Downside: Traction and stability control are not available -- at least not at this writing.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent marks in all three categories. No excuses. No apologies. Braking, with ventilated front and rear discs and standard four-wheel anti-locks, is excellent.

Head-turning quotient: Ladies and gentlemen, Subaru has officially left the House of Ugly Design. Even the interior of the Legacy 2.5 GT Limited has excellent styling, good ergonomics and world-class materials, fit and finish.

Engine, transmission: The Legacy 2.5 GT Limited is equipped with a 2.5-liter, turbocharged, 16-valve, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that develops 250 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 250 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 RPM. A five-speed automatic transmission that can be operated manually is optional. A straight five-speed manual is standard.

Capacities: The Legacy 2.5 GT Limited has seating for five people. Maximum luggage capacity is 11.4 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 16.9 gallons of gasoline. Premium unleaded is required.

Mileage: I averaged 23 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving.

Safety: Front and side air bags are standard. Ditto rear head air bags. Child safety-seat tethers are standard. Use them.

Price: Base price on the tested Legacy 2.5 GT Limited is $27,295. Dealer invoice price on the base model is $25,112. Price as tested is $28,992, including $1,052 in options and a $575 transportation charge. Dealer invoice price with options and transportation charge is $27,402. Pricing sources include Subaru marketing, Edmunds.com, Cars.com and Kelley Blue Book online.

Purse-strings note: Compare with Acura TSX, Pontiac G6 GTP and Volkswagen Passat.