2017 Subaru Legacy

LOS ANGELES — Subaru doesn't need any help selling cars and crossovers from the likes of automotive sites like MotorwayAmerica, the Japanese company has got the formula down to a science enjoying increasing sales month after month for years. To understand this phenomenon better, spend some time behind the wheel of the 2017 Legacy mid-sized sedan.

While there is no perfect vehicle or perfect mid-sized sedan, for that matter, the Legacy comes about as close as anything we've driven in recent times. You might say it's not great at any one thing, but the total package is clearly first class.

The new Legacy is attractive and well-proportioned. We like the sedan’s wedge-shaped stance highlighted by a slight flare of the fenders. Key to the sleeker, coupe-like profile is a front fascia that combines the hexagonal grille and bumper into one smooth piece and the windshield is more raked, pulled forward two inches at the base. The Legacy has a big greenhouse with great sight lines in all directions.

But it's the ease of driving, the effortless maneuverability and nimbleness that give the driver confidence in all situations. At the same time the Subaru affords those who must drive in winter conditions the advantage of all-wheel drive at no extra cost. Like nearly all Subaru vehicles, all-wheel drive is part of the standard equipment package. Other popular mid-sized sedans don't even offer AWD or if it is offered it's around a $2,000 up-charge.

Perhaps more importantly, Subaru shines with an interior that has been endowed with a new more upscale, refined feel, upgraded materials, and a quieter cabin. The Legacy has a smoother more comfortable ride (although still on the firm side compared to segment sedans) than previous years together with improved gas mileage from the carryover engines. Rear-seat legroom is among best-in-class. If you regularly haul three and four passengers, the Legacy may be the answer. And for an affordable option price, the Legacy can be endowed with Subaru's EyeSight Driver's Assist System, a comprehensive suite of safety features many of which cost hundreds or thousands more in competing vehicles.

Subaru has created a slightly higher driving position with supportive and comfortable front seats. Sightlines are outstanding, and gauges and controls are generally intuitive, and easy to read. But we were not fond of radio controls including pre-set buttons embedded in the navigation screen. One real standout — the navigation software, which we found the clearest and easiest to use of any we've encountered in recent times.

Perhaps the less-than-perfect part of the Legacy equation are its engines and transmissions. Subaru has stuck with its engines for several years without any serious upgrades.

Carryover engines include a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder making 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque and a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder "boxer" engine generating 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. While we would probably opt for the V-6 that we drove a couple years ago, the four-cylinder gets the job done without straining. That's what we drove this time around and we think the car feels better than its published time of 9.4 seconds from 0-to-60. Both engines are mated to Subaru's "Lineartronic" continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is designed to mimic the shifts of a traditional transmission. Paddle shifters were included on our test car to move between the simulated gears.

One of Subaru's problems over the years has been less-than-average gas mileage — presumably because of all-wheel drive — but in the past couple of years the company has pushed its mileage into acceptable territory. For instance, the 2.5-liter is rated at 25 mpg city, 34-highway and 29-overall. The V-6 is rated at 20/29/23. Both engines burn the less expensive regular gas.

The aforementioned EyeSight technology consists of forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; reverse automatic braking, lane departure warning with automatic intervention, and blind spot detection with cross-traffic alert, steering response fog lights, high beam assist headlights, and adaptive cruise control. It's a $2,095 option on several models.

The Legacy is available in five trim levels — 2.5i, 2.5i premium, 2.5i Sport, 2.5i Limited, and 3.5R Limited starting at $22,815 including destination charge. Standard equipment across the lineup includes AWD; rearview camera; air conditioning; tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; Bluetooth phone and audio; a 6.2-inch Starlink touchscreen interface; a four-speaker audio system with CD player, HD and satellite radio, and an iPod interface.

Our Legacy Sport — the Sport trim level is debuting for 2017 featuring unique styling elements and interior finishes plus 18-inch wheels — carried a bottom line of $28,910 that included $4,095 for the Sport package, which also bundled the EyeSight system.

— Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman