Mountain Wheels: Subaru’s Legacy, Crosstrek offer mountain versatility |

Mountain Wheels: Subaru’s Legacy, Crosstrek offer mountain versatility

Special to the DailyThe 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited offers 256 horsepower.

I’ve been excited (but not so surprised) to see a wide collection of Subaru’s new XV Crosstreks – the jacked-up, brightly colored, Mountain Lifestyle-friendly version of the Impreza – appear in Colorado since the vehicle’s launch last year. As you can get one with a base price of below $23,000.

But I discovered that the car’s inherent coolness also requires a bit of patience when you’re actually rolling your way up our mountain passes, as that lift in suspension and the optional blazing orange paint job is still centered around a four-cylinder Boxer engine making just 148 horsepower.

On a recent re-test of the vehicle on dry roads, I swung up and over nearby Berthoud Pass and, despite a built-in natural high and a glowing feeling that I was rocking an Impreza WRX STI race car, I actually spent much of the run to the summit in second gear, eking out all of the power the car had just to keep rolling.

True-blue Subie oldsters know the feeling, and I guess they love that kind of thing – especially when you have to do the trip in a foot of fresh snow.

That’s where the Crosstrek’s 8.7 inches of clearance and its bulletproof continuous all-wheel drive system will leave giant SUVs and their monster engines in the dust, like a bright-orange character from a Dr. Seuss book.

And the Subaru devotees will certainly clamor around your Crosstrek, bewitched by its macho-futuristic extra bits – the rubberized corner bumper points, the air-flow wedges under the back bumper and the cool silver-outlined wheels. It’s also an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

Throw a gear box on the top rails and you’ve got a super-stylized weekend machine that will get up to 30 highway mpg, respond ruggedly to summertime camping trails and … do the full slow-and-steady routine.

Meanwhile, the much-improved 2013 Legacy has absolutely no problem charging up the passes AND sticking to the snow, though its standard, non-Outback sedan shape makes it a little bit more of a rarity up here.

The trade-off for not being able to load up quite as many cubic feet of outdoor equipment is an automobile that’s more agile, more sporty and considerably less bulky than the ever-expanding Outback.

My 2013 3.6R Limited edition was also reasonably upscale, with a full leather package and wood trim, a 440-watt, nine-speaker harmon/kardon stereo and a full voice-activated navigation system.

The 3.6-liter six-cylinder Boxer engine makes a much more pleasant 256 horsepower and is connected to a five-speed automatic transmission that’s sporty enough to blip the revs when you downshift, using the wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

This model’s makeover included a much more aggressive-looking nose, new headlamps and a package of body enhancements that upped the overall chassis stiffness and reduced body roll by 40 percent – producing a pretty chuckable and quick four-door mid-size sedan, grounded by the Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system.

Not only is it comfortable up front, your rear passengers have honest-to-goodness leg room – quite substantial, in fact.

Legacy’s cabin is decked out in a wild litany of textures and surfaces, from smooth door tops to animal grain-effect armrests and even some aluminum-like detail on the center console.

While the 3.6-liter version can do up to 25 mpg on the highway, you can also opt for a 2.5-liter Boxer making 173 horsepower and getting as much as 32 mpg, when equipped with a continuously variable transmission (a six-speed manual is also an option).

Legacy was also my first test for the new Eye Sight safety program, with two small cameras on the front of the rear-view mirror offering lane departure and adaptive cruise control help, plus the ability to stop the car entirely at speeds below 19 mph in case of objects suddenly in your path.

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