But the Subura Legacy, which arrived here in January, is one of those rare beasts that has been praised to the hilt by everyone who has driven it.
Even production editor Trevor Gelken, who can moan the hind leg off a donkey and makes Victor Meldrew seem as joyous as a circus clown, barely had a bad word to say about it.
And only then it was mostly on facts and figures rather than driving performance.
In his first test report he asked: ‘Surely there can’t be another car in this league that offers so much for so little?’ Another comment was: ‘Plant your right foot hard on the accelerator and a miraculous event occurs.’ There is loads of grip as well, thanks to its four wheel-drive system.
Fine praise indeed and, in my opinion, having spent a few weeks with the car, certainly justified. It’s a cracking piece of kit, although I don’t find it an attractive car. It’s not ugly but if it does turn heads, it’s probably because of its stylish alloy wheels rather than its body shape.
Colour is a personal preference and our test vehicle has Obsidian Black metallic paint, which I think looks stunning. To recap, our 3.0-litre model costs £24,500 but, as standard, has five-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual modes, leather seats, cruise control, an electric sunroof, automatic climate control and a host of other features making it fully loaded.
A previous tester worked out that, when looking at the options, if you bring cars like the Audi A4 3.0-litre SE quattro Tiptronic and Jaguar X-type 3.0 SE up to a similar standard with a few missing items, their prices creep up towards £33,000.
Subaru made some grand claims for this car at launch, reckoning it was the equal of the premium marques for interior quality and after six months, we have to agree. Some of the interior material quality might not be quite as high as Audi or BMW, but you wouldn’t feel as though you were being short-changed in the Legacy.
The flat six engine – a rare beast in all but Porsche 911s – boasts 245bhp at 6,600rpm and 219lb-ft of torque at 4,200rpm with combined fuel economy of 29.4mpg.
Testers’ fuel economy has so far ranged from 22.8mpg to 25.2mpg and during my stint with the car I’ve achieved 23.6mpg. It’s a figure bound to wipe the smile off any fleet manager’s face.
Criticisms of the car, which have been few and far between, have included its seating position – although I haven’t experienced any problems with this – and its stereo, which sounds tinny.
It also has a function whereby the immobiliser is automatically switched on if the engine has not been started 30 seconds after the doors have been unlocked. A great security measure but very annoying. The car’s arrival coincided with snowy weather conditions and testers at the time heaped praise on the way it handled in difficult conditions. That was due to the fact it’s four-wheel drive.
‘I have been driving the Legacy in some pretty wintry conditions and have yet to see the traction control light come blinking into life,’ deputy editor Steve Moody wrote back in March.
The Subura Legacy has been well respected by all of the Fleet News road testing team and I can still visualise the tears streaming down our production editor’s face as it was driven out of our car park for the last time – he really did love this car.
Despite this love, it was noted that 40% tax-paying fleet drivers opting for one will pay a wallet-busting £249 a month for the privilege.
On running costs, this car fares pretty poorly and obviously won’t even make the choice lists of some fleets.
But as a car for those less concerned with monetary considerations and more concerned with driving something with plenty of individuality, the Legacy is a very fine choice.
Price (OTR): £24,500
Total mileage: 6,360
CO2 emissions (g/km): 229
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (40% tax-payer): £249 per month
Insurance group: 15E
Power (bhp/rpm): 245/6,600
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 219/4,200
Combined mpg: 29.4
Test mpg: 23.6
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,600/27%
HSBC contract hire rate: £549.03
Final expenditure: £120.94 (1,000 mile service)
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles
OF all the test cars I have driven in the past five years, the Subaru Legacy must rate as one of the best. There can’t be many cars at this price that offer so much power and standard specification – and it’s all done in such an understated way.
Apart from the twin exhaust pipes at the back, this Legacy could to all the world be a bog-standard 2.0-litre variety. But blip the throttle and bumbling old Dr Jekyll soon turns into the monstrous Mr Hyde.
This car does the 0-60mph dash in under eight seconds and will happily pull right up above the magic 150mph mark.
OK, there is a downside – namely, fuel consumption. Drive in a sporting way and you’ll find this car will drink a gallon every 20 miles. But it is a small price to pay for driving such a cracking vehicle.
AFTER being away from the Legacy for a few months, I saw a colleague driving it from the car park and suddenly the memories came flooding back. The great engine, good ride, fantastic soundtrack. I forgive the fuel economy and annoying time-sensitive immobiliser, as it was a great value-for-money alternative to the prestige brands.
AS pleasant surprises go, driving the Subaru Legacy for the first time was a bit like finding a fiver on the pavement.
I knew it shared some quality DNA with the Impreza, but was surprised by the snappy auto box, the excellent cabin quality, the handling and high levels of grip.
This is a great choice for a driver wanting to break free of the mainstream Euro-executive cars – and they won’t feel like they have had to make sacrifices as a result.
SUBARU is keen to raise the profile of the handsome Legacy saloon in the UK and give it its own identity aside of the ubiquitous estate. I’ve started seeing a few more on the road of late, and the 3.0R is a showcase for how the company’s four-wheel drive, low centre-of-gravity ‘boxer engine’ translates to an executive saloon.
You’re never really going to sustain close to 30mpg in a six-cylinder engine fitted with an automatic transmission, but fuel economy is not the point of this car. It can cruise on the motorway in silence at 70mph as well as it can tackle tricky country lanes. There are few cars what offer that the Legacy does for the money.