2010 Subaru Legacy Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
August 28, 2009

Subaru is finally taking its all-wheel-drive message into the mid-size sedan mainstream, and it’s done so almost flawlessly with the 2010 Legacy.

TheCarConnection.com has driven several variants of the new 2010 Subaru Legacy—ranging from the base 2.5i to a loaded 3.6R Limited—and bring you an overall assessment here. In order to provide the most information possible and hit any additional points that might prove useful, TheCarConnection.com also studied up on what other experts said and highlighted them in a Full Review.

The mid-size Subaru Legacy sedan has been completely redesigned for 2010, and it's grown larger inside and out, including a refreshed powertrain lineup, with upgraded engines in the turbocharged 2.5GT and six-cylinder 3.6R models. While the outgoing Legacy could trace a few of its components all the way back to 1989, this version is built on a new platform, based somewhat on the Impreza and WRX, and shares nothing with the 2009 model.

At first glance, there's no mistaking that the new 2010 Subaru Legacy is larger and more substantial. Compared to the '09 model, the 2010 Legacy is just 1.4 inches longer, but it's nearly 4 inches wider and 3 inches taller, with a wheelbase that's been stretched by more than 3 inches. The Legacy has a completely new profile, with a rakish snout and arched roofline that tapers down to a short, tall decklid. A thin strip of chrome brightwork accents the arch and tucks down to the back door. Aggressively lipped wheel wells keep the Legacy from appearing too slab-sided, while two character creases help give the design some cohesion: one running from the edge of the winged chrome grille through the hood to the front pillars, the other running from the broad, well-detailed headlamps, skirting the front wheel well, and further defining the beltline.

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Inside, the 2010 Legacy breaks through with a new look that doesn't borrow much from either the smaller Impreza family or the Tribeca crossover. The design includes an upright center stack with a metallic-look finish flanked by vents that almost echo the winged, upward theme of the grille and headlights, with the audio system placed high. At the front, close to the driver's field of vision is a trip computer, and the instruments themselves are simple, with nice, round gauges.

The new Legacy comes with three different engines. The base 2.5i version gets the familiar 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ”flat” four-cylinder engine, while the 2.5GT upgrades to the 265-horsepower version of the 2.5-liter engine; the new 3.6R model replaces the old 3.0-liter model, moved by the Tribeca's 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter flat-six. If you go with the 2.5i, you have a choice of a new six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which Subaru calls Lineartronic. While 2.5GT models come only with the six-speed manual, 3.6R models have a conventional five-speed automatic transmission.

The base 2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5i models aren't quick, but they have adequate acceleration for most needs with the six-speed manual or the CVT. The new Lineartronic transmission actually gets better fuel economy than the manual transmission (with a best-in-class EPA rating of 23 mpg city, 31 highway), and it includes paddle shifters that simulate six ratios; downshifts occur in as little as a tenth of a second. Just as with the outgoing Legacy, the turbocharged 2.5GT feels the fastest; the model inherits the WRX's new engine, with a greatly flattened torque curve, and it delivers power quickly, smoothly, and with very little turbo lag. The 3.6R engine brings a completely different character—it's confident, torquey, and relaxed, and its fuel efficiency is about the same as the turbo engine. Whether with the naturally aspirated engine in the base 2.5i or the turbo engine in the 2.5GT, the clutch pedal is light and engages smoothly and precisely; it combines with a throttle that's progressive, with a gentle tip-in, so almost right away you'll be taking off smoothly. Yet throttle response is quick with either engine; rev-matching for quick downshifts is also easily done.

While suspension tuning is essentially similar between all three models, wheel and tire differences give each model a slightly different feel. Base models feel light and nimble, as do 2.5GT models, while the 3.6R comes across as a little bit heftier, with a nose-heavy emphasis in sharp corners. Push the Legacy hard into a corner and there's some body lean, yet the suspension maintains grip beyond expectation; it's tough to upset the sedan's poise—especially in inclement weather—and in the best road conditions there's surprisingly little nosedive in hard braking or front-end lift in hard acceleration. All three models have quicker-ratio steering that feels boosted just right for most drivers, along with a supple ride that soaks up small imperfections, potholes, and general coarseness, and relative to its predecessor and most other mid-size sedans, the new Legacy's cabin has very little road noise. For the first time, the new Legacy gets framed doors for 2010; the change was first ushered in on the 2006 Tribeca and helps reduce wind noise.

The 2010 Subaru Legacy's cabin is a revelation compared to the outgoing model; larger than some, it's not in the same league as most other mid-size sedans. The front seats now adjust for loads of legroom and have nice, long cushions, and it's easy to find a comfortable driving position with the tilt/telescopic wheel adjustment. The nice three-spoke steering wheel looks and feels great, whether plain (base 2.5i) or leather-trimmed, and all versions—even the base—include steering-wheel-mounted audio controls; one of our only layout issues was that we repeatedly hit the hazard button while shifting to fifth gear in manual models. In back, there's enough space for two adults to be comfortable after a full day on the highway; this 6'6" tester found just enough headroom in back and plenty of legroom. Entry and exit to the back is among the easiest, thanks to a door opening that matches the rear backrest. All the small conveniences are represented as well, with eight cup holders, cubbies in each door, several center console bins, and map pockets, plus an overhead console on all models. We like the standard cloth upholstery, which was comfy without looking too delicate or attracting pet hair. The trunk is absolutely huge, with a nice big opening, and an easy pull from levers right up near the trunk rim causes the seats to flip forward, creating a flat load surface.

The 2010 Subaru Legacy doesn't skimp on safety. Across the model line, front side airbags, side-curtain bags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes with brake assist are all standard. All models also include an electronic parking brake with an electronically operated Hill Holder System that aids safe, smooth starts either facing up or down on steep inclines. Subaru expects top five-star ratings and "good" IIHS results, but we'll update you when they're official.

