More from The New Normal

Good golly, I love our new Isolation Nation reality! A fantastic chance to truly be all you can be!

Use this time to live the dream, everyone – one day your grandkids will ask: “What did YOU do during the great virus panic of 2020, grampa?”

And you’ll need to come up with a heroic backstory.

2020 Subaru Legacy (Premium GT)

You know, I’d be happy with anything in Subaru’s lineup as a daily driven, year-round vehicle.

There aren’t too many carmakers I can say that about, either; but Sub has an entry in just about every consumer-car segment (except hybrids and pickups, but I don’t doubt that if they decided to build one that it would be the equal of Jeep’s Gladiator truck, and probably better looking to boot).

Certainly, some of the company’s offerings wouldn’t work for my particular lifestyle – I don’t need all the seating or the overall size of the Ascent, or the racy power of an STi, for example – but what we’ve got here is a darn-near-perfect example of a midsize sedan that covers all the major bases: the 2020 Legacy. Here’s the rundown on our test vehicle:

This one is the top of the line, ‘Premier’ GT trim, which gives it the more powerful of the two engine options, with a turbocharged 4-cylinder delivering 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque.

A CVT transmission and Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system complete the train, and the GT tester loads on all the technology the company can muster, as it sits. There were no option packages on my test car, and frankly it didn’t need any. Well, maybe an auto-stop function that shuts the engine off when the car is stopped, but that’s about all I can think of.

The Legacy is a good-looking vehicle from a styling standpoint (the worst criticism I heard about it when showing it to people was that ‘unremarkable’) and avoids weird design cues like unnecessary extra chrome trim or a big bizarre grille. I actually prefer the looks of the Legacy over many of rivals, including Camry and Accord.

Inside, the GT trim borders on luxury-car standards. Soft-touch surfaces and a refined feel with the dash materials compliment a nice cluster and button layout.

All the seats are comfortable and boast decent head/leg room, the driver’s position in particular is very good with a full range of adjustment, and the brown Nappa leather pairs well with a predominantly black cabin color scheme.

Heated seats are something that I imagine everyone just expects in vehicles nowadays, but let me sing the praises of heated steering wheels here, too. I tell ya, once you’ve had a car with a heated wheel, you can never look back.

My test vehicle was the perfect car for the weather during my time in it, snowy as it was; and the Legacy did a great job of staying under control on ice and windrows of the white stuff.

Engine response is good in either driving mode (there’s default and ‘Sport’, and those are your only choices). There is no appreciable lag when stepping on the gas, and Sport mode really adds some oomph (and subtracts some fuel economy, naturally) bringing on the full capability of the 2.4 litre Boxer engine under the hood.

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At center dash, a large (and bright) information touchscreen allows access to all the configurable features of the car’s onboard tech, but doesn’t get annoying – for example, Subaru has kept buttons for the stereo tuning and volume controls (I hate cars that make me go through a touch interface to lower the volume or dial up a station.

The GT sported a Harman Kardon sound system that did justice to my favorite college band, and hey! CD player! The car has a CD player, tucked into the center console storage bin. Sweet. I got to pull out my Pink Floyd disks for a change.

As I mentioned, this one has no option packages added on, and yet if anything brings almost too much technology to it. I know, I know, everybody loves technology (and I love a car that greets me by name when I start it up after adding my driver profile to the system).

In addition to the driver profile feature, my Legacy tester came with all my favorite active-safety functions – mainly the blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic detection – and some others that I found really helpful. Reverse automatic braking for example. Yes, the car will actually apply the brakes if it feels you are going to back into something).

Additionally, the GT had not just a backup camera, but a forward-facing cam. You can switch between the displays easily via a dash-mounted button, and I like it. Gonna keep a few people from scraping the curb when parking in an unfamiliar spot, I reckon.

There was also the Eye-Sight system, which rolls up a suite of Subaru safety functions (pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistant), and “DriverFocus”, which is a sort of nanny that monitors a driver’s behaviour and attention while behind the wheel and will warn you if you’re not keeping your peepers on the road.

So overall, the latest Legacy competes extremely well against any of its natural rivals in the market, and honestly competes well against many offerings in the luxury segment.

Seriously, unless someone ‘needs’ the brand cachet of a European premium sedan (or Lexus/Infinity/Acura), the Legacy Premium GT offers all the goodies but at a more down-to-earth price.

The one I used came to $39,095 (before freight ‘n’ taxes), but the lineup starts as low as $26,395 at the entry level.









I am a man of Marmite

Not an ordinary sandwich – the secret ingredient is love!
Just kidding. The secret ingredient is Marmite.
That tarry brown paste/spread that falls into the ‘savoury’ category of food flavours, plus a new descriptor I learned: “umami“.

It is salty, and has a definite yeast taste (apparently it is made from by product of beer brewing). Aficionados advocate using it sparingly, rather than slathering it onto stuff peanut butter-style.

