Jude P. Morte / Ramon Sy, Jude P. Morte | September 24, 2007 00:00
Best of a rare breedRare nowadays is the station wagon, as the sport utility vehicle and the multi-purpose vehicle have lorded over as the Filipino family's official do-it-all vehicle. Even rarer is the compact luxury sedan that totes a station wagon version. And rarer still is the compact luxury station wagon that can take you to your destination quickly, provide excellent ride comfort and ridiculously sharp handling.
Such is the Subaru Legacy station wagon.
Step inside and you'll see a cabin nearly clad in black, with aluminum trim lining the beltline, steering wheel, a/t shift knob, front cup holders, doorsills, dual zone aircon and audio controls. Speaking of the last two aforementioned features, the aircon is able to blow constant blasts of cold air and the audio entertainment is MP3/WMA (Windows Media Audio)-ready, but is found wanting in the treble department. The front bucket seats and the rear bench are comfortable, with leatherette seat covers that don't make you sink down to the edge. Sadly, only the driver gets power-assisted seating adjustment, but it's beneficial for those that need lumbar support badly.
Storage for various items can be a like-or-dislike matter. Placing small items can be a bit frustrating, as the front doors have narrow receptacles, the rear doors have zero storage bins, and the front seat backrest nets are small. On the other hand, station wagons were meant to swallow large cargo, and the Legacy is no different. On a trip to pick up some relatives from the airport, the car managed to handle a large balikbayan box and three to four duffel bags with the rear backrests upright. Interestingly, fold the rear backrests flat and the entire rear area creates space for two additional balikbayan boxes.
Exterior-wise, the Legacy wagon turns heads wherever it goes. The front end is reminiscent of the TSX model line of Acura (Honda's luxury car division), with headlights that, as one female observer put it, looked like "eagle eyes." The light coming from the said headlights are bright, too, as they are xenon units. The read end, on the other hand, features additional lighting under the rear glass (aside from the taillights and third brake light atop the rear hatch) that is uniquely Subaru.
Take the Legacy out for a spin and you'll notice that forward motion from rest is a bit sluggish, but there's a slight surging under moderate acceleration at 80-105 kph. Add this to the fact that the four-speed a/t seems to shift too frequently, and the result can be quite taxing. The only remedy is to always use the Sportshift manual mode each and every time — it's the control offered by operating manually (or an optional m/t) that perfectly matches an engine like the Legacy's 2.0L horizontally opposed powerplant. The end results are a bit disappointing - a tested 191 kph top speed and 9.10 km/l on four days of mixed driving.
It is in roadholding that the Legacy redeems itself, and where the station wagon begs to be flung down twisty roads at a brisk pace. Traction from the OE Bridgestone Potenza RE050 215 45R17s break at 115-117 kph on dry tarmac, and a surprising 100kph on wet pavement (with a smattering of manageable oversteer). The brakes grab hard at the slightest prod, the steering is perfectly weighted — firm without being stubborn — and provides excellent road feel. But don't think all this sportiness excludes comfort; the Php 1.59 million Legacy station wagon is also very comfortable cruising on the highway. The ride remains quiet in almost any condition, with a high refinement level. As a result the Legacy now feels more like a proper touring car than its predecessors.
The new Legacy is a very good car when considered alongside others in the midsize segment. The advantage of all-wheel drive may not be appreciated by everyone, but the fact that the car comes as a wagon or a sedan is a big plus. Audi, Volvo and BMW are the real competitors when looking for a station wagon, but they all command a higher premium price and a riding experience focused more on the passengers than the driver. With a futuristic, large interior, sleek body and refined ride, the Legacy presents itself as the best of a rare breed.