There were rumors of snow. I was unconcerned. I had the perfect car -- the 2002 Subaru GT Legacy Limited sedan.

I love Subaru, mostly because I'm a fan of common sense. Subaru easily trumps many rivals in that regard, beating them soundly in matters of utility, reliability and value.

Take the hype about all-wheel drive. Many car companies nowadays claim that their vehicles have it. But that boast is often no more than a marketing ruse. Their "all-wheel-drive" systems really are part-time traction-assistance devices that work only when the drive wheels are slipping.

Part-time traction assistance can help to move you through snow and rainstorms. But it usually isn't there for you on gravel roads or other dry but unimproved surfaces where good vehicle stability and handling are needed.

Other automakers offer "four-wheel-drive" systems that, for all intents and purposes, are really front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive. The four-wheel-drive feature, which does send power to all four wheels, is a manually operated, part-time deal that can be used only on wet or snow-covered pavement or on one of those rare off-road adventures.

Using some part-time four-wheel-drive systems on dry pavement can ruin your transmission and cost you big bucks. Consult your owner's manual or auto technician to make sure your part-time four-wheel-drive vehicle can be used under normal driving conditions.

Subaru gets rid of all of that confusion by making things simple. All Subaru vehicles sold in the United States, including the tested GT Legacy Limited sedan, are equipped with standard all-wheel drive that powers all four wheels all the time. No driver intervention is needed, and there is no danger of harming the transmission on smooth, dry roads.

The Subaru system is integrated into the drivetrain -- the engine and transmission -- as a matter of original intent. It is designed in, as opposed to being added on as a marketing afterthought.

In the case of the GT Legacy Limited, all-wheel drive is mated to a 2.5-liter, horizontally opposed 165-horsepower four-cylinder engine. A four-speed automatic transmission distributes power through the interaction of speed sensors and electronically controlled clutch plates.

Under normal circumstances, power is split equally between the front and rear wheels. But that 50-50 sharing changes under adverse driving conditions, allowing more power to be sent from slipping wheels to gripping wheels.

As is the case with most all-wheel-drive models -- vs. full-time four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicles -- there is no four-wheel low gear in the GT Legacy Limited sedan. That makes sense, too.

The four-wheel low gear is seldom needed in urban-suburban driving or on interstate highways. Four-wheel low mostly is used off-road.

Subaru's thinking is that it makes little sense to ask consumers to buy a feature t hat most of them will never need. I agree.

But when it comes to the GT Legacy Limited sedan, I disagree with critics who say that Subaru's interiors have a dime-store quality. That's a valid knock against the 270-horsepower Subaru Integra WRX pocket rocket, which is designed primarily for weekend racers who tend to care less about creature comforts. But it's not applicable to this week's test car.

The GT Legacy Limited came with standard heated front seats, leather seat coverings, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, six-speaker sound system with a dash-mounted CD player, pile carpeting, embroidered floor mats, heated mirrors and windshield, rear defroster, power windows and locks, and cruise control.

There were the requisite fake wood accents on the instrument panel and center console. But so what? At least Subaru didn't cut down trees just to make a car pretty.

I enjoyed driving the GT Legacy Limited. There was nothing pr tigious about the car. No one stopped to look at it in parking lots. No matter. Spending money to gain attention has never appealed to me. I prefer the peace of knowing that there's money in the bank. Compared with rival automakers, Subaru does a better job of providing that peace.