Subaru, Fuji Heavy Industries' (NASDAQOTH:FUJHY) automotive division, finally unveiled its 2015 Legacy sedan at the Chicago Auto Show. There has been plenty of speculation over this car ever since the Japanese automaker showcased the Legacy concept car at the LA Auto show last November. Subaru is quite infamous for showing aggressively styled concept cars and following them with humdrum production versions. Not surprisingly, the 2015 Legacy isn't an exception to that rule.
But investors needn't lose heart because the new Legacy sedan is a very cleverly designed car and has plenty of potential. Here are five of its highlights.
Subaru's appeal comes from its functionality and the company drives home the point yet again with the 2015 Legacy. The interiors are clean and uncomplicated and offer its occupants a functional workspace. The car is roomier with a larger cabin that can comfortably seat passengers more than six-feet tall. The cabin space is now comparable with the industry leaders like the Honda (NYSE:HMC) Accord and Toyota (NYSE:TM) Camry. The trunk space, at 15 cubic feet, remains a tad smaller than that of the Camry and Accord but is bigger than the outgoing Legacy model. The rear seats have a 60-40 split function to accommodate big bags and luggage.
The car scores high on the visibility factor. While most of the current sedans have tapering coupe-like designs as a style statement, carmakers ignore the fact that this creates blind spots for the driver. Although the 2015 Legacy is sleeker and more coupe-like than its predecessor, it compromises less on visibility, thanks to the taller windows. Additionally, the car comes equipped with side mirrors mounted on the doors and front quarter glass to enhance visibility.
The 2015 Legacy distinguishes itself in its class by offering more safety features than its peers. It has all the usual stuff like the airbags, and antilock brakes, with some not-so-common features like a standard rear-view camera, and an extra side airbag that protects passengers in a frontal collision. On the Limited trims, the car offers an enhanced rear radar system that helps in locating blind spots. Subaru's proprietary EyeSight system is available on all Limited and Premium trims.
The safety ratings of cars have become an important evaluation factor for buyers. Camry's reputation got a hammering last October when it failed one of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's, or IIHS, crash tests, and Consumer Reports stopped recommending the car. Toyota breathed easy only when in a subsequent test on moderate overlap it scored well and regained the Consumer Reports endorsement in December.
The 2014 Legacy had "five-star" crash test ratings in front, side, and roll-over tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a "Top Safety Pick+" rating from the IIHS. It looks like the 2015 Legacy could follow suit.
Better fuel economy
Mileage had been a big spoil sport for the outgoing Legacy. Owing to its all-wheel-drive, or AWD, the 2014 Legacy provided just 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. But thanks to efficiency enhancements and a revised constant variable transmission, the four-cylinder engine on the 2015 Legacy is now promising 26 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. This moves the sedan into the fuel-efficiency league of the Camry and the Accord, both of which offer similar mileage albeit with front-wheel drive.
The 2015 Legacy continues to remain the only sedan in the midsize segment that offers AWD as a standard feature on all trims and models. The recent polar vortex proved that you need not necessarily be in the Snow Belt to get snowed in. Maybe the polar vortex is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but there's no denying the fact that an AWD can be extremely handy on any kind of snowy, muddy, or treacherous roads. If not for anything else, it gives the driver an added sense of security. And when it comes at a price point below $25,000, it's a neat package.
Better looking than its predecessor
The 2015 Legacy may be plain vanilla compared to the beautiful concept car that Subaru showcased last year. But it's clear that the 2015 model, which marks the sixth generation of the car, has improved a lot on the looks department.
The 2015 Legacy has a "nosecone" anterior that has Subaru's hexagonal grille with three vertical slats instead of the single vertical bar of the outgoing model. The car is more curvaceous with the C-pillar and a more angular windshield. Subaru says the car is 10% more aerodynamic. While there's no point comparing the Legacy with a Ford Fusion or a Nissan Altima, the car is definitely more visually appealing than before.
The midsize sedan market is one of the largest segments of the U.S. auto market with annual sales volume of roughly 2.4 million vehicles. Major automakers have their hopes tied to this segment, which puts a lot of pressure on smaller automakers like Subaru to keep up with the competition. It's no secret that Subaru was having trouble selling the outgoing version of the Legacy, and sales were off by more than 11% in 2013. But the company is hoping to reverse the trend with the new model. The 2015 Legacy has many positives, and we will keep an eye on the sales charts once the car arrives in showrooms this summer.
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