Subaru load-lugger's last Legacy

'What is wrong with the middle?' asked a recent advertising campaign for a delicious, buttery substance, writes Richard M Hammond.It had a good point when it comes to dairy products, but things are slightly different with cars.

'What is wrong with the middle?' asked a recent advertising campaign for a delicious, buttery substance, writes Richard M Hammond.

It had a good point when it comes to dairy products, but things are slightly different with cars. Being at the top of the tree is clearly the ideal, assuming you can deal with the stress of trying to stay there. Yet being an underdog has its advantages, too. Some brands seem to have been eternally up-and-coming and it does them little harm. It's fashionable to be able to claim you saw a manufacturer's rise to prominence coming.

The middle is less rewarding, however. It's common knowledge that Subaru makes reliable, worthy and, these days, some reasonably dashing cars - but the Japanese manufacturer is not enough of an underdog or a market leader to garner popular support, meaning the qualities of models like the Legacy Tourer can go unreported.

We can address that right here. Firstly, you'll struggle to find a more spacious vehicle in the Legacy's price range. Yes, it has a bulky body - its dimensions exaggerated by highly contemporary executive exterior - but the Legacy still looks and feels like a traditional estate car and not an SUV or crossover.

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Rear legroom is hugely impressive and masses of headroom gives the interior a hugely accommodating feel front and rear. The boot is equally enormous, with the big fifth door opening to reveal a truly cavernous load space.

Secondly, and blending beautifully with the first point, it's extremely practical. The Legacy's four-wheel drive system is robust and proven. For drivers who regularly need the advantage of additional traction for negotiating treacherous surfaces or towing it's a real boon. Little touches are equally important. Folding the rear seats, for example, is a process made easier by release handles conveniently located in the boot. A luggage net is present even on the base S model to stop items being battered around in the rear, there is masses of storage up front and the doors open to a sensibly wide angle.

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Thirdly, it's very well equipped, with heated seats as standard on the enrty level model, an electric parking brake and hill-hold assist selectable using a separate button.

As a large and versatile estate car it ticks all the boxes, but it has the potential to fall flat in the engine department. Fortunately, Subaru has its unique Boxer diesel. The two-litre unit offers an excellent blend of performance and economy, reaching 62mph in a reasonably lag-free 9.6 seconds while returning 46.3mpg.

It also returns an impressive degree of refinement at speed. At motorway pace, and making the most of the cruise control present on the Legacy Outback model, the engine is a distant and faint hum. It's quite smooth for a diesel unit and the long sixth ratio helps keeps revs to a minimum.

Another advantage is the flat configuration, meaning it can positioned low in the engine bay. That shows when it comes to agility and, although the ride is extremely comfortable - helped by the long wheelbase and smaller diameter wheels with more cushioned tyres of the S model - the Legacy Tourer can turn in quite sharply and with comparatively little roll and flex. The four-wheel traction helps in this situation.

If Subaru were to introduce the Legacy under a crafty pseudonym, it would be challenging for the 'best newcomer' title in a flash.

Familiarity may cause it to be overlooked, but it's worthy of greater recognition.


Model: Subaru Legacy Tourer 2.0D S, �23,745

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel unit developing 148bhp and


Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission, driving all four wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 9.6 seconds; top speed 120mph

Economy: 46.3mpg

CO2 Rating: 161g/km

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