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It makes friends with ease

Pleasant and nicely appointed, the Subaru Legacy gets along with all drivers -- except NASCAR wannabes.

August 22, 2007|Warren Brown | The Washington Post

The styling was somewhere north of vanilla. I had no problems with that. The car was an easy driver. That made the 2008 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited sedan all right with me -- and with friends and family who gave it a quick spin.

In my own test drive, I had to deal with a bum left hand -- swollen and painful from whatever it was that bit me on a recent trip to New Orleans. I needed a car easily controlled with one hand on the steering wheel. The mid-size Legacy 3.0 R Limited sedan, the top car in the six-member Legacy line, filled the bill nicely.

The 2008 Subaru Legacy 3.0 R Limited is a front-engine, all-wheel-drive, entry-level luxury, mid-size family sedan that competes with the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Saturn Aura and Toyota Camry.

The base price is $31,295. Dealer's invoice price is $29,167. The 3.0 R Limited comes fully loaded with premium leather seats, premium sound system with MP3 playback capability, power sunroof and navigation. Add a $675 transportation charge. Price as tested is $31,940.

My longtime friend Michelle Dawson, a real estate agent and Jaguar queen, volunteered to drive a bit to give my left hand a rest. She, too, was quickly impressed with the handling.

"Wow!" Michelle exclaimed after a few miles behind the wheel. "Great car! It really does handle easily. It's so smooth!"

My youngest daughter, Kafi Drexel, is a medical reporter for a New York TV station. But when it comes to my health, she acts like a doctor. "I'm worried about your hand," she said when I visited. "Let me drive you back to Virginia." I declined. "Well," Kafi said, "at least let me drive us to my apartment. We can get dinner." I accepted the short-term chauffeuring.

"Hey, Dad," she said after driving the Legacy 3.0 R Limited. "I like this car. This is the kind of car I want."

I was ready for that one.

"Are you getting a raise?" I asked.

Before I left New York, I received a text message from longtime friend Lydia Bendersky, an official with the Organization of American States in Washington. A car nut in need of a new car, she wanted to pick my brain. I showed up later in her apartment's driveway with the Legacy 3.0 R Limited.

"You know that I only like convertibles," Lydia said when she saw the Subaru sedan. Then she did what she always does: "Keys, please."

Lydia drove us to and from a Washington restaurant, which was fine with me. I'd done a lot of typing earlier in the day, and that left hand was beginning to hurt.

"Again, what kind of car is this?" Lydia asked as we were returning from the restaurant. I told her. She mulled the name "Subaru."

"Hmm," said Lydia. "I really like this car. Does it come as a convertible?"

There is no convertible in the six-car Subaru Legacy line. Only sedans.

Although its acceleration is excellent, the Legacy 3.0 R limited won't please hard-core driving enthusiasts, the people who view every road as a racetrack. But its easy handling and adjustable ride -- firm for those who want sportiness without the expense or the cramped cabin of a sports coupe, soft for those who just want to cruise -- will please most drivers. It has a dual-mode suspension that can be adjusted for a harder, sporty ride or for a softer, limousine-like "comfort" ride.

Head-turning quotient? Neither memorable nor forgettable, neither stunning nor offensive, it's ordinary done well.

The mileage was disappointing. I barely got 23 miles per gallon in highway driving. I got substantially less in the city.

Purse-strings note: This is an excellent mid-size sedan that seems to be a good value. The caveat is fuel economy and the recommended use of premium unleaded gasoline.

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