Fun to drive and nice to drive are two very different things.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy is about as advanced as an affordable midsize car can get. The top-of-the-line trim is swathed in leather, connects wirelessly to your iPhone and drives all by itself.
Seriously, the Legacy is just a few steps away from letting you set your destination, climb into the back seat and take a nap until you get there.
I could go on and on about how great the Legacy is, but there’s a certain dynamic that is missing while behind the wheel:
The sensation of driving.
The Legacy is so great, it seems to have a mind of its own. You’ll be cruising on the highway, adaptive cruise control set at 65 mph, thinking life is as good as it will ever be. But then you’ll want to increase your speed to 75. You’ll step on the gas or politely ask the cruise to increase the speed of the car, and the car will respond, eventually.
The Legacy isn’t the kind of car that offers immediate response in acceleration. You put in your speed request, the car considers it, and it takes you there when it feels ready. The Legacy monitors what lane you’re in, tells you when you cross the line, adjusts speed automatically, stops itself to avoid collisions and even lets you know when the car in front of you has moved after a light turns green.
A 2004 Jaguar X-Type doesn’t do any of that. It isn’t nearly as fancy or technologically advanced as the Legacy. The Jag offers a 2.5-liter 192-hp V6 with a 5-speed manual transmission, compared with the Subie’s 173-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and automatic CVT transmission.
What the Jag lacks in refinement and comfort, it makes up for in responsiveness and driving satisfaction. Accelerating from 65 to 75 happens immediately with a simple downshift and is accompanied by a pleasing exhaust soundtrack. There’s something to be said for the simple pleasures of immediate acceleration and the aural feedback of increasing speed.
The Jag and the Subaru are very different cars, obviously, from very different eras. Both are all-wheel-drive 5-passenger sedans, but the old Jaguar is fun to drive, while the new Legacy is nice to drive.
I’d recommend the Subaru to anyone in need of a safe, reliable, comfortable, luxurious new car. For someone looking for true driving engagement on a budget, I’d direct them to the used market.
Which do you prefer: fun to drive or nice to drive?