After spending a week circumnavigating the country in a pair of BMW sedans on One Lap of America a couple of weeks back, you might think that the drive home to Detroit from South Bend would've been a bit of a disappointment. On the contrary, we were glad to see our long-term 2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT, and have been so every day since then. Not that we didn't enjoy the 550i (2010 model) or remember why we absolutely love the 335d, but there's a lot to be said for simplicity over unnecessary complication.
For one, the cruise control switchgear on the steering wheel spoke in the Subie is infinitely easier to use than the hidden stalk on the Bimmers. The Legacy's arrangement is a model of ergonomic excellence, whereas the BMW necessitated that we give step-by-step how-to directions to our co-drivers from the back seat. Repeatedly.
And don't even get us started on the differences in navigation systems. While the 2.5GT's is far from perfect, its touchscreen is still much easier to negotiate than either of the two generations of iDrive we experienced in the BMWs – much improved though they are. We do wish that higher functions (address entry, etc.) could be accessed on the move – at least when there is more than one person in the car. Why can't automakers learn that this safety 'feature' should have an automatic override tied to the passenger seat weight sensor that's already there to govern airbag deployment?
Did we mention how much we like the utterly intuitive dual-zone HVAC controls? Crisp display, a couple of rockers and a handful of buttons – it's simplicity itself.
One area where our Subaru is arguably oversimplified is with its sunroof controls: It has two single-function switches – one for tilt, and one for slide open/close. Unless it's a small cost win, we can't see why there isn't a unified dual function switch as on most other cars. At least they are differentiated in look and feel for less fumbling about.