• Model: 2015 Subaru Legacy Limited
• Exterior color: Crystal Black Silica
• Interior color: Black
• Engine: 2.5-liter, four-cylinder
• Horsepower: 175
• Transmission: CVT (continuously variable)
• Fuel economy: 36 mpg highway, 26 mpg city
• Dealer: Kelly Subaru
• Price (as tested): $28,269
Let's play word association.
Here are some words automotive journalists often use to describe Subarus: sturdy, simple, versatile, durable, thrifty and safe. Also, quirky - but in a good way.
Having just driven the all-new 2015 Subaru Legacy sedan, I think we must add four words to the basket: quiet, stylish, roomy and refined.
Yes, the new Legacy - previously an after-thought in the midsize sedan class - now has enough baked-in goodness to compete with top sellers such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion.
Subaru, with all-wheel-drive standard on all its models, has always been a big player in the Snow Belt where all-weather traction is crucial. In Chattanooga, where mountain roads can be ice-rink slick in January, the automaker's popular Forester and Outback crossovers are everywhere. But you could go weeks around here without spotting a Legacy.
That could change. Kelly Subaru sales manager Steve Marlin says the new Legacy, which has started arriving at the downtown Chattanooga dealership, is Subaru's "secret weapon" to increase market share.
Indeed, after a test drive on the highways and side-streets of Chattanooga, I came away thinking that this car will sell itself if consumers give it a chance. It's good-looking, affordable and darn near bullet-proof.
The Legacy line ranges in base price from $21,695 t0 $29,595, and is available in both four- and six-cylinder models. Our 2.5-liter, four-cylinder test car in fancy Limited trim stickers for $28,269.
STYLING AND FEATURES
With its sixth-generation Legacy, Subaru has delivered an eye-catching design that doesn't sacrifice functionality. That means not lowering the roof line so that it intrudes on headroom and pinches visibility just because it looks cool.
To my eye, Subaru designers have come up with a good compromise. By creating a higher waistline and more prominent grille, designers redirect the eye to the car's center of gravity, not the roof - which retains a gentle arc that translates onto more interior head room.
Our Crystal Black Silica test car with black leather interior was a bit toasty on a summer day, but the AC worked well and cooled things off quickly. In the winter, the Legacy's heated seats (both front and rear) will be a treat to your fanny.
Our test car also included such standard features as all-wheel drive, a rear-view camera, a blind-spot monitoring system, a cross-traffic alert, a 12-speaker, 576-watt Harmon Kardan sound system, 18-inch alloy wheels with gray accents, dual climate controls, remote keyless entry and an electronic parking brake.
The cabin is open and airy. The windshield and side windows are massive by midsize sedan standards. For all the fancy safety electronic devices being loaded into today's cars including the Legacy, it's easy to forget that one of the best safety features is an unencumbered view of the road.
Meanwhile, I sat in the back seat and marveled at the expansive leg room. Three average size adults could travel comfortably on the back bench.
The interior design is attractive without being fussy. There are nice, dark, faux wood accents everywhere and the best padded center arm-rests in the business. It's not an exaggeration to say that your right elbow will think you are in a Cadillac (or maybe a La-Z-Boy recliner).
While six-cylinder Legacies are available, some automotive journalists have noted that the standard 2.5-liter, four-cylinder powerplant is cheaper, gets better gas mileage and still has plenty of get-up-and-go. We second the notion that the 175-horsepower Boxer four-cylinder engine is a fine choice for most drivers and will return a frugal 36 miles per gallon on the highway.
On a mid-day test drive that included a mix of highway and city driving, our Legacy tester seemed frisky and eager. At low speeds, the steering is on the heavy side, but that actually adds to the secure, planted vibe of the car. The suspension soaks up bumps and pot holes with aplomb. People don't believe me when I tell them that some Subarus handle as well as BMWs, but they do.
Where you really feel the Legacy's prowess is on wet roads. It's virtually impossible to get the wheels to spin, due to Subaru's legendary symmetrical, four wheel drive. When snow comes to town some people worry, but Subbie drivers smile.
Subaru may not sell a ga-zillion Legacies this year, but there's no reason sales of this value-packed sedan can't double. It doesn't hurt that Subarus traditionally have high resale value and low operating costs.
Call buying a Subaru quirky if you want, but some people just call it smart.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.