We love a good Subaru. Two-thirds of the AutoTalk staff owns one, and we all think they are the bee’s knees. That idea changed with the introduction of the new Impreza. When we reviewed the smallest member of the family, we felt that it lacked that special felling that all Subaru vehicles have. We said it was a great car, but a bad Subaru. Now we have been given the keys to the larger sedan of the Subaru family, the Legacy. Will this car renew our faith in the brand, or has Subaru truly lost the plot? Read on to find out.
Let’s start with the visuals. The Legacy continues with the styling direction set forth a few years ago with the “hawk” headlamps and the trapezoidal grille. The car looks rather handsome. If there was one portion of Subaru’s heritage we wouldn’t mind shedding, it is the ability to make some of the ugliest cars on the planet. Thankfully, the Legacy is a move in the right direction. The overall shape is inoffensive, befitting its mid-size sedan status. There are some exterior niceties to mention like the chrome grille surround and the standard 17-inch alloys. We also like the darker Twilight Blue Metallic paint when compared to the lighter Sky Blue Metallic of the Impreza we tested.
The interior of the Legacy has also seen a marked improvement over Subaru of old, with high quality materials and well sorted ergonomics. The seats of our 2.5i Limited tester were covered in tan leather and the front seats were heated. The center console was dominated by a large touchscreen navigation unit and the dual climate controls. Packaged with our navigation unit was the upgraded harman/kardon 9-speaker audio system. Our tester also came equipped with the power moonroof. All of these fancy options did add a bit to the cost of our car. The base 2.5i Limited carries a price just under $26k, but our optioned tester rang up at $30,605 including destination.
While all of that entertainment tech may be cool, what piqued out interested was the inclusion of Subaru’s new EyeSight driver assist system. Subaru’s new system consists of a pair of cameras mounted above the rearview mirror that feed information to the car. These cameras control a multitude of safety systems including pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane sway warning and a pre-collision throttle management system. That is a lot of thing for a pair of cameras to operate and Subaru has made sure to give you a massive warning label reminding you not to touch or tamper with the cameras.
The system seems to work well, and was relatively quick to notify us of any lane wandering. The Adaptive cruise control has three distance settings, all three of which seem to be very safe and conservative. At 55 mph the farthest setting had us nearly 4 seconds behind the car in front. We did also test the pre-collision systems when exiting the highway. The car did cut throttle and begin to slow, but we do not trust enough in technology to let the system hit the brakes for us. We applied pressure ourselves.
So the new Legacy has good looks, a passable interior and cool new technology, but how does it drive? This was the crux of our big issue with the new Impreza, and Subaru’s general direction of growth. Has the new Legacy become a mass market bland-machine or does it still possess some of that character that makes a Subaru unique?
Short answer, yes. It does feel like a Subaru.
Opening the hood we are faced with the familiar 2.5-liter boxer engine that has powered the line for over a decade, and it is bolted to Subaru’s ancient but effective Symmetrical AWD system. The Legacy forgoes the new 2.0-liter engine and torque vectoring AWD system and is all the better for it. The moment you start to drive the Legacy you are greeted with that “chunky” and substantial feeling a Subaru should have. It is almost as if the drivetrain is a granite slab beneath you holding you to the road. It is a confidence inspiring feeling and one that is unique, especially in the mid-size class.
The ride quality is also familiar to any previous Subaru owner. With a slightly bumpy but comfortable ride, the Legacy feels almost like an SUV in the way it tackles road imperfections. Despite this off-road feeling the Legacy’s low ride height allows it to carve corners deceptively well. Despite the AWD system and relative front-heavy nature of the car we found it to be very neutral when driven hard, and it even had tendencies for some mild lift-off oversteer.
Praise be, Fuji Heavy Industries has not destroyed a brand we hold dear.
There is one weak link in the drive of the Legacy, and that is the transmission. All Legacy Limited models, including our tester, are fitted with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT. While we must say that we are happy to see Subaru getting rid of its ancient four-speed automatic transmissions, the CVT is not a huge refinement upgrade. The transmission is smooth enough and will be fine for many consumers, but it is loud. There is a constant whirring noise, and the drone caused by holding the engine at 3000 rpms from 25 mph to 70 mph is horrid. The CVT does improve fuel economy with 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway EPA ratings. During our testing we averaged about 31 mpg, much better than we have ever accomplished in our personal Subaru. Base Legacy models come standard with a 6-speed automatic, but only receive EPA ratings of 21/28.
Overall we have been very pleased with the Legacy. We were fully prepared to hate it, but came away pleasantly surprised. Perhaps Subaru hasn’t forgotten about the loyal ownership that have brought it this far. While the new Impreza is clearly a car designed to appeal to the mainstream, and CAFE regulations, the new Legacy is a true Subaru that begs to be driven and doesn’t care if you beat on it. It will happily drag you, friends, family and anything else down the road no matter the conditions.
Thank you, Subaru.