Family sedan buyers in search of extra pizzazz and performance face something of a paradox these days. On the one hand, it's not hard at all to find lots of power -- not when your average six-cylinder Toyota Camry pumps out 268 hp. At the same time though, "mid-size" cars have gotten bigger and heavier, the transmission choices have gotten fewer, and front wheel-drive has become even more dominant.
Enter the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT and Ford Fusion Sport AWD. Not only are both these challengers to the midsize throne fresh off successful redesigns, but these particular models offer upgraded powertrains and all-wheel drive in the name of spicing up the family-car experience.
We recently spent some quality time with these sedans to determine if either offers any legitimate thrills to go along with its practicality.
The Fusion and Legacy have targeted the heart of the midsize market with their latest redesigns. For Subaru, that means a rather substantial uptick in size and more conventional design. It's no surprise then, that the new Legacy while handsome, is no longer sleek, though the 2.5GT's 18-inch wheels bring some of the sexy back. The Fusion, which received evolutionary changes to its exterior, has become more athletic looking, and comes with unique 18-inch wheels of its own.
Inside, both cars have made impressive strides. The Legacy's growth means there's an additional four-inches of legroom for rear passengers. Upfront, the dash is well laid out and more attractive than on past models, but still uses far too many hard plastics for a $30,000 car. Thankfully, drivers finally get an auto-up power window.
The Fusion has taken an even farther leap forward. It matches the Legacy in comfort, but employs better materials throughout. Ford also seems to have paid a bit closer attention to insulation, as the Fusion does a better job isolating road noise. Unfortunately, the Sport model obscures much of this refinement with garish red trim and shiny seat inserts that appear ready for a night at the disco.
Either of these up-level models will gladly suit your need to be pampered, as both come with leather seats and features like Bluetooth and premium sound systems.
Of course, we didn't climb into these top-of-the-line models just to parse the differences in standard equipment and dash trim. We wanted to see which, if either, of these two cars followed through on its promise of performance. On paper, both seem to have quite a bit going for them. Each package car features a boost in power, a six-speed transmission, and all-wheel drive (the Fusion Sport is available in front-wheel-drive form). But look closer, and there's a slight but noticeable difference in attitude that makes all the difference.