It was the second Sunday of May and the third day of rain. We drove past wet headstones and flowers marking mothers' graves. We were happy.

We've had lucky lives -- great parents, now gone; good educations; good jobs and wonderful children. On this day, by comparison, we felt lucky for the most mundane reason. We were in the right car, the 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Premium sedan.

Subaru, a subsidiary of Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries conglomerate, is much like a wise parent. It gives you everything you need -- well-constructed body; symmetrical all-wheel drive; a flat four-cylinder engine (one with horizontally opposed cylinders and a longitudinal layout) that enhances vehicle stability and handling; and reasonable fuel economy in a car that uses regular unleaded gasoline.

Subaru gives you little you don't need; or, put another way, Subaru vehicles are not fancy. They are not built to inspire envy. They are designed to reliably serve a family's transportation needs in a variety of climates on multiple road surfaces. That's especially true of the Impreza.

Since its introduction in 1994, the Impreza has eschewed beauty in pursuit of Subaru's primary goals. The company tried to change that approach for 2008. It did not succeed. The Impreza is no longer outright ugly. It is now mainstream common, bereft of any distinguishing eccentricities, like a parent who has switched from remarkably odd clothing to the latest outerwear from Sears.

You initially are grateful for the change. But you eventually miss the personality, however embarrassing, of what was.

Yet, love remains, as it does here with the Impreza. It's understandable. It's easy to love someone who cares about you. And it's easy to develop affection for a thing designed and built with love and consideration, as is the case with the Impreza.

We felt we had a friend, a guardian in all of that rain. The Impreza's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system was impressive, continuously sending power to all four wheels, pulling us over swamped roads and occasionally through muddy patches.

But readers should not construe our experience to mean it is wise to attempt traversing inundated roads simply because a vehicle is equipped with all-wheel drive. We, my wife Mary Anne and I, stayed away from roads under deep water.

Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is good, probably one of the best engineered for family vehicles. Unlike all-wheel-drive systems that have been adapted, essentially grafted onto an existing front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive package, the Subaru system is built from the ground up as all-wheel drive. It will get you through a lot. But it can't pull you through quicksand, or take you across a river or lake without a bridge.

But the Impreza can move you briskly through highway traffic in dry weather. The longitudinal layout of its engine lowers its center of gravity and improves handling. We're not talking about a particularly thrilling ride in this one. You will not be tempted to shout "Wow!" or "Whoopee!" when rounding a corner. But you will be pleased by the overall stability and competence of the car, including the surprising ability of its 170-horsepower engine.

The really good thing is that the Impreza is a solid "stand by me" car. It gets the job done. It will not let you down. It is a standout in some respects, most notably its all-wheel-drive system. It is fairly ordinary in others, most notably its exterior and interior styling and its aging four-speed automatic transmission.

We can live with those deficits the same way we lived with parents who weren't always perfect, but who were always there when we needed them. We should all be so very, very lucky.