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2010 Subaru Legacy and Outback and 2010 Ford Fusion twin test drive (updated, includes new Legacy and Subaru Outback test drives)

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Test drove a new 2010 Subaru Legacy base and 2010 Ford Fusion SE today. Both with four cylinder and manual trans. Since I rarely finish what i start, I will try to just be more brief than usual. Since I drove them back to back it is interesting to have them to compare to each other.

First off, the 2010 Ford Fusion SE. 2.5l 4 6 speed manual trans. The car was not equipped with the 18" wheels and Monochrome sport package and what i presume to be tighter suspension. I was disappointed that I could not try that. I have driven the 2010 Fusion this exact way before but figured it would be ok to drive it again.

The Fusion is a known commodity and everyone I think will agree that the 2010 styling and interior updates have helped. Also I think everyone would agree that at least in lower trim levels the FU sion is a good value. My test car had cloth seats and a dark interior. The exterior is familiar and new at the same time. In my eyes the 17" steel wheels with caps on this tester look cheap. Overall the car looks worlds better with real aluminum wheels.

The interior is a product of the last gen FUsion so the center stack controls are too low, but the new climate control and radio shared with the Focus and Escape while taking a bit of time to learn, are nicely laid out. I don't like the new gauges although they read fine. The steering wheel is typical Ford. Dash plastics are mid pack and the center high storage cubby remains. The seat cloth looks cheap but certain no more or less cheap than on say, a Malibu. The seats themselves are shaped extremely well for comfort and support although I thought the padding could be more consistent. The door panels are ok and that's about it. I think the Altima (which i rented recently) has slightly better interior quality even if I thought the Altima's look is getting long in the tooth. The Fusion does have a cockpit feel to it. Interior space is probably mid pack in this class.

So as far as the test drive, I felt the new 2.5 engine was a revvable, willing performer with a decent torque spread and not unruly. I will comment on the Legacy later, but where the Legacy's boxer growled with noise at higher rpm, you couldn't really feel it through into the car. The FUsion growled a bit a lower rpms and smoothed out at mid range and higher and had less engine NOISE than the Legacy. But you felt more of it through the car. The Legacy was quieter and more refined at lower rpms, and even though you would hear the boxer growl when you revved it, you didn't really feel it was straining in doing so.

Both engines had similar power for the most part except I felt the Fusion had a wider torque band and revved easier and maybe had a little more top end. I got caught with my pants down in too high a gear in the Legacy and in this regard it seemed to me the Fusion's gearbox was spaced better and matched up better to the torque band of its engine. The Fusion's gearbox was snick snick nice and while initially letting out the clutch felt a bit sloppy compared to the Legacy, overall the play between the clutch and shifter was nice on the Fusion. I would not call it top drawer, just very decent. While the Altima i rented a few weeks back had the CVT which by the way was very well matched, I would say the Altima probably had an advantage in power and refinement on the Fusion's engine as well. Overall noise level at constant cruise was not too bad but aurally you knew it was a 4 cylinder and again the Altima CVT had an advantage in this regard. I almost have begun to come back around to the idea that a v6 is indeed a must in this class of car for full satisfaction.

The steering felt a bit mushy on the FUsion and slightly disconnected but not at all what i would term 'mushy'. The ride was average and initial bump compliance was not plush but not harsh. If i compare to the Altima I drove as a rental I would definitely prefer the Altima in ride and roll stiffness and agility. Steering also too but only because it felt more responsive. This is all why I was bummed out to not drive the monochrome sport pack equipped model.

Visibility out of the Fusion is probably a B. There is some limited restriction and therefore not as panoramic as the Legacy and Altima.

