Town car or country hero? Why Subaru's new Legacy X aims to be more than a little bit of both.

Drove a luxury sedan through mud, over rutted tracks and up a very big hill the other day. Didn't touch tarmac once. Didn't stop until I reached the top.

If you're thinking that not many people would want a fully-equipped four-door with off-road capability, you're probably right.

Subaru NZ might agree: it expects to sell only 20 of its new flagship sedan, the Legacy X, each year.

But as company boss Wally Dumper told media at the model's launch: "There's an opportunity there."


We Kiwis love wagons, but in some markets buyers of pseudo-luxury models still feel a load-carrier lacks the dignity and premium look of a conventional three-box sedan.

That thinking led Subaru to create the Legacy X, which is aimed mainly at the American market.

This $67,990 machine comes only with the 3.6-litre boxer-six petrol engine and is fitted with every piece of equipment available from the Japanese maker: leather upholstery, powered/heated front seats, satellite navigation, automatic lights/wipers, windscreen wiper de-icer, a thumping McIntosh 10-speaker sound system and the new, high-tech EyeSight active safety system.

Naturally, the Legacy X is four-wheel drive.

But it also has a 50mm raised ride height and 200mm ground clearance, meaning it can go pretty much anywhere an Outback can.

The model will be of interest to rural businesspeople who want to maintain a premium image, executives with country-based clients and even farmers who might otherwise buy a top-line Australian sedan.

Aside from the Legacy X's practical nature, Dumper also sees it as a "Euro fighter" - an upmarket, all-wheel drive car for buyers who want something a little bit different.

Different it is, although the Legacy X doesn't give too much away in terms of styling.

The raised ride height exacerbates its already "perched" look, but it's balanced by the wider track and flared guards from the Outback - in body colour, of course.

The X heads a revised Legacy/Outback model range.

The 2.5-litre Outbacks have a new boxer engine and Lineartronic (continuously variable) transmission that have further improved fuel economy to 8 litres per 100km.

Despite the major powertrain upgrade, exterior changes are minor.

The 2013 Outback is most easily identified by a new grille shape, although it has also gained an extra 13mm ground clearance - at 213mm, it rides just slightly higher than the Legacy X.