2013 Subaru Legacy Review

An obvious choice, but only if you need AWD

2013 Subaru Legacy Review
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Subaru is a brand that caters to lovers, lovers of Birkenstocks and bran muffins that is. In a lot of ways the company’s vehicles are as quirky as its certified-organic customers.

FAST FACTS

1. The Legacy is offered with two different engines: a 173 hp 4-cylinder or an optional 256-horsepower flat six.

2. All Subarus with the exception of the BRZ sports coupe come standard with full-time all-wheel drive.

3. The Subaru Legacy was rated a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

4. Rated at 24 mpg city, 32 highway, in AutoGuide testing the Legacy 2.5i Limited delivered impressive real-world fuel economy at 27 mpg.

The Japanese automaker spurns convention by utilizing boxer engines and pushing full-time all-wheel drive. The Legacy is its entry into the fiercely competitive midsize-sedan segment, but does this whole-grain family car have the starch to compete with market heavyweights?

In a word, no. Sorry Subaru fans, the Legacy is not the greatest thing since sliced bread. It lacks the Honda Accord’s sophistication, the stellar fuel economy of the Nissan Altima or the avant-garde design of the new Ford Fusion. That’s not to say it’s a poor choice; the Legacy has its share of virtues, but these other cars offer more.

COMPREHENSIVE COMPETITION

The Accord is the incumbent, an unfaltering choice with a long track record of reliable service. It offers advanced features and driving dynamics the Legacy can’t match, plus buyers can opt for a sporty coupe model if they prefer two doors.

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The Altima is a solid third-party candidate, think Ross Perot but politically successful. Efficiency is the cornerstone of its platform. While the Legacy delivers admirable numbers, 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the open road, Nissan blows it away with a highway score of 38 MPG. Of course the Subaru comes standard with all-wheel drive, a feature that reduces efficiency, and isn’t available on the Altima, or Accord.

The Fusion is an ambitious up-and-comer looking to steal a seat in the Sedan Senate; charismatic design is its biggest draw. In comparison the Legacy looks downright dowdy, about as exciting a competitive quilting competition. BYOT (bring your own thimble)!

IT’S WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS


But it’s not all bad news, things improve dramatically once you open a door and slide inside. Unlike much of the competition this car’s dashboard is crafted of hard plastic, but you’d never know it unless you prod it with a digit or drum a fingernail across it. It’s a tastefully grained, high-quality piece of engineering.
 
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The overall interior design is unexpectedly fashionable as well, given how frumpy the Legacy’s body is. Fit and finish is superb and the front seats are Lay-Z-Boy comfortable, just be careful not to doze off behind the wheel.

In addition, the second row is surprisingly spacious, with ample legroom for even the gangliest of passengers. An added bonus, front or rear there’s practically enough headroom to wear a sombrero.

Headliner-mounted grab handles are provided for all outboard passengers, including the driver, which is a thoughtful and welcome touch, something that most automakers omit.

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Interior downsides are few, and they center on some of the secondary controls. The navigation and climate systems can be challenging to use, especially the sat-nav. It’s not one of the more common-sense technologies on the market today.

UNDER-HOOD HARDWARE

As its name implies, the Legacy 2.5i is powered by a two-and-a-half-liter boxer four-cylinder engine. This thrumming powerplant serves up 173 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, two class-competitive figures.

Our test car was equipped with the company’s “Lineartronic” CVT, the only transmission offered on higher-end models fitted with the 2.5-liter engine. Entry-level Legacies come standard with a six-speed manual cog-crate, something that should be offered on all trim levels. Cars equipped with the up-level 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine are only available with a conventional five-speed automatic transmission.

On paper, CVTs deliver the best combination of performance and fuel economy by keeping a car’s engine in its sweet spot relative to driver demand. Unfortunately, theory and reality can be very different things as demonstrated by this engine/transmission combination.

The Legacy’s boxer-four is by no means a pleasant-sounding powerplant. It’s always grumbling, albeit quietly, as it goes about its business. The engine’s CVT cohort only exacerbates the thrum, adding in its own whirring soundtrack.

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Full-throttle stints are particularly unpleasant, bringing out the worst of this mismatched duet. Stand on the accelerator pedal and the engine revs to about 5800 rpm, parking itself there until the driver backs off. This wouldn’t be an issue if it sounded like a 5.0-liter Mustang, but it doesn’t. The noise it makes can be likened to a Sasquatch gargling barbecue sauce. A proper stepped-gear transmission would go a long way to improving the drive.

Performance isn’t that impressive, either. At wide-open throttle the car seeps ahead, seemingly at the speed of absorption – like a sponge soaking up water.

