The Subaru Legacy has become the forgotten family sedan. Currently, the Legacy is outsold by every other mainstream mid-sizer on the market.
|Engine: 2.5L boxer four makes 175 hp, 174 lb-ft of torque and the 3.6L flat six makes 256 hp and 247 lb-t of torque.
Transmission: U.S. market exclusively gets CVT, Canada retains base manual.
Fuel economy: 26/36 MPG city/highway with four cylinder or 20/29 with six cylinder.
Price: Starts at $22,790 with four cylinder, 3.6R costs $30,390.
To gain some insight as to why, Subaru went straight to customers and found the key issues with the car were its exterior styling, interior quality and lackluster infotainment system.
To cure these shortfalls, the company embarked on a plan to add “emotional value” to the sixth-generation Legacy. There needed to be more style and higher quality materials. Beginning with the exterior, the new Legacy is finally wrapped in contemporary sheet metal. It isn’t exactly gorgeous or cutting edge, but it is as modern as most other mid-size sedans on the market.
Riding on the same size wheelbase, the Legacy has grown slightly and now features a choice of 17- or 18-inches wheels. Like the Impreza and XV Crosstrek, the Legacy’s side-view mirrors are installed on doors to improve visibility. All models feature LED rear tail lamps while the top-of-the-line 3.6R Limited version receives HID low-beam headlights.
More Room Inside
With a bigger exterior comes a larger interior. In fact, Subaru claims it’s the largest interior based on total passenger volume in the mid-size sedan segment. The trunk has been enlarged to 15 cubic feet and rear seat legroom has grown to now measure 38.1 inches. That’s enough for our six-foot-tall tester to easily stretch his legs out, but headroom isn’t quite as generous. Anyone over the six-foot mark will brush against the headliner. As well, the C-pillar slopes down towards the door at a sharp angle that blocks outward visibility for rear passengers, much like the Mercedes-Benz CLA.
Up front we find the seats to be very comfortable and easy to adjust. Although not the best in the segment, the dashboard looks modern and class competitive. It is finished in soft touch materials and features Subaru’s new infotainment unit front and center. We do not like the lower trimmed car’s strange cheese-grater metal trim bit running across the dash and doors, but stepping up to higher trims will replace it with wood.
Finally, Modern Infotainment
Standard in the Legacy is a 6.2-inch touchscreen radio loaded with Subaru’s STARLINK smarthphone integration software and a rear view camera. Optional is a larger seven-inch touch screen display. As much as we appreciate the new infotainment system, we found it slow to respond much like MyFord Touch.
Like all Subarus lately, an optional Harman/Kardon stereo system is available, packing 576-watts through 12 speakers. As well, the new Legacy is riddled with advance safety technology. Rear vehicle detection is available along with blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and lane change assist. The latter uses a set of radars installed behind the rear bumper to calculate the closing speeds of vehicles in neighboring lanes. This can warn the driver if a car is approaching their blind spot before actually entering it.
Of course the latest version of Subaru’s EyeSight technology is available and is still one of our favorite adaptive cruise control systems. But as we discovered in a torrential downpour, it will not operate during monsoon-like conditions. It turns out if our eyes can’t see the road ahead, neither can EyeSight’s cameras.
All-Wheel Drive with Torque Vectoring
The heavy rain may have stopped the cameras, but it isn’t going to stop the Legacy. It remains the only car in the class to come standard with all-wheel drive. To help it corner better in slippery conditions, the car now features standard active torque vectoring in all trim levels that will apply braking to the inside front wheel when turning. During testing at Subaru’s SIA plant in Lafayette, Ind. we found the system works well when entering a corner too fast in the Legacy. We can feel the car pull slightly towards the inside of the corner was understeer slip is detected.
Vehicles equipped with 18-inch wheels feature Subaru’s Stablex-ride suspension set-up. It expands the dampers at low speed to allow more movement of the suspension for a better ride and then reduces them at high speed to minimize body movements. We don’t really feel a difference between the Stablex and the regular suspension at low speeds on broken up roads, but at highway speeds there is a noticeable improvement in ride quality. Regardless of which suspension is installed, the Legacy responds decently, but is not set up for sporty driving like the Mazda6 or Honda Accord. The Subaru is tailored for comfort over handling.
No More Tractor Noises
Power for the Legacy continues to come from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and 3.6-liter six-cylinder. Although the flat-six is essentially a carryover unit making 256 HP and 247 lb-ft of torque, the four banger has received substantial updates. Now making 175 HP and 174 lb-ft of torque, the 2.5-liter is lighter, more efficient and quieter. Best of all, it sounds far more pleasant. The tractor-like noises that plagued virtually all non-turbocharged Subaru four-cylinder engines is absent in the Legacy.
The manufacturer’s engineers first reduced overall engine noise and then worked to tune out the harsher, more unpleasant sounds. The result is a horizontally opposed four-cylinder that sounds like most other four-cylinder engines on the market.
For 2015, all Legacy models now come standard with a Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission, including the six-cylinder. Subaru has been refining its CVT and the work is paying off. Simulated “gear changes” have been programmed so when a driver moderately accelerates, six steps occur to mimic gears. Hit the gas pedal harder and the number increases to eight steps. There is no manual transmission option in the U.S. for the 2015 Legacy, but customers up in Canada can still opt for a six-speed manual as uptake for that transmission remains at roughly 10 percent.
With the four-cylinder engine, there is a noticeable CVT whine when hard on the accelerator, but none of the mechanical thrash found in older CVTs. The six-cylinder’s CVT is so smooth and seamless in its simulated steps, we would wager the vast majority of consumers would never know there wasn’t a conventional automatic under the hood. The horizontally-opposed six-cylinder pulls harder under acceleration than the numbers suggest. But those who want a little more cornering response and steering feel should opt for the small 2.5-liter as the weight savings in the front end are felt every time the Legacy enters a turn.
Now More Efficient
Another stigma Subaru wants to eliminate with the new Legacy is that just because it has standard all-wheel drive doesn’t mean it’s less fuel efficient. For 2015, four-cylinder models are rated at 26 MPG city and 36 MPG highway. Those numbers match the most efficient front-wheel drive Ford Fusion and actually beat the Toyota Camry. With the addition of the CVT, the six-cylinder’s fuel economy numbers are no longer pathetic and register at 20 MPG city and 29 MPG highway.
Three quarters of all Legacy sales worldwide occur in North America so pricing in this market is important. Even with standard all-wheel drive, the Legacy begins at $22,790 after destination charges while the top-of-the-line Legacy 3.6R Limited begins at a mere $30,390.
Subaru has performed quite the magic trick with the Legacy. Here is a car that offers AWD without any of the usual sacrifices made to fuel economy, price or trunk space. The fact the Legacy has all-wheel drive is almost an afterthought now as it’s so competitive in the mid-size sedan market as a whole. Subaru doesn’t need to rely on the AWD crutch to sell the car anymore. This sixth generation model should reverse the Legacy’s declining sales trend and may be enough to return it to its high-selling glory days.