We’re an interesting bunch, us South Africans Motorists. We’re a breed of car followers mainly swayed to car purchasing decisions by three options. In order of importance, and in my opinion: Brand; Price; Popularity. Not necessarily product. Strange don’t you think?
Which brings me to this Subaru Legacy 3.6R-S CVT. It’s the latest mid-sized sedan to come out of the FHI stable and this is it. The only choice you have. There are no engine alternatives and no alternative specifications. That is the first problem.
The second problem is the somewhat limited dealer network. With only 15 dealers in the Southern Africa region, extending the brands footprint through sales and presence is a difficult thing.
That said, that’s where the problems stop. In terms of the actual product that is.
The Legacy 3.6R-S is in its sixth generation and at 4,795mm and at least 150mm of ground clearance its an imposing presence up close. It’s sits higher than expected and clears parking lot paving and curbs quite comfortably. It’s shod with 18-inch darkened alloys and a pair of fairly large exhaust outlets on either side of the rear bumper continue it’s larger than life posture.
The cabin feels light and spacious and it boasts one of the best all-round visibility perspectives I’ve experienced. The 60/40 Split folding seats improve the 506 litres boot space and whilst that isn’t class leading, there’s ample leg and headroom for slightly lanky rear seat passengers.
Whilst there isn’t an options list to tick, it is a well-specced offering nonetheless. Voice activated controls, BlueTooth/iPod/USB connectivity, a Multi-function steering wheel, touch screen 6,2-inch infotainment unit, Harman Kardon sound system and electric 8-way adjustable drivers seat are just some of the myriad standard equipment on offer. But there was one thing I noticed as conspicuously absent from the Legacy and those were simpletons called Parking Sensors. A rear-view camera is a welcome thing, but a lack of sensors for the front especially had me being time-wastingly cautious trying to park the Legacy. It is a large car after all.
Subaru has stuck to the same Asymmetrical All-Wheel Drive system coupled to a Boxer engine and CVT gearbox. It’s a tried and trusted(by them) formula and I’ve no qualms with it. In fact, the Legacy is a fantastic runner with reams of performance competence. It manages to combine spirited performance with a level of refinement that isn’t commonplace. It’s exceedingly comfortable to drive and that all-wheel drive system is almost impossible to unsettle. And say what you will about CVT boxes, but this one works a charm moving between ratios with a smoothness and effortlessness that adds to the overall experience.
Couple this drivetrain technology with a 5-star Safety Rating and you’re left wondering why. Why don’t South Africans buy this car? The Brand: Is still considered to be a niche performance brand with big-wing DNA. It’s not considered as a top of mind options when considering the purchase of a car.
The Price: Is not cheap. It’s well priced for its segment, but it isn’t a Renault Sandero. The Popularity: All but 2 cars were delivered to customers last month. So it ain’t popular either.
I suppose there’s another reason why people are possibly not buying this car. The continued move from mid-sized sedans to mid-sized crossovers and SUV’s is possibly the most pressing point here. The mid-sized sedan as we know it, is dwindling in segment popularity and that’s something that isn’t just a South African trend, but a global one as well. BMW sold more X3, X4 and X5 models last month(per segment) than it did 5-series sedans.
The Subaru Legacy 3.6R-S is a great car. It competes with the slightly more expensive Honda Accord Exclusive and possibly the Lexus ES Hybrid. Whilst the Lexus and Accord boast slightly more technology at a slightly higher price, there’s no denying that the Legacy is a whole more capable a car and at R529 000, South Africa should have a few more than two more motorists driving one.
Avon Middleton is a multimedia and digital media manager by profession and an avid car-lover. He runs Drivingsa which is a motoring content provider producing and delivering automotive insights for various high-profile media channels. He is a long-time friend and partner of Kasibiz and contributes his insights on a regular basis.