From an NVH (noise vibration and harshness) standpoint the Legacy’s powertrain is disappointing but observed fuel-economy was downright impressive. As indicated by its onboard consumption computer the car returned an even 27 miles per gallon even after a full week of lead-footed driving. That number perfectly matches the EPA’s combined score. Other automakers may be falling short in this area, but thank you Subaru for delivering on your promises.

PUTTING IT ALL IN MOTION

Engine noise and CVT flaccidity notwithstanding, the Legacy is generally pleasant to drive. Its steering system performs directional duties without drama – the wheel’s weighting is decent as is its road feel. The ride, though, is another thing entirely, as it’s quite firm for a family car, giving it a cautiously sporty feel.

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Maybe that extra stiffness is because the Legacy, like all Subarus with the exception of the BRZ coupe, comes standard with full-time all-wheel-drive. This gives the car a healthy dose of confidence, especially in inclement winter weather. It’s a major reason to consider purchasing one – or any Subaru for that matter.

Speaking of low temperatures and snowy roads, the Legacy has a couple of interesting quirks when it comes to cold conditions. The engine seems to take forever to warm up, even in 40-degree weather. During testing the temperature gauge wouldn’t reach the center of its sweep for at least 15 minutes of driving. Cool air would blow from its vents most of the way. Other vehicles warm up in about a third of the time, but the Legacy played it cool.

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Along that line, the seat heaters were equally sluggish.  Even on their “High” setting the butt-cookers took their sweet-ass time to put off any warmth.  A quarter-hour would tick by before any serious BTUs emerged from the leather-clad chairs.

BRING YOUR CHECKBOOK

Our high-brow Legacy 2.5i Limited test car stickered for a few hundred bucks less than 31 grand, including $770 worth of destination and delivery charges. Its pricing is right in line with other midsize sedans, including the ones mentioned at the top of this review.

The car only featured one option package, but it inflated the base MSRP by a handsome sum – nearly $4,000. Included in that bundle were a power moonroof, a navigation system and the company’s EyeSight Driver-Assist System, something that added adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and pre-collision braking, among other things.

Ideally, the extra EyeSight feature would be separate, allowing those who demand maximum safety (the car will literally stop itself at speeds below 20 mph if an collision is seen as imminent) to have it… at a cost.

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THE VERDICT

The Legacy is a solid midsize sedan. It offers a spacious, comfortable interior, decent driving dynamics and a surprisingly efficient powertrain.

But these virtues aren’t enough to hide the fact that it feels dated, and the current model has only been on the market for a few years. This just goes to show you how competitive the automotive industry is, the midsize-sedan segment in particular.

You can’t fault someone for buying a Legacy, full-time all-wheel drive is its standout feature and something that’s immensely helpful to drivers in snowy climates. Subaru also has a strong track record of reliability and safety, two things that cannot be ignored. But if all-wheel drive isn’t mission-critical there are better choices on the market today.
 

LOVE IT
  • Real-world fuel economy
  • Comfortable seats
  • Spacious cabin
LEAVE IT
  • Drowsy design
  • Uninspired powertrain
  • CVT = Continuously Vexing Transmission

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  • OCaptainMyCaptain

    Wow, V6 eh?  Those are some accurate facts right there…
    This article has to be some of the worst subjective reporting I’ve come across in a long time….Thumbs down!

  • Priyadar2

     Yes, the author does not understand engineering facts of Subaru 6 cylinder.   It is H6 and NOT V6 as Subaru does not have any V engines in North America.

  • Cwa107

    Honestly have to wonder if the author even drove this vehicle.  My wife has a 2010 model, which is mostly identical to this vehicle.  We compared it against all of the mainstream competitors in the segment at the time, except for the GM makes and it compared surprisingly well in terms of price, features and driving dynamics.  Looking at the 2010 review, it seems that the editor in that case was much more kind.  I have to wonder whether the competition has improved that dramatically in just a couple of years time, or this editor is just hugely biased against Subaru.

  • Elaine Beriska

    I bought a new 2012 Legacy 3.6R and I wonder what car the writer drove. There is no need to take this car to the red line. I like it for the reasons I bought it; AWD, power, handling and torque are suburb, I can feel the road and still have a comfortable ride. What I don’t like about the car are it’s mirrors that I can’t seem to get right, the rear view is always on nite and the homelink won’t work. The radio is fussy with icons that are too small. I don’t like the cluster of controls where the electronic parking brake is and all the other controls; well, you have look for them cause you can’t find them without looking. The leather has a papery feel to it. I wish I could have my 1998 Honda Accord all over again. 
    Female, age 62.   

  • bnewton

    How are the headlights in this car?

