New & Used Subaru Legacy: In Depth
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The Subaru Legacy is a mid-size sedan with standard all-wheel drive and competes in two different areas of its class. The entry-level model is a great all-weather alternative to cars like the Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, and the Toyota Camry, but the turbocharged Legacy models compete with the Ford Fusion and Mazda6.
The Legacy is new for the 2015 model year, with a pair of revamped engines--still horizontally opposed--and standard all-wheel drive. A continuously variable transmission is the only offering. Fuel economy ranges up to 30 mpg combined, and Subaru's new infotainment system and EyeSight driver-assistance systems are the main tech highlights.
For a more detailed look of this year's model, see our 2015 Subaru Legacy review.
The Legacy is almost as American as those models, since along with all of them it is built in the U.S. Subaru's factory in Lafayette, Indiana, has assembled every Legacy and Outback sold here since the very first one in 1989. That includes several hundred oddball right-hand drive first-generation Legacy wagons, built expressly for sale to rural-route mail carriers who could stuff mailboxes from the driver's seat on the curb side.
And in 2010, as the fifth generation of Legacy sedan debuted, the wagon was finally dropped from the Legacy line. Henceforth, all sedans on the platform will be Legacies, but all wagons will be the renowned Outback crossover model, with its higher ride height and bulletproof reputation for sturdiness and go-anywhere ability.Like most mainstream Subarus, the Legacy is renewed every five years and completely redesigned every ten. The 1995 model was a refresh of the original 1989, then the 2000 and 2005 Legacies rode on a newer platform. The latest 2010 model has a longer wheelbase, though hardly any overall length added, with more interior room and a more refined interior. And you can reliably expect a refresh of that model to arrive like clockwork for the 2015 model year.
The first Legacys were powered by a flat-four 2.2-liter engine, enlarged for 2000 to 2.5 liters. Turbocharged flat-fours have come and gone in both the Legacy sedan and wagon and the more sporty Legacy GT model. In 2008, the 3.0-liter flat-six that had been offered for several years in Outback wagons was finally added as a high-end Legacy option as well; that engine grew to 3.6 liters for 2010.
Legacy GT models--including rare Legacy GT wagons through 2009--use an intercooled and turbocharged performance version of the flat-four engine. In 2008, a limited-edition 'Spec B' model was offered, the first Subaru to pioneer 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 Legacies. But for 2013, Subaru installed an all-new 2.5-liter flat four, which produces 173 hp across a broader, flatter torque curve and 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, and high-end Legacys continued unchanged with the 3.6-liter engine, delivering an unimpressive 20 mpg combined.
Subaru has been unusual among manufacturers in also offering a Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle, or PZEV, option in those states that have not adopted California’s slightly stricter emissions limits. For $300, this option (on CVT models only) adds better control of evaporative emissions and lower tailpipe emissions. Green credentials are assured with leaf-logo badging.
The latest Legacy sedan rides on a suspension retuned to deliver a smoother ride, better agility, and reduced levels of cabin noise. Audio systems have been revamped, with a new touchscreen interface, Bluetooth hands-free and audio capabilities, a USB charging port, and iPod controls added, as well as an available EyeSight suite of accident avoidance features including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and pre-collision sensing.
Trim levels on the current Legacy include the base 2.5i and the luxury 3.6R with the flat six. Options include a Harman Kardon stereo, a moonroof, and EyeSight, along with various other convenience features.