Here's something unusual: an attractive Subaru.
Hold your fire, Subaru fans. As a lifelong New Englander, I'm a big admirer of the many virtues of Subaru's cars. Good fuel economy, sturdy construction, and safe handling in just about any weather goes a long way around here once the snow shows up. Ayup.
Subarus sell well and generate great profits. But they aren't pretty. Functional? You bet. But like L.L. Bean's famous boots, that functionality comes with a look that might best be described as "frumpy".
Just as with those boots, many folks find Subarus endearing. But let's just say that nobody is going to confuse an Outback with an Aston Martin any time soon.
But, all that said, this car -- officially called the 2015 Subaru Legacy Concept, and revealed this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show -- hints that our perceptions of Subaru's styling might (might) need an update soon.
A striking design, but Subaru isn't giving details
I don't have a whole lot to report to you about the 2015 Subaru Legacy Concept, because Subaru hasn't told us a whole lot about it yet. The automaker said this car "celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Subaru Legacy and provides a look at the styling cues for future Legacy models."
It goes on to say that the concept car has a "more coupe-like silhouette" (no kidding, huh?) and that it has Subaru's all-wheel-drive system. But that's about it.
It's kind of exciting, though. It's a good-looking car, somewhat reminiscent of recent Infiniti designs, but with a distinctive appearance of its own. Assuming that it drives as well as it looks -- and at least as well as the current Legacy -- this car could find a lot of fans if Subaru builds it.
But from where I sit, that's a big "if".
When a "concept car" isn't... and when it is
To help you understand why I'm skeptical that this is the next Legacy, I need to explain a bit.
"Concept car" is a term of art in the auto business. It's an automaker's way of saying that the car you're seeing isn't (necessarily) going to go into production. Concepts are used to show off new design directions or technology, or sometimes to float an idea and gauge public reaction.
Some automakers -- Ford (NYSE:F) is a good example -- sometimes show "concept cars" that are actually close to final drafts of a future product. This week, Ford rolled out what it called the Edge Concept. Officially, it's just a concept car. But it's no secret that the Edge Concept is a preview of the all-new 2016 Ford Edge that will be released sometime in 2015.
Why call it a "concept", then? Well, 2015 is still a long way off. Ford might decide to change some trim details, or offer the 2016 Edge with a different engine. But it's a safe bet that the new Edge will look very much like the concept we saw this week.
It's a less safe bet with Subaru, which has pulled the bait-and-switch on us before. In fact, it might be a safer to bet on something more, let's say, Subaru-like.
Subaru has teased us like this before
Three years ago, at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, Subaru teased us with the "2011 Subaru Impreza Design Concept". It's a nice-looking car, as you can see -- and just like the Legacy Concept, it was hailed as a design departure for Subaru.
But the all-new Impreza that followed wasn't much of a departure for Subaru in the styling department.
There was nothing wrong with the 2012 Impreza. It's a fine Subaru. But it's not a car that really surprised Subaru fans in terms of its styling. It was new, but it was far from radical.
That's why I think this new Legacy Concept is just a tease. I suspect that the upcoming all-new Legacy is going to look a lot like a Subaru, and not so much like a swoopy sports sedan.
What do you think? Am I right? Scroll down and leave a comment to have your say.
Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. You can connect with him on Twitter at @jrosevear. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.