  • Countryboyva62

    It’s obviousthat the reviewer is biased against Subaru. Spewing inaccurate facts and figures. I recently purchased a 2013 Outback 3.6R Limited, it has a “boxer” engine not a “flat six”. The reviewer incorrectly spoke of warming of the car engine and seats, this morning it was 7 degrees F here, my car was blowing warm air and the seats toasty warm after just 5 minutes.

  • anonymous

    This is one of the most hilarious auto reviews! I don’t
    fully agree with the assessment but the writing is ROFL entertaining. Thanks for
    your perspective Mr. Cole!

  • Independent

    My 2013 Legacy 2.5 exhibits many of the quirky traits in this test, but I wouldn’t agree that its a step down from the competition. My wife’s new Camry sits in the garage when we get even moderate snow here in the Rockies. For those who really need AWD, the Legacy stands alone atop the heap of midsize economy cars. At $24K OTD, my Premium was a tremendous value.

  • S Prate

    i have no idea what vehicle you drove, my guess is not the legacy. in comparing to the other vehicles you listed, i test drove all the vehicles you listed; not even in the same class. especially the honda, in a word, no comparison.

  • lifeson22

    Show me an All Wheel Drive sedan with better fuel economy at a comparable price. Show me a Toyota, Honda, or Nissan on the street during snowy weather. If you live in the Northeast and know what a Nor’easter is, you know what I’m talking about. Nissans, Hondas, Toyotas are useless during snow storms.

    When it comes to safety, the Subaru Legacy remains unbeatable. Highlight that in your article. This frame has consistently earned a Top Safety Pick rating from IIHS. Not only can it drive you through a snow storm, it keeps you safer if you get into an accident. That matters.

    As the article mentions in passing, the Legacy feels sportier on the road. The steering is incredibly tight, even though the car has grown in size. You can even speed up during a 180 degree turn without noticeable body roll. Steering on Hondas, Toyotas, and Nissans, on the other hand, is numb. The body sways like a surfing plank on the beach. These brands are awesome brands, but their flagship sedans lack all semblance of road feel. Again, “numb” is a keyword.

    The car *is* a little louder than the competition. Yet it doesn’t scream, like the author complains. Not that it matters – you purchase a Legacy because you want a sporty, sturdy sedan that gets you around in all weather conditions. A little noise is a minor inconvenience, and a price I’m willing to pay for everything else Subaru offers at what is a very good price.

    I don’t agree with all the decisions Subaru has made in recent years. The latest Legacy is in many respects a step back from the 07 model. For example, the rimless doors, such a thrill in earlier models, are gone. But the Legacy has also grown in many respects. It now includes traction control and electronic braking distribution, neither of which featured in the earlier models. It also provides better head clearance and leg room for passengers, so they can ride more comfortably with you.

    In all, the new Legacy is a good deal, both with respect to competing brands and previous generations. It is not for everyone. If driving through bad inclement weather is not a concern, other brands may be better – although I still think the sporty feel of the Legacy is unbeatable in a family sedan at this price.

  • John Johns

    The idiot who wrote this review was  obviously driving a Toyota instead . Too stupid to know the difference. The 2013 Subaru Legacy is probably the best vehicle I’ve ever purchased! And I’ve owned at least 40 cars. So that says it all.  Some reviewers are so biased it isn’t funny. This review is worthless. 

  • Peter Goezinya

    Obviously a Subaru hater wrote this review.

  • Willy Getsum

    The 2013 Subaru Legacy is the way to go in an all wheel drive car. Great looks, price and dependability all in one car!  Hondas and Toyotas are boring!

  • Gilbert Moore

    I always laugh when subjective topics cause “journalists” to make absolute statements – drowsy design, dowdy styling. Funny stuff! Totally pointless, but entertaining. This reviewer had an opinion going in, but didn’t have an open mind.

  • raysay

    I have real difficulty in understanding why the CVT is disliked by so many auto journalists. I’m driving a 2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5i with a CVT and regularly do long road trips. My latest was a little over 4800 miles with about 2/3 of that on interstate (the I5) and 1/3 in the Baja on a mix of roads that were rough and demanding. I drive fast usually with a radar detector and not with a view to maximizing fuel efficiency.

    I averaged 29 miles per US gallon on that trip, had no difficulty passing let alone keeping up with traffic, was very happy to have full time AWD in much of the Baja, and had no difficulty hearing my satellite radio over whatever engine and transmission noise seems to bother so many journalists. The 2013 2.5i Legacy is by all accounts a quieter, more fuel efficient car. Is the ride in Subaru’s is generally stiffer and more communicative of the road surface than it’s competition? Yes that is probably so though I’ve owned Volvo’s, Honda’s, and Mazda’s that were less pleasant or capable road cars.

  • Sinan Ferit Tüzer

    but you can’t get an AWD V6 at that price, or at all, from those automakers. if you want to be boring, sure go with honda or toyota.