It is perhaps because of this image that the saloon version of the Legacy has never sold in great numbers (this year about 15% of total sales).
While the estates, and particularly the jacked-up Outback versions, are adept at a spot of mud-plugging, the saloon is supposed to be viewed as a semi-premium upper medium car, but it barely registers on the radar.
Subaru's UK importer is trying to boost the profile of the saloon alongside its more familiar estate (now called Sport Tourer) and Outback brethren with the widest choice of engines offered to date and lower emissions across the range of petrol-only engines. The 3.0-litre boxer engine in the range-topping saloon, estate and Outback models comes with a new five-speed automatic transmission, while the off-road credentials of the Outback have been increased with an extra 10mm of ground clearance.
Meanwhile, power outputs for 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre models have been cranked up while fuel consumption is down.
This, combined with lower carbon dioxide emissions, is expected to grab the attention of user choosers. While drivers of the Volkswagen Passat 1.9 TDI 4MOTION estate are currently taxed at 22% for benefit-in-kind (thanks in part to its 3% diesel surcharge) and those in the Honda Accord Tourer 2.0i-VTEC face tax at 25%, the 2.0-litre Legacy Tourer is taxed at 20%.
Safety is improved with active front head restraints, front and side airbags and either standard or optional curtain airbags, while the driver appeal has been enhanced by lower suspension and chassis tweaks.
Interior quality has also been improved with a redesigned dashboard and centre console along with more expensive feeling materials, while there is also more space than before.
Even with all these improvements, Subaru has chosen not to increase the asking price for the Legacy and in some cases there have been substantial reductions – the Legacy 2.0-litre saloon remains at £15,750 on-the- road, the 2.5-litre Outback is reduced by £1,250 to £20,000 on-the-road, while the range-topping Legacy 3.0R starts at £24,250 on-the-road.
Despite Subaru's hopes for a higher profile for the saloon, according to CAP, the Sport Tourer will command a higher premium after three-years/60,000 miles, with an average 3% advantage on CAP Monitor.
Behind the wheel
THE new Legacy is a good-looking car, although the rear of the saloon has lost some of its distinctiveness without the full-width reflector of its predecessors.
Inside it feels more upmarket, if not quite with the same bulletproof impression of fit and finish you get in an Audi. Think more of the latest Toyota Avensis and Ford Mondeo and you'll be along the right lines.
The boxer engine configuration has had its character enhanced with a specially-tuned exhaust, emphasising the burbling engine note and the 3.0-litre H6 engine is available in the saloon and Tourer for the first time – it was previously only available in the range-topping Outback and has now received a power boost.
Mated to a five-speed automatic transmission which includes a Sport mode as well as a sequential manual shift, it sounds pretty racy.
Meanwhile the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre engines have also have strong performance, while the low centre of gravity of the boxer engine, combined with the use of aluminium for the bonnet and the boot, results in sharp handling characteristics.
With a firmer ride than cars like the Mondeo and the Honda Accord and more direct steering, the Legacy feels like it enjoys being hustled along twisty country roads.
Factor in the reassurance of permanent four wheel drive, which offers better traction in tricky situations and the Legacy becomes a worthwhile left-field choice for someone entitled to an upper- medium company car, who does not want a diesel.
BETTER to drive than ever and now with more versions, the Legacy offers a well-equipped and attractive (if a little anonymous) saloon, a capable estate or a semi-SUV. Diesel drivers must look elsewhere, but the petrol autos are among the most fuel efficient on the market.
|Subaru Legacy/Outback fact file|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||135/5,600||162/5,600||241/6,600|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||138/4,400||167/4,400||219/4,200|
|Max speed (mph):||122/119 (120/113)||133/130 (128/125/123/122)||147||(Outback: 139)|
|0-62mph (secs):||10.9/12.7 (11.2/12.9)||8.9/10.4 (9.2/10.6/9.4/10.5)||7.9/8.0||(Outback: 8.1)|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||37.2/37.7 (36.7)||34.4/34.9 (34.0/33.2)||29.4/28.8||(Outback: 233)|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||182/178 (183)||196/193 (198/203)||229/234||(Outback: 233)|
|Fuel tank capacity (l/gal):||64/14|
|Transmission:||5-sp man/||4-sp auto (2.0)/||5-sp auto|
|Service intervals (miles):||1,000 mile oil change||then 12,000|