I think the FUsion is greatly improved over prior years and is class competitive. It does nothing in the guise I drove it to stand out in a good way, or a bad way. In this regard it simply comes down to whether you like the styling, interior, price, reputation, or dealer. I don't think anyone who gets one would feel cheated out of their money, but I just remember back to when i leased my 500 back in late 05 and drove both the Fusion and the 500 and decided on the 500. Its the same way now with the Fusion and the Taurus. After my test drive I went and sat in a new 010 Taurus and marveled at the next level of nice the car provides....it really reminds you that while the midsizers provide a lot of amenities and space and value, there is still a mid pack sort of execution about this class of car that always reminds you of its cost constraints. The Fusion is the car of the year, but really doesn't register as anything out of the ordinary.. Its simply fitting in, and fitting in without incident.

Edited by regfootball
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The Legacy I tested was a 2.5i base with steel wheels and hubcaps and manual trans, tan interior. I have not been much of a Subie fan in the past except for admiring their all wheel drive and decent value pricing and quality of build. But all the things I hated about the last gen Legacy have been adressed on this model. For one, the car is human sized now and usable for a family who need size in their interior, and on this count it really delivers, the cabin is commodious in leg room, head room, girth and back seat room (which is palatial).

Secondly they designed a car pleasing to the mainstream buyer's eye. The new Legacy is an attractive car and yet fully distinctive as a Subaru at the same time. Even men! will like the looks of this car. They got rid of the ear slicer frameless doors and put normal window frame doors on it. I will express a concern for the lack of heft of the sheetmetal and window frames and other aspects on this cars' shell. Subaru kept the weight down on this large car, and I fear that perhaps the car may seem like it may not have some of its pieces feel substantial like say, a Buick Lucerne. You should probably say they 'optimized' the heft of many of the parts of the skin of this car and leave it at that.

Third, the interior is a nice place to be. In addition to being huge and having great panoramic visibility, the textures of the plastic and feel of the cloth and touch points are very nice. The armrests are padded (hello malibu) and the seats are comfortable. Very comfy. The steering wheel feels nice and the gauges were not cheap looking like the Fusion. The radio is up where GOD intended it (up high in your sight lines) and the center stack is nicely done and the silver accents look nice and everything seemed logical and easy to use. Big demerits from me on the power mirror switches on the lower dash, these should be on the door. For the bread and butter mid size class this interior is a winner. (The new Sonata interior is very nice also but not as simple and elegant as this). My daughter was in the back and she seemed far away as she did when I had my 500 which had so much rear seat room....the Legacy is one of the cars to get in this class if rear seat accomodations mean anything to you. A neat feature which i have not seen before, there was an indicator on the dash even with the manual trans, to tell you what gear you were in! I had not seen that before! By the way, this car is very easy to get in and out of, but it does ride a bit low, too.

OK, the drive. Short and sweet, while not widely apart, I think the Subaru has the overall edge in driver feel compared to the Fusion. Steering is a bit more natural with more feel and less slop. Its not sporting by any means, and feels a bit lacking in heft, but it just felt a little more refined. Same thing with NVH, aside from what i noted above, the Legacy had a little easier disposition in point to point driving and mindless cruising than the Fusion. It really only I think had a disadvantage in torque in some situations getting caught in too high of a gear, the torque was not as much to lessen your sin. Once you learned which gears to be in I think it would be fine. Passing power then would be dependent on which gear you were in, and putting up with momentary growling (but not vibration) from the boxer. I think the Legacy maybe turned a few less rpms at cruising speed in 6th but maybe it only sounded that way. The Fusion had the better shifter, as the Legacy's was rubbery (a common subaru problem I have found) and notchy and finding gears was a problem. I blew a lot of shifts in the Legacy, and none in the Fusion. I did admit that after adjusting to the Legacy's shifter I was starting to find it smoother and was on the path to learning the gates better and dealing with its notchiness and vagueness and slop. It just isn't snick snick out of the box and probably needed to break in some more. The clutch was a little nicer in terms of release but perhaps not as fluid as the Fusion's when on the fly. The ride comfort was good and there was not the thumping on bumps you'd get a bit on the Fusion. I think it seemed to corner somewhat ok, remember i had steelies and cheap tires. Again, there was just a bit more refinement in all the driving behavior of the Legacy, just a bit.

