Something about the sedan makes it among the most popular cars on the road. It’s versatile, yet smart-looking; convenient to drive around in, yet powerful; and while I’ll bet most households with multiple automobiles include a sedan, there are so many styles out there that you don’t have to see yourself coming and going. In a nutshell, the sedan is the ride of choice for day-to-day driving and commuting.
One popular choice for drivers who want a sporty, economical, fast sedan is the Subaru Legacy GT. Featuring the same powerful turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive as the fabled WRX sport sedan but in a slightly larger package, the GT is fast and a blast to drive.
Exterior styling is conservatively aggressive, with flared fenders and a functional hood scoop on turbocharged models. The interior is nicely appointed with quality materials, especially in the GT, including a sunroof, leather seating surfaces and wood accents on the doors and dash. Two-stage heated seats are well bolstered for spirited driving. Rear seat room is generous, with plenty of leg room. The trunk is also large, although the opening is somewhat small, but the rear seats fold down with the pull of a lever for expanded cargo capability. Controls for dual automatic climate and the six-CD stereo are simple, and the radio and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel are a welcome safety/convenience feature.
The Legacy GT is powered by a 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that cranks out 265 horsepower, and, appropriately, is only available with a slick-shifting six-speed manual, although an available short shift kit would be welcome to quicken the throws of the shift lever and make it that much more fun. Acceleration is neck-snapping and handling is superb. There is good steering feel and minimal lean in curves, though the taut, athletic-feeling suspension still provides a comfortable highway ride. Brakes are also up to sport standards. This is a fun drive! Stability control, traction control and all-wheel-drive are standard safety features. Mileage is 18 city, 25 highway.
The Legacy GT truly provides high levels of performance and luxury in a reasonably priced sedan, starting at $20,000; the GT starts at $28,000. According to Eric Fultz, salesman at Lou Fusz Subaru, “The Legacy is the only mid-sized sedan in its price class with all-wheel-drive. It offers great handling and performance, and in the GT, 265 horsepower.”
Another interesting ‘sedan’ that stretches that definition is the Chevrolet HHR. Neither a truck, car or minivan, and not really an SUV, the HHR is almost an automotive category unto itself, possessing some of the best traits of all the others. The HHR’s most notable feature is its retro styling, which is reminiscent of an old Chevy panel van. As a fan of old cars, I really like it. In execution, however, it is thoroughly modern and extremely functional.
The interior is spacious and voluminous, thanks to its boxy shape. Interior appointments, including seat coverings, are more utilitarian than luxurious (there’s no center console and interior surfaces are somewhat ‘plastic-y’), but this vehicle is designed more as a workhorse than as a clotheshorse. Ventilation and radio controls are easy to use, and the stereo is designed to interface with all different kinds of music media. The rear seat has a surprising amount of room, especially leg room. The hard plastic-surfaced rear cargo area is decently sized as well, can be expanded by folding down the rear seats, and includes a nice amount of undercover storage. A panel version that eliminates the rear seat and rear windows is available for those who intend to use their HHR solely as an economical delivery/cargo carrying vehicle; it’s great for caterers, florists and other providers of delivered goods.
One of its best features of the HHR is its frugality. It’s cheap to buy and cheap to operate. The HHR is powered by a choice of four-cylinder engines, ranging from a 2.0 liter turbo to a 2.2 liter or 2.4 liter engine, the latter two being flex fuel (E85) capable. A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic is available with each engine. The 2.2-liter engine with automatic gets 22 mpg city, 30 highway. Acceleration is adequate; braking and handling are good, though the power steering is slightly overboosted. It also offers traction and stability control along with five-star crash ratings, an available rearview camera, ABS brakes and OnStar automatic crash response. It’s a nice-sized vehicle and relatively simple: easy to drive, easy to park.
The HHR is a great alternative for a small family that doesn’t need a minivan or large SUV. Kevin Shaughnessy, fleet and commercial manager at Johnny Londoff Chevrolet, says, “The HHR gets great mileage and people like its flexibility. The second row seats can be folded for maximum cargo carrying while offering car-like handling.” Prices for a nicely equipped HHR start at about $20,000.
*Robert W. Paster is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate; see robertpaster.com.