New & Used Subaru Legacy: In Depth
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For a quarter of a century, through six generations, the Subaru Legacy mid-size sedan has featured a reputation for durability and all-wheel drive. Current models are offered with either four- or six-cylinder engines, a new continuously-variable transmission, and both more refinement and higher fuel efficiency than previous years.
The Legacy is increasingly being seen as a strong competitor to better-known and more mainstream models--the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima--especially in snowier climates where its all-wheel drive gives it an excellent ability to cope with more extreme weather.
MORE: Read our 2015 Subaru Legacy review
Current fuel economy ranges up to 30 mpg combined, and Subaru's new infotainment system and EyeSight driver-assistance systems add new and well-reviewed technology features to the latest Legacy generation. Once again, the companion crossover wagon model to the Legacy is sold as the Subaru Outback.
All Legacies and Outbacks sold in the U.S. are built in Lafayette, Indiana.
2015 Subaru Legacy
The latest Legacy sedan makes a serious effort to establish itself in the family-sedan mainstream--and it succeeds. More conventionally handsome than a Camry, more spacious than a Malibu or a 200--in fact, the Legacy now is more spacious than the Accord, the Altima, and the Fusion. Add in good gas mileage and a recent run of great crash-test scores, and the Legacy now throws a few elbows of its own in the mid-size segment.
Two powertrains are available. Legacy 2.5i sedans get a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four with acceptable power and great fuel economy of up to 30 mpg combined. Legacy 3.6R sedans come with a 256-hp, 3.6-liter flat-six engine, which doesn't feel quite as strong as it might.
Helping it appeal to families, the latest Legacy offers more room than its predecessor. Like some other cars in the mid-size class, the interior volume is just under the limit for categorization as a Large Car by the EPA. The trunk is equally roomy. The only real detractor is a lack of seat support, which has been common among Subarus recently.
The latest Legacy is rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at five stars overall and in every crash-test category, a perfect score from the government. It also receives top 'good' results in every category from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning it the agency's Top Safety Pick+ award. The Legacy offers a forward-collision system dubbed EyeSight, which uses stereo cameras to help safety systems intercede before accidents happen.
The new Legacy also marks the debut of a new infotainment system with a pretty 6.2-inch multi-function touchscreen, one that's controlled via big tiles and icons, and has swipe and tap gesture control. The Legacy also comes with standard Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
Previous Subaru Legacy models
Going back a few generations, the 1995 model was a refresh of the original 1989; the 2000 and 2005 Legacys rode on a newer platform.
Initially, the Legacy was powered by a 2.2-liter flat-four engine. For 2000, the engine grew in size to 2.5 liters. Over the years, Subaru has offered turbocharged versions of its flat-four engine in Legacy sedans and wagons, including the sporty Legacy GT model. For 2008, a 3.0-liter flat-six finally migrated from the Outback wagon and into the Legacy sedan. That engine also grew eventually, with a 3.6-liter version coming online for 2010.
Legacy GT models--including rare Legacy GT wagons through 2009--used an intercooled and turbocharged performance version of the flat-four engine. In 2008, a limited-edition 'Spec B' model was offered. It was the first Subaru to offer SI-Drive, which allows the driver to select among three software profiles for throttle response and shift points: Normal, Sport, and Sport Sharp.
The fifth-generation Legacy sedan launched in 2010 with the carryover 2.5-liter engine from previous sedans. But for 2013, Subaru installed an all-new 2.5-liter flat four, which produced 173 hp across a broader, flatter torque curve and offered better fuel efficiency. With the company's own continuously variable transmission (CVT), it was rated at 27 mpg combined--quite respectable for a car that came with standard all-wheel drive, Subaru's hallmark since 1997. If you ordered the six-speed manual transmission (a rarity itself among mid-size sedans), the combined rating fell to 24 mpg. High-end Legacys continued unchanged with the 3.6-liter engine, delivering an unimpressive 20 mpg combined.
Also in 2010, the wagon was finally dropped from the Legacy line. Henceforth, all sedans on the platform have worn Legacy badges, while all wagons carry the renowned Outback nameplate.