Overall, driving these two cars and comparing them against my 2010 Altima rental a few weeks ago....it just is amazing how similar and close all these cars are. And I also will note I have test driven many other recent competitors in this segment...the current Accord, the Malibu (Aura/G6 as well), Passat, Galant......

I should comment on the all wheel drive. I did not feel at any time during the drive like there was additional lag or lack of response on the system or driveline slop or added heft from having the all wheel drive. Everything was tight in that regard.

Since this is a GM site this is the part where I confirm that yes indeed the Malibu can stand in good company with all these cars and not look down.

so who won this drive off?

Edited by regfootball
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So simply to the judge the two cars I drove today I will first say that anyone who buys either car can say they bought a good car and defend the decision to anyone. Both cars for the price are good cars. If I were trying to represent the buying public instead of myself I should have tested the CVT Legacy and the 6 speed auto Fusion. But based upon what I drove, I would give an Edge to the Legacy.

I feel the slight edge it has in refinement, and the rather noticeable edge it has in interiors and space and visibility, with the X factor of all wheel drive.......I think for me (especially being a big Ford fan and having 5 Fords in the last 15 years) its tough to admit but I do think the Legacy is the better car.

What's interesting then is to now go and factor all the other competitors in this class into the mix and see where the Legacy and Fusion end up.

I do know this. I did like my Altima rental and can say that even though the car felt dated in terms of packaging in styling and just the familiarity factor, it was a tight car that is probably in the upper tier of the cars in the class.

I also know the GM epsilon cars with the ecotec are good cars..the ecotec is peppier than most of the other four cylinders and the car has a personality that some of the other cars lack.

The Accord is quality vanilla. Made well, and its just a matter if you can deal with the crappy dash and ugly sheetmetal.

The Passat is the car someone concerned with 'driver's refinement' will gravitate to, but why not just get the CC then and get some style with your car?

Its been awhile since i had my Galant loaners....they did lack refinement but did have good handling and ride quality and had big time cabin room. If you are forced into one and can deal with the plasticky interior and you get it cheap its a decent car.

I now almost feel like I need to have a Mazda6 test but at the same time I never see glowing reviews on its driving dynamics so I have sense of urgency to try it since I think its styling is generic outside and feminine inside.

The Kizashi is my latest intrigue since it promises more fun and sharper reflexes and I have sat inside one and it is up to par for the class. That may be my next test, that or the 011 Sonata which boasts lots of things to make a case for being the hot new kid on the block.

I would have to say that it is next to impossible to say any one of the cars in this class is a standout, much less a leader.

WHich is why this country is great. Let the buyer pick the favorite. In this case, I am not sure I can even pick but today at least between the two cars I pick the Legacy. I need to try a CVT Legacy back to back with the really good Nissan CVT. The Outback CVT I drove I felt was pretty good but not up 100% to the power level and overally order in which the Nissan CVT ran. Most buyers will be comparing the Nissan CVT to the Subaru one and I think while the Subaru is newer fresher entry with a nicer interior it might only be ahead of the Altima because of that because the Altima might have a slight performance edge. I am sure the Honda is in this company. I think the Fusion's interior, slight lack of refinement and slightly mushy steering and handling demerits it in the 4 cylinder class, even if the automatic version helps its performance. The Malibu's personality helps it a lot in this class and to be truthful I need to go flog one again to refresh my mental notes more on its handling although I don't recall the ride being too bad on it. From what I recall the Malibu is not deficient really dynamically in a big way.

I had thought for me the Fusion was a bit of a slam dunk but now I have to admit I am going to go back and evaluate the Malibu again. While the Altima felt dated to me it was a good drive. Liking the Subaru makes it tough also. And the Kizashi promising to have driving fun makes it even harder.

Note: I did not and will not be testing any Camry's. I have two young children and if I am going to wrap a vehicle around a telephone pole its going to be a ZR1, not a camry.

Edited by regfootball
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lastly, the commonality of all the cars in this segment, and their relative lack of sportiness really has me anticipating the Buick Regal EVEN MORE now.