It is always described as an acquired taste, but here’s the thing: I bought some a few years ago to try (and mostly to frighten my coworkers with, as they didn’t have exotic tastes).

I tried some and didn’t fall in love with it at first, then forgot about it for a couple years.

Then yesterday while scheming up some meal plans, out of the blue I thought: “Hey! You know what would be great with this? Marmite! “, ran out and bought some and now I’m liking it.

I figure if you like flavours like capers or anchovies, you might enjoy it – and if not, you’ll have bought yourself a lifetime supply of it for about four bucks 🙂

Also, apparently it is loaded with B-complex vitamins!

Ripe Tomato Pizza on Whyte Ave

Here’s the Calabrese pizza, simple, spicy and a winner!

Hey! New foodery on Whyte Ave!

I happened across the grand opening of the new location today (not quite by accident, I’d seen the signs they’d put up along some of the boulevards around the neighborhood).

I am always down for good pizza, so here you go: grand opening of Ripe Tomato

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Their opening had a lineup out the door, obviously because of the tantalizing deal (two bucks for a nine-inch, choice of Calabrese or Margherita!), but check the menu and it doesn’t seem too bad even at regular prices.


2020 Lexus UX250h

Is this the best Lexus yet?

Well, no, that would be the LC500. Ha! You see what I did there? This is me demonstrating my gift for disingenuity, my friends, by pulling the ol’ bait-and-switch. Aren’t you glad you started reading this?

No, what I should have said is: is the 2019 UX 250h the best choice in a Lexus, from the standpoints of practicality, price and all-round usefulness for real people?

And yes, is the answer to that. Yes it is.

Introduced in January of this year as the newest Lexus utility vehicle, and priced with an entry-level buy-in (or at least, entry-level by Lexus standards), the UX is at the smaller end of the ever-expanding lineup of Lexii, which runs, with nameplates in order of size, GX, LX, RX and the just-slightly-bigger than this one, the NX which we saw here on the world’s finest website last year.

It is suitably ‘right-sized’ for urban use, with a footprint similar to a family sedan; but brings the higher ground clearance (you know how I loves me some ground clearance, living as I do in the land of curbs and speedbumps), as well as being an appropriate height for ease of entry/exit.

The body style of the UX allows for decent, if not enormous, cargo capacity, oh and hey!

It’s a hybrid! At least the one we’re looking at here is, pairing a 2.0L gasoline engine with possibly the best-regarded electric motor system in the world. The system outputs 175 net horsepower and put it to the wheels (all the wheels, mind you, as it is an AWD ute) via a CVT transmission.

(I’ll just interject here, that the one we’re are looking at here is a 2019, and being as it is all-new don’t expect huge changes for the new year, but I’ll point out that Lexus appears to have boosted the horsepower slightly – to 181hp – and added a couple of connectivity features. Here’s the deets).

The UX rides beautifully (and quietly), as anyone would expect from anything from Toyota’s luxury brand, and brings solid performance. It isn’t a sport machine, of course, but it the vehicle doesn’t lack or lag. Everything is easy to get used to from a driver’s standpoint, but where the new hybrid captures attention is the quality and feel of all the materials and surfaces.

It is quite a fashion statement, as well – check out the eye-catching upholstery. ‘Circuit Red’ leather adorns the seats contrasting with the black/dark dash treatment and futuristic look of the digital gauge cluster.

My test vehicle fleshed out the trappings with an F Sport 2 option group (and no, I don’t know what the F Sport 1 group might be). The option tacks another $8,800 to the bottom line, but truly finishes the package with everything one needs to call it a true luxury ride.

Among the major inclusions are a 3-Spoke F Sport steering wheel, (and for that matter, F Sport badges all over everything, everywhere), 8-speaker Enform 2.0 premium sound system, embedded navigation with three years of map updates included, a larger central information display (10.3”) parking assist, heated and ventilated front seats, smartphone charger and power tailgate.

The only downsides with the 2019 UX250h might be its overall size, but as mentioned, if you need a bigger premium utility vehicle, Lexus has a houseful of choices. There’s also the central interface touch-pad thing, which… well… you either like it or you don’t. Lexus gets a little better with their touchpad with every new generation of their vehicles, and at least the one in my test model now includes some buttons and a thumb-wheel for tuning the stereo.

The price is going to be a driver of sales for this vehicle as well. Don’t get me wrong, Lexus is never ‘cheap’ (in fact, if I were shopping for a ute like this, I’d probably opt for a fully-loaded RAV4 Hybrid, because money), but by premium-brand standards, this is not outrageous.

Starting at $39,700 for a base model, the one shown here, with F Sport 2 option package, came out at $50,697 and twenty-five cents, including freight and A/C charges and tire levy.

So, best Lexus yet? Maybe.