­hi­cle, as well as a chance to win prizes.

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