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Motoring: Legacy is a winner

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 31st, 2011

As years go, 2005 was a good one. It was the year I got to drive the incredible Porsche Carrera GT and the spectacular Mercedes- Benz SLR McLaren. I also got to live with a Porsche 911 Turbo for a month, and had so much access to a Dodge Viper it felt like I actually owned it. Despite all these fabulous machines, I picked the Subaru Legacy GT as my 2005 Car of the Year.

That surprised a lot of people, and the reason for it is simple. While the other cars mentioned above were good at maybe two things at best, the Legacy GT was good at everything. It was a comfortable, reliable, practical everyday sedan, but thanks to its turbocharged motor, it also could play the speed game, and because it had all-wheel drive, you could have your fun all year long. In short, it just did everything.

Fast-forward to 2011 and I have found myself back in a Legacy. The new Legacy has been around for over a year and its sales numbers are quite impressive. But will it still win over my heart like the one six years ago?

To begin with, my test model this time had the base 2.5-litre, boxer four-cylinder engine that produces 170 hp. No turbo on this tester, but buyers should know the turbo GT version is still available.

The Legacy comes with the choice of two gearboxes, a CVT automatic or a six-speed manual. I had the latter in my test car. I was delighted to find that when I first stepped in the car, because I usually love manuals, but not this one. This gearbox at the best of times feels notch-y and it doesn't like being rushed. On cold mornings, it is diabolical. I know lots of manuals don't like cold mornings, but this one just refused to make shifts until 10 minutes into my journey, which in most cases meant I had reached my destination, usually feeling annoyed thanks to that gearbox. So if you're buying one of these, please spend the extra money and buy the CVT automatic.

Should you buy one at all? Yes, of course, because apart from the annoying gearbox, this car is truly spectacular, and here is why.

First of all, it is a very handsome car. While the current crop of Accord, Camry and Altima look about as appealing as salmonella, the Legacy looks handsome. If you take out the Subaru grille and badges, people will think it's perhaps a new offering from the Germans.

Things get even better when you step inside. The interior quality, fit and finish are flawless. Everything has a nice touch to it and all the buttons are in the right place. The only button I didn't like was the new electronic parking brake. It works fine, but it just means you can't do rally-style handbrake turns with this one, which is a shame.

My favourite button, however, had to be the one for the heated seats. This car had just about the fastest heating, making them the best heated seats of any car I have ever tested, ideal for the arctic cold January we've been experiencing.

Got any kids? If so, then you'll be happy to know that there is lots of legroom in the back and if you or your kids play hockey, the trunk is big enough to swallow the largest of bags.

So can things get any better? Yes they can, because the ride and handling are reasons enough to buy this car. You can drive over the bumpiest of surfaces and this thing just glides over bumps as if it's floating. I liked that. Plus, as always, thanks to all-wheel drive standard on all Subarus, its handling in the snow is pretty much unmatched.

So it's a good car, and it comes at a very reasonable price. The Legacy range starts at just $23,995. If you're looking at a new car for the family, you should test drive one of these. My advice: go on a really bad, snowy day, you'll be sold on it within seconds.
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