Subaru Legacy 3.0R

Focus RS owners don't just drive a 'Ford' and M3 fans own more than a 'BMW'. So why do Impreza owners refer to their cars simply as a 'Scooby'? It seems Subaru is so well known for the road-going edition of its rally car, it can't get people in the UK to realise it builds anything else.

Finding success in the executive market won't be easy for Subaru, but the Legacy gives it a chance. Although the automatic gearbox is poor, the ride and handling are excellent - so when this machine arrives, Impreza drivers could finally have a car to trade up to!

Focus RS owners don't just drive a 'Ford' and M3 fans own more than a 'BMW'. So why do Impreza owners refer to their cars simply as a 'Scooby'? It seems Subaru is so well known for the road-going edition of its rally car, it can't get people in the UK to realise it builds anything else.

Enter the new Legacy, the all-wheel-drive machine charged with changing all that and proving that the Japanese company can produce a range of capable cars, rather than a single star.

It landed in Japan with 2.0 and 2.5 flat-four engines earlier this year, but our car is pitched at UK drivers, with a new 240bhp 3.0-litre flat-six and a five-speed auto. Likely to cost around £25,500, it will arrive in November. And although we drove a saloon, estate and off-road Outback editions widen the choice.

But while the specification sounds tempting, the newcomer is unlikely to have things all its own way. For starters, British buyers will have to get over the stigma of the old model - the previous-generation Legacy was ignored because of its lacklustre looks, while the interior lacked the quality feel of rivals. Its appeal was further harmed by the fact that strict emissions rules prevented Japanese performance versions coming here, while the lack of a diesel engine meant the model would never be a fleet hit.

First impressions suggest the new car will succeed, though. The cracking styling gives it real road presence and, while some of the plastics (particularly the fake wood) are not up to scratch, interior quality is closer to that of rivals. We particularly liked the touch-screen control centre on this flagship model.

Performance is improved, too - the new engine pulls strongly, although the lethargic auto box is slow to react and eliminates throttle response. And while it features both tiptronic and sport functions, neither offers much improvement.

The car is a better cruiser, where small throttle inputs mean the gearbox isn't put under such a strain. Here, the Legacy can better show off its capable chassis and refined ride. Impressively, it's every bit as keen to turn into bends as the more lithe Impreza. It generates masses of grip, and feels very stable.

Such qualities gave the Impreza star status, and could do the same for this model. If the company can sort out the gearbox, future Legacy drivers will be proud to call their cars Scoobies, too.

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