It's what gets called a 'Q car' in knowing circles. With 245bhp on tap, an excellent, snappy five-speed automatic box and four-wheel drive, there's not much that will live with the Legacy out of a roundabout.
And before anybody gets too excitable or indignant about highlighting its sparkly performance first, that four-wheel drive system ensures this car has resolute levels of grip, making it pretty safe as well. In fact, I have been driving the Legacy in some pretty wintry conditions and have yet to see the traction control light come blinking into life – if it even has one.
It feels lower and leaner than most offerings at this level, such as the Audi A4 or Jaguar X-type. However, it doesn't have the badge cache of those cars, but there will be some drivers who want a well-specced up car that handles considerably better than the competition and isn't so showy.
That car has to be the Legacy. In the 3.0R guise on test here, it comes with cream-coloured heated leather seats, cruise control, sunroof and a superb sporty Momo steering wheel. The interior trim feels robust and while not quite at the Audi level of complete attention to detail – the colours and figuring of various displays don't match for example – it feels a quality cabin.
There are a couple of things I don't like: the seating position is not ideal, as the steering wheel doesn't go quite high enough and the seat not low enough and the stereo is very poor. It sounds tinny no matter what you do to the bass and treble. Other than that, there's not much to complain about. It feels a very assured car in almost all areas.
Thanks to the auto box, you can cruise about when the mood takes you, or switch into the tiptronic mode when you fancy having fun.
Subaru has quietened the noise of the boxer engine in this revised model, which no doubt is to attract more middle- of-the-road buyers used to hushed German cars, but I think that's a shame. You don't get many six-cylinder boxer-engines this side of a Porsche, and it's a unique engine with plenty of character. Is there a modification to make it louder?
Some previous testers have moaned about the fact that the boot release is only internal by the driver's seat, but I've learned that if you keep your finger on the key fob locking switch for a few seconds, the boot pops open. Pre-discovery, that was beginning to bug me, so I'm pleased to have found out this well-hidden attribute (a previous tester couldn't even find it in the handbook).
I've got this car for the next three months, so I'm looking forward to putting a load of miles on it and bringing more drivers' attention to the secretive charms of this cracking car.
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (40% tax-payer): £249 per month