I don't know when it happened - when the Subaru Legacy Limited became a car you might consider instead of a Honda Accord EX-L or Toyota Camry XLE - but it definitely happened. The interior alone is enough to make me think I've been misjudging Subaru for a while. I think the Legacy 3.6R Limited is even a decent alternative to a Lexus ES. Plus, the exterior has a unique look yet it still communicates a stylish and upscale image.

Here's proof; As I pulled the Legacy into my driveway, two neighbors who were talking on the porch, both turned and pointed at the car. As I got out, they asked, "What kind of a car is that?" When I said, "It's a Subaru," both women simultaneously responded "Ohhh, a Subaru?" as if that's the last thing they were thinking. It proves there's still a bit of a gap between the reality of what Subaru is today versus the still evolving public perception.

Thankfully, the Legacy's available flat-six engine is completely evolved. The 3.6-liter engine is remarkably smooth and feels plenty powerful, but ultimately makes less horsepower than either the Accord or Camry V6s. While the Legacy is a reasonably fun car to drive, the bigger, heavier flat-six gives the car a sort of nose-heavy feeling that makes sporty driving less fun than it is in the Legacy 2.5i.

The 2.5i's smaller flat-four may not make as much power, but with it, the Legacy simply feels lighter on it's feet. On the other hand, the extra heft of the six-cylinder engine gives the Legacy 3.6R Limited a more substantial feel that's more in keeping with the Limited's wood grain interior trim and leather seats.

If there's anything that doesn't measure up on the Legacy, it's the optional navigation system. It works well enough, but the graphics and the way it functions feels a little low budget. However, the Legacy Limited gets a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, which sounds excellent.

That's our take on the 2012 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited. Here's what real owners have to say:

"I bought this for my wife about a year ago. I drive an Acura TL which is fast but no where as practical as this vehicle. Its great in the snow, gas mileage is excellent, and rides a lot smoother than my TL. We would definitely buy it again, my wife loves this car." - geo, Bucks County, PA via KBB.com

"The first thing I must say is that car is beautiful, inside and out, I wish I had the tan leather with the wood trimming but I'm very happy with the black leather instead. - AdamM, Farifax, VA via KBB.com

author photo

Brian Moody heads up the AutoTrader.com editorial team. An automotive writer and presenter for more than 12 years, he's contributed to such media outlets as CNBC, Edmunds.com, Fox Business, Speed TV and The Today Show.

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