2018 Subaru Legacy Review

The crowd of sedans is slowly diminishing as crossovers replace the once-popular body style.

Crossovers do a bit of everything. They can be had with all-wheel drive and they have a lot of room for storage while also offering a commanding view of the road.

Subaru seems to be offering all of that in its mid-sized sedan, but is it actually good enough of a car to make you forget about all those seemingly more capable crossovers and SUVs?

For 2018, the Subaru Legacy gets updated one last time before it gets moved onto the automaker’s new global architecture that’s currently underpinning the Impreza and Crosstrek.

Similar to how the Japanese automaker refreshed the Outback, the Legacy gets a new front and rear end design, new standard features, and an updated interior.

This interior is the highlight of the updates because it’s no longer a compromise. In the past, Subarus had drab, boring, and unrefined interiors, but the Japanese brand is working hard to rectify that. The interior is now more complete and upscale. Top trim models, called Limited, can be had with classy matte wood grain, which contrasts nicely with silver accents. Borrowed from the new Impreza and Crosstrek, the Legacy also gets a new steering wheel. Subaru also improved the air conditioning system for better efficiency.

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The Legacy gets a new standard touchscreen infotainment system, which uses the updated StarLink system that makes it more user-friendly, but isn’t the best-looking system out there. It’s still a bit frustrating to use due to the touch-sensitive buttons surrounding the main display, which can be slow to respond and just aren’t functional as real buttons.

Fortunately, there’s standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, so if you’re frustrated with the infotainment system, you have a solid alternative. For charging your devices, the Legacy also includes two new USB ports that are accessible from the rear seats. Those rear seats are spacious and comfortable with plenty of headroom.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Subaru Impreza Review

Speaking of technology, the Legacy also gets extra driver assistance features with an updated version of its EyeSight suite. This means that the Subaru has safety features like pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assistance. Additionally, adaptive high beams will automatically enable and disable the high beams so you don’t blind oncoming traffic. The other big addition is rear automatic braking, which will help to prevent you from accidentally reversing into something. This car has an 11-year streak of being awarded the top safety honor from the IIHS, and it after seeing these new safety enhancements along with updated headlights, the Legacy seems like a shoe-in for the Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Power and Transmissions

Under the hood are the same engines that have been available for some time. At the more economical (or less powerful) end of the spectrum is a 2.5-liter flat four that makes 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It’s rated at 25 mpg in the city, and 34 mpg highway (9.3 L/100 km city and 7.0 L/100 km highway). If you want more power from your midsize sedan, then buyers can opt for the flat six-cylinder 3.6R engine, which makes 256 hp and 247 lb-ft torque, which will net 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway (11.9 L/100 km city and 8.3 L/100 km highway).

Both engines are mated to a CVT and power gets sent to all four wheels at all times. The power can shift from the front axle to the back axle as needed, which has always been a major selling point for Subaru, and something that really helps separate this car from other mid-sized sedans like the Camry and Accord. In fact, the only other competitor with all-wheel drive is the Ford Fusion Sport.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Ford Fusion Sport Review

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The four-cylinder and CVT are a great pairing, making the car feel responsive, but not as jumpy as it once did. The transmission has also been refined and is quieter, so you won’t hear the typical CVT groan and whine if you stomp on the pedal. Those looking for a sportier drive will also appreciate the fact that the transmission can be put into a “manual mode” that will swap between seven preset ratios.

While the four-cylinder is smooth and responsive, it’s definitely not the most powerful or inspired feeling. If you’re looking for extra grunt, the six-cylinder might suffice. It’s punchier and passing is definitely easier, but a part of me wonders how the Legacy would fare with a turbocharged engine like the one the Forester XT has.

On the Track

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To help showcase the performance capabilities of the two engines, Subaru let us play with the Legacy on track. The Legacy has a pretty surprising performance history (some would call it a … legacy), as it held the 100,000-kilometer World Land Endurance Record in 1989, completing the distance in 18.5 days by maintaining an average speed of 223.345 km/h. The Legacy held that record for 16 years and even more interesting is that the Legacy was the original Subaru World Rally Championship car, earning a first-place finish in the 1993 New Zealand rally.

Of course, that was all done with specially made versions, and the cars we drove are just like the ones in the Subaru showrooms today. It’s definitely capable on the track, although it’s not exactly fun to push a CVT-equipped mid-sized sedan on the closed course. However, the track stint helps point out the revised front and rear dampers in this year’s model along with the improved throttle and brake pedal feel. The planted feeling suspension is a major point of difference in how the Legacy feels when compared to a similar crossover, like say, the Outback. The sedan feels more natural and comfortable while being pushed through multiple corners, whereas a crossover will typically feel a bit more hesitant to change direction as quickly.

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On the Road

On the streets, the car feels isolated and comfortable. Best described as refined and relaxed, the car never feels exciting to drive, but the standard all-wheel drive will help provide some extra confidence in bad weather. A common trait of Subarus is their ability to come alive in the winter. I have no doubt that the Legacy will feel less like an appliance in the snow and more like a hero once the season turns.

Inoffensive to drive, the Subaru is at least somewhat stylish. The car gets a new set of headlights that include LED daytime running lights and can be equipped with full LED lighting that includes fog lights and steering-responsive illumination. The rear of the car has been redone with a more cohesively designed bumper that integrates the exhaust exits. There are also new door mirrors that are more aerodynamic to reduce wind noise and can most models can be equipped with illuminated LED turn signals as well.

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The Verdict: 2018 Subaru Legacy Review

Starting at $23,055 ($24,995 in Canada), the Legacy is refined and complete. Subaru is proud to point out that 98 percent of Legacy models sold in the past 10 years are still on the road today, and the car has also been awarded a residual value champion in the past, further enhancing its long-term appeal.

It doesn’t offer too much over a crossover except for a more engaging drive, but the Legacy’s standard all-wheel drive, safety features, and updated interior make it a very compelling choice for those who still want a sedan instead of a crossover or SUV.