There’s just something about Subaru that doesn’t appeal to the general public. That’s fine for company fans, though, who appreciate the rally history, turbocharged performance and all-wheel drive. When trying to build sales, though, sometimes you have to broaden your sights.
|1. The Legacy 2.5GT borrows the WRX’s turbocharged 2.5-liter making 265-hp and 258 ft-lbs of torque.
2. Combined with a 6-speed manual it can hit 60 mph in under six seconds and gets 18/25-mpg (city/hwy).
3. Pricing starts at $27,995 for the Limited trim.
4. Those wanting added performance but who don’t want the bother of the manual transmission should opt for the 3.6R model with 256-hp, 247 ft-lbs of torque and the same 18/25-mpg rating.
Now it’s the 2010 Legacy’s turn. It takes careful aim at the mainstream, targeting the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. In an effort to bring its size in line with its Japanese rivals, Subaru stretched the sedan in every direction. The increased space is aimed at improving cabin room while easing access to the rear seats. The second row went from cramped to comfortable, thanks also to sculpted front seat-backs and longer rear doors that widen the gap available to climb in.
The all-wheel-drive Legacy is powered by a familiar mix of boxer engines, the most interesting of which is the turbocharged 265-hp 2.5-liter in the hot-handling GT. Unlike the smooth six-cylinder version, this pressurized powerplant reminds us of why Subarus appeal to our baser instincts. The rush of torque – a fat 258 ft-lbs from 2000-5200 rpm – kindles memories of the Subaru rally legends, but the experience feels more filtered than in previous generations.
The all-wheel drive system uses a viscous-type center differential that nominally splits power 50:50 front to rear. If it detects any slippage, the power’s route changes appropriately. Fuel efficiency is merely average at 18/25 mpg city/hwy and premium fuel is required.
You’d be worried that inflating its size would affect on-road performance, but the Legacy handles all conditions with aplomb, and is probably the best handling car in the class. The steering is light, but direct, the body is controlled in corners, and it feels rock-solid on highways and backroads
The 2.5 GT is the only engine not available with a CVT or automatic, meaning you have to row the six gears yourself. Shift quality is good and clutch take-up is smooth, while the pedals are well spaced to enjoy proper heel-toe downshifts.
Style-wise, the new Legacy blends many current design cues floating around the market to create a handsome if slightly forgettable design. You’ll find bits of Infiniti, Lexus and Saturn in the crisp sides and arched rooflines. Thankfully, Subaru keeps its traditional tall greenhouse that’s easy to see out of.
The cabin falls into the generic-modern segment. Cover the badges and you could be in a Mazda, Hyundai, Suzuki... The materials are a step up from before, and the equipment on hand is in line with the class. The front seats are comfortable, and every Legacy now includes tilt and telescoping steering.
The 2.5 GT Premium starts at $27,995 and includes 18-inch multi-spoke wheels, dual exhaust and a functional hoodscoop, along with a four-speaker audio system, manual climate control, 10-way power seats, a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel and silver metallic trim. Spec a moonroof for $995 or a nine-speaker harmon/kardon audio system for $995.
Stepping up to the $29,995 2.5 GT Limited brings wood trim, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, and the aforementioned upgraded stereo. The only option is a moonroof/GPS with Bluetooth package for $2,995.
Oddities? A few. The plasti-wood in the up-level Limited models is an insult to trees. The antenna for the Sirius satellite radio isn’t on the roof where you would expect to find it – it’s a large, black blister stuck inside the windshield.
Also, the button for the useful hill-hold system is ambiguously labeled and sits just above the trunk release button, which is labeled ‘HOLD’. How many new Legacy owners will drive around with their trunks open on hilly streets by mistake?
While the competition isn’t what it was before – the MazdaSpeed6 is no more, and the Ford Fusion Sport is the only rival available with all-wheel drive and a modicum of performance – overall, Subaru has created a very successful update of the Legacy. It’s familiar to those who were already fans, but its increased size and reduced price will certainly appeal to those shopping the Honda/Nissan/Toyota triangle.