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I like the Legacy, too. It's a bit like Janet Reno when you look at it, big, muscular, no-nonsense, with a serious look on its face, but its combination of mechanical attributes (I love the growl of the boxer engine) has me intrigued. Local dealer has a few manual Legacies and at least one manual Outback. I am thinking strongly of testing one out myself. Even though the CVT has better MPG ratings than the manual, I tend to prefer the driving involvement of a manual transmission, and I really do not like the feel of a CVT.

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The CVT as i tested in the Outback was not horrible, but at the same time its not as good as the latest gen Nissans. As far as manuals go, all the Subarus I have tested are vague and rubbery (the foresters is reprehensible) but the Legacy seemed at least the best of the Subarus and would probably loosen up over time. Its definitely not snick snick like a Honda, or snap click like good european cars.

What concerns me is these automakers still attempt to satisfy the manual market (Subaru makes more attempts than a lot of them) don't add 2 + 2 to get something besides a plain AT car with a simple MT substituted. Really if they are going to offer the stick then give it quicker steering and sharper reflexes and tighter suspension.

Subarus new CVT does get great real world mpg if the people in edmunds are to be believed.

Actually blu what concerns me with regards to the new Subarus and yourself is that they might have grown to be larger cars than I think you normally like. The Legacy feels like a BIG car. Not a heavy big car, but it does feel big. I'd be sure also to test one with the premium pack with alum wheels and better tires.

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The CVT as i tested in the Outback was not horrible, but at the same time its not as good as the latest gen Nissans. As far as manuals go, all the Subarus I have tested are vague and rubbery (the foresters is reprehensible) but the Legacy seemed at least the best of the Subarus and would probably loosen up over time. Its definitely not snick snick like a Honda, or snap click like good european cars.

What concerns me is these automakers still attempt to satisfy the manual market (Subaru makes more attempts than a lot of them) don't add 2 + 2 to get something besides a plain AT car with a simple MT substituted. Really if they are going to offer the stick then give it quicker steering and sharper reflexes and tighter suspension.

Subarus new CVT does get great real world mpg if the people in edmunds are to be believed.

Actually blu what concerns me with regards to the new Subarus and yourself is that they might have grown to be larger cars than I think you normally like. The Legacy feels like a BIG car. Not a heavy big car, but it does feel big. I'd be sure also to test one with the premium pack with alum wheels and better tires.

took a spin in a MT Outback today, and a CVT Legacy.

The MT in an outback feels weird because you sit higher. But, for this 'type' of vehicle, the MT works well. Some of my old comments regarding the MT on the Legacy apply, a tish rubbery although it felt better this time. Throws are long and the shifter is bit far away. Subaru sells a short throw shifter as an option. I am not sure why its not standard. For some reason this time the 6M felt like I could find the gates easier and overall the clutch is light easy to use and it accelerates nicely for a big wagon (outback used to be small!). Anyone who wants a CUV with a stick will be satisfied.

I have tested a Kia Sorento with stick as well and to be honest neither is a sport sedan and in their own way they are each attractive. I don't think much separates an MT Outback vs an MT Sorento. I think the Sorento has a higher seating position and more interior and cargo space (excepting rear leg room). The Sorento sits higher.

The Sorento can be had equally equipped for less money and this perhaps would tip the scales in its favor.

Here is the glitch with the MT Subaru.

The Outback in 6th runs 2500-2700 rpm in 6th at highway speeds.

I tested the Legacy with CVT. While not as aggressive on lauch or kickdown as the CVT in the Altima, it works well for a CVT.

And I think for most drivers it accomplishes two things.....quicker launch and up to 60 then shifting yourself.......

And much lower cruising rpm's at speed, especially above 60 mph. I was over 70 mph and it wasn't even at 2,000 rpm sometimes. A lot of the time in the 60 mph range i swore it said like 1600-1700 rpm on the tach.

And if you needed more grunt, tap the gas and it got up to the appropriate rpm pretty quickly without the momentum you would lose shifting yourself.

