In a class all of its own
BRIAN BASSETT takes a short cut where angels fear to tread in the new Subaru Legacy
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.
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.
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.
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.