I may not have been a huge fan of the Starlink infotainment system in the 2014 Subaru Legacy, but those sweet Harman Kardon speakers made up for a lot.
Listed as standard equipment on the window sticker that came in our test car, the Harman Kardon cones were packed nine-deep into the Legacy 2.5i Limited and pushed out 440 watts of sound. Their performance was admirable.
I had said the unbranded factory speakers in the 2014 Subaru Forester I tested earlier this year put up a valiant effort when shot with the Love Gun, and I still think they did, but the Legacy’s Harman Kardon units simply blew those away in terms of cleanness of the sound at all levels. High frequencies remained crisp all the way up to the upper limits of the volume range, and bass sound was solid though not overbearing. Clearly, the goal was not to build-in a sound system that would thump like aftermarket stuff might allow. Instead, it gave me the same impression the Mark Levinson sound systems in many of our Lexus test cars did: The goal must have been to reproduce sound as faithfully as possible at every volume setting.
With that said, I don’t think the Harman Kardon speakers quite produced sound as cleanly as the Mark Levinson units in the last Lexus I tested. Coincidentally, the Scoob seemed to pump out a bit more volume than the Levinsons I’ve experienced. Hey, when your MSRP comes in at $29,813 — which is at least $10,000 cheaper than any Lexus I’ve tested this year — you pick your battles.
Another thing I liked — and a redeeming feature of the Starlink infotainment suite about which I was not thrilled — was a throwback to a simpler time: I could adjust the speakers’ tone on an old-school seven-band EQ! You’re lucky to get three measly bands — high, mid, and low — in most cars today. There were presets for several different types of listening material, from rock to jazz to talk. I didn’t necessarily agree with the rock preset’s EQ settings, which in my opinion placed too much emphasis on bass frequencies and made most of the songs on my USB test stick, which would fall within the rock category, sound muffled.
The best part about the EQ was the touchscreen’s ability to accept finger swipes for EQ adjustment. It was like the EQ in my mom’s old Nissan Maxima, only in digital form. Put your finger on the desired frequency and slide up or down to elicit the same motion from the setting itself. Great stuff. If the rest of Starlink’s features had been this easy to figure out, I would have come away loving the whole enchilada.
Disclosure: Subaru provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.