3rd with the stick was a good acceleration gear on the Outback. 4th was not as gutsy as I thought it should be. The Outback will go fast if you use 3rd a lot. If you upshift more often and try to keep the revs down, I think the CVT may be faster overall for someone who is not a rabid manual freak.

Both the Legacy and Outback feel wide and large. Outback felt heavy, too. Maybe the added height does that.

That is the main tradeoff between the Legacy and Outback. The Outback does actually feel bigger and heavier when in reality its not that much heavier. Neither car felt 'nimble'. The Legacy does not feel numb, it did fine being wound up on the cloverleaf and stayed relatively flat without flopping too much. The Mazda6 is more polished all around in that regard. The Accord has more reflexes. If you nail the gas with the Subaru on the cloverleaf and the CVT downshifts fast it can really launch you and test the suspension.

The Legacy is no sport sedan but it avoids being a floater. Call it the middle ground. There is an element of softness or cush to the Legacy and Outback that just might keep them from being considered by anyone who has some standard in the ride and handling of the car they drive. Yet, it probably does a good job of benchmarking the vehicle dynamics of a family friendly car in 2010. Goldilocks might call it just right. There is no bump harshness or excessive noise, it is a bit of a floater but not much.

To revisit some interior thoughts with the Subaru. Cabin space has no deficiency. Armrest and console are nicely place and the center stack layout is nice top to bottom but it seems like a random mess of buttons to some I would think. Gauges are laid out exceptionally well but are a bit small. The mpg gauge gets ripped a lot judging by edmunds user comments....and yeah it provides no useful information in the moment. Visibility in the Legacy is superb. The outback has some restriction with the tall rear opening and the side glass being a bit small.

Touch points and plastic are generally agreeable. The black interior is a bit deadly compared to the tan. But neither is suicide inspiring like the Mazda6 with black interior. The door armrests are nicely padded and dashtop feels nice too. There is enough detail and lines and surfaces and materials that I think it was pulled off ok.

Some of the controls were hard to locate and find. Power mirror switch is on the dash and its a bit strange. E-brake on the dash is in a weird spot. Give points to the heated seat controls in a good spot by the armrest. Steering wheel is a bit ugly and clunky but the size of it is nice and not a hula hoop.

Probably the biggest sin about the Subarus is the seats. Front driver seat has a soft squishy bottom and no shape. Its like going back to the 70's, no support, spongy padding. The density of the backrest almost feels quite a bit firmer and there are shape issues there as well. At least the power seat has a lot of adjustment potential and this can help. But, 'bucket seat' does not apply. This feel more like a one person bench seat for really fat wide assed people who want to sink into the carpet. I would say the seating is the biggest interior flaw on the Subarus.

I would lean to the Legacy with CVT. I would not discourage a MT driver from getting one (and maybe adding the short throw shifter). But I think MT drivers might prefer the Mazda6. The Mazda6 just feels a little lighter (not carrying the AWD). It's probably the quietest in the segment has the most composed chassis and polished feel, and the seats are better. The Mazda's big knock aside from the death interior is that at least in the MT version, it runs over 3000 rpm in 6th at interstate speeds and likely gets poor mpg. I think if you prefer the interior of the Subaru and are ok with the ride and handling and seats in the Subaru its defensible. The fusion is another highly comparable car. Having driven all three in MT form, it really comes down to personal preference if you like MT.

Whoops, forgot, the Sonata with MT is pretty darn nice to drive. Its just got some extra cabin noise they need to tune out. It does ride and handle nicer than the Legacy, although not by much. I might choke on words here and give it the win for MT folks in spite of the cabin noise, which is much less on the MT sonata than on the automatic. Style points and warranty give it the prize. Brother Optima is coming out soon, and I am waiting.

I think if you like automatics but are scared off of the CVT I can say the Altimas is very good but personally putting close to 1000 miles on a 2010 Altima rental with CVT earlier this year and only getting 27mpg I fail to see the point, when the new Hyundai Sonata has lights out highway rating with a normal 6 speed. This is where I think the Subaru if you like the AWD and the styling you probably may prefer the CVT over the MT. It will get better mpg and its performance is done well enough that I don't think to many people will dislike it at all. Its super quiet at highway speeds, quieter than the MT. I would encourage anyone who likes the Subaru to drive a couple other competitors and then decide if they like the CVT and if the X factor of AWD is important. The AWD is almost transparent in the Subaru but some folks won't want it. My point is overall, I think the Legacy although a bit soft in many ways and with the still unique CVT is among the top entries of the class in the 'midsize' family segment.

A somewhat rambling segment, but i think you'll all sort of get what I mean.

Edited by regfootball
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I do find it odd that the earliest Subaru review, I found the seats 'comfortable' and today the bottom cushions felt super soft.

This time it was more than a quick jaunt. Maybe that was enough additional time to help it go soft. Or, I'm getting fat again and sinking in more. HMMMMMMMMMM

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lastly, the commonality of all the cars in this segment, and their relative lack of sportiness really has me anticipating the Buick Regal EVEN MORE now.

RIght after I test drove the Subies again today I was at the buick dealer for a half an hour sitting inside a new Regal and now I am more convinced than before that as nice as all the midsizers are, the Regal really hits the sweet spot at least with the interior and the packaging. But I am not going to torture myself by test driving one unless I can ever afford to get into one.

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I like the Legacy, too. It's a bit like Janet Reno when you look at it, big, muscular, no-nonsense, with a serious look on its face, but its combination of mechanical attributes (I love the growl of the boxer engine) has me intrigued. Local dealer has a few manual Legacies and at least one manual Outback. I am thinking strongly of testing one out myself. Even though the CVT has better MPG ratings than the manual, I tend to prefer the driving involvement of a manual transmission, and I really do not like the feel of a CVT.

going back and revisiting your quote here, your train of thought works well for your choice. The MT in the Subaru I don't think would disappoint you and for you would IMO be the better choice, and that is what is beautiful in this case, Subaru gives you the choice. It's too bad the shifter throws are soooo long.

Sales dude I spoke to has a 2010 outback with 6MT.....he's had sticks for 15 years and said in spite of mpg he still got the stick and he's been totally happy with it. It still gets really good mpg for this type of vehicle and he said saving the 1000 bucks it takes like 7 years of driving to make the payback on that grand on the worse mpg.....sounds like something a true stick fan would reason in their head....lol.

Edited by regfootball
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RIght after I test drove the Subies again today I was at the buick dealer for a half an hour sitting inside a new Regal and now I am more convinced than before that as nice as all the midsizers are, the Regal really hits the sweet spot at least with the interior and the packaging. But I am not going to torture myself by test driving one unless I can ever afford to get into one.

Regal's seats are sooo nice. Very supportive and very German. Nice leather, too... way nicer than the shiny, plasticky stuff on the Malibu.

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Regal's seats are sooo nice. Very supportive and very German. Nice leather, too... way nicer than the shiny, plasticky stuff on the Malibu.

that statement is completely accurate. that German Opel leather looks and feels nice and has a great smell. The seats are amazing.

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"If subaru wants to be taken seriously, they need to get of the cladding." ;)

or sell the Legacy wagon.....

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the Mazda6 wagon is a little sleeker.

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But the BUICK is the wagon I want.....

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Regal wagon's trunk opening is like Audi, it widens out on top of the bumper.

Refocusing on Subaru for a moment. While overall the Subaru is not as high up the food chain as the new Regal, at least it can be had in some forms closer to 20k than 30k. I think that is pretty good that they were still able to manage that.

I'm liking the 6 and the last one....

that last photo, it really strikes me as a perfect job straddling the wagon and hatch line. looks great like a hatch, while being functional like a wagon. Dodge Magnum pulled that off incredibly.

Subaru had to style the Legacy wagon more like a wagon / truck since it shares body with the Outback.

edit, that regal wagon, don't take a tap on the rear hatchback / bumper........

Edited by regfootball
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The Legacy lost me with its current redesign. It foregone everything I loved about the previous generation, especially in the design department.

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