Most models in the Legacy lineup have gained standard equipment yet fallen in price. 3.6R models have dropped the most, but TheCarConnection.com's pick for best value was the base 2.5i model, which is an amazing deal at a starting price of just $19,995 (or $20,995 with the CVT). At that price, it includes power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; tilt-and-telescope steering; keyless entry; split-folding rear seatbacks; and a four-speaker AM/FM CD player with aux input.

Premium models add a number of conveniences and appearance upgrades, including alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and chrome exhaust tips. The Limited models of the 2010 Subaru Legacy get dual-zone climate control and a 440-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system, among other added features. The system is also optional on the Premium, as is a moonroof. A voice-activated nav system is optional only on the Limited and includes a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and iPod interfacing, and streaming Bluetooth audio.


2010 Subaru Legacy


The 2010 Subaru Legacy doesn't make a strong statement, but it has a cohesive design that's well executed and nicely detailed inside and out.

Subaru’s polarizing styling has grown even more so in the last couple years, but the debut of the all-new 2010 Subaru Legacy proves that Subaru’s designers can still turn out a very attractive and attention-getting sedan.

The outgoing 2009 Subaru Legacy didn’t offer much visual panache, so for 2010 Subaru has chosen what JDPower.com reviewers call a “bold new design” for the Legacy lineup. Edmunds describes the 2010 Subaru Legacy as a “five-passenger midsize sedan offered in base 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5GT Premium, 2.5GT Limited,” and 3.6R base, Premium, and Limited trim levels. All versions of the Subaru Legacy 2010 lineup feature nearly identical styling, which Automobile Magazine calls “tasteful and modern,” with a style that is “easy to identify…as a Subaru, but the design is generic enough to appeal to most midsize sedan shoppers.” JDPower.com describes some of the more distinctive design elements by noting the “character lines [that] arc from the grille and form power bulges on the hood, tapering off into the A-pillar,” while the “new design incorporates a larger greenhouse, and a shorter deck gives the vehicle a sporty look.”

Not all reviews read by TheCarConnection.com contain positive comments, however; one Cars.com reviewer characterizes the Subaru Legacy’s design as “not so much controversial—that can be a good thing—as simply overwrought, chaotic even.”

Inside the cabin of the 2010 Subaru Legacy Subaru has clearly made an effort to improve the overall styling theme and cabin ergonomics, and the corporate design team has been largely successful. Autoblog says all of the Subaru Legacy’s “controls are easy to reach and intuitive to use, with the exception of a too-crowded and too-low panel that houses the power mirror controls.” There are some competing opinions from Cars.com and Edmunds; the former feels that “the center controls feel needlessly crammed together, and major dials like volume and stereo tuning are too small,” while Edmunds simply states that “the Legacy’s interior design is sleek and sophisticated.”

TheCarConnection.com’s own editors come away impressed with the cabin after their time with the Subaru Legacy 2010 lineup, finding the controls generally easy to use and the cabin extraordinarily comfortable.


2010 Subaru Legacy


Handling is excellent, and acceleration is strong in all but the base 2.5i; that model redeems itself with class-leading fuel efficiency from the CVT.

Although one of Subaru’s hallmarks is its devotion to safety, the brand has maintained a strong performance emphasis (see the WRX lineup). For the Subaru Legacy, 2010 brings some upgrades in performance capabilities, and once again this sedan is more than deserving of the “sport sedan” moniker.

The 2010 Subaru Legacy sedan offers three engine choices. According to JDPower.com reviewers, Subaru Legacy “2.5i models are powered by a revised, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine,” while the 2010 Subaru Legacy “2.5GT models get a significant boost in performance from a 2.5-liter turbocharged/intercooled engine (based on the Impreza WRX engine).” At the top end of the cylinder count, Car and Driver reports that “the $25,690 R model upgrades from a 3.0-liter flat-six to a 3.6-liter flat-six making 256 hp.” All three engines rate well in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, but the WRX-sourced turbo-four is definitely the favorite. Edmunds warns that “the base 2.5-liter engine won’t elicit any grins, but its power is certainly adequate for most folks.” Cars.com confirms that assessment, finding it “gets up and goes without protest.” All the reviews surveyed by TheCarConnection.com rave about the new 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder that Edmunds says “is much more of a thrill.” Autoblog considers the turbocharged Subaru Legacy “the most engaging” vehicle in the lineup “by a winding country mile,” calling the powerplant “a flexible gem with fuel economy equal to that of the 3.6R.” Speaking of the six-cylinder option, Autoblog declares it “a markedly better package than its predecessor,” with “plenty of juice under all conditions.”

In addition to the new powerplants, the 2010 Subaru Legacy sedan features a new transmission option: the oft-derided CVT, although Subaru has executed its CVT rather well. Car and Driver reviewers say the “CVT surprised us,” as it “manages to keep the revs low when cruising and the droning, golf-cart-style acceleration typically associated with a CVT to a minimum.” The Subaru Legacy 2010 lineup also offers a pair of more standard transmissions, with JDPower.com finding a “new 6-speed manual…on 2.5i models,” as well as a standard five-speed automatic that pairs with the six-cylinder engine. Some prospective buyers will be disappointed to hear Edmunds note there is “no automatic transmission available with the turbocharged engine,” but Subaru figures that most drivers opting for the sportiest of Legacies will want to row their own gears anyway.

One of the benefits of the CVT offered on the base 2.5i is that it affords excellent fuel economy, especially once you factor in the standard AWD that comes with each Subaru Legacy 2010 model. According to the official EPA estimates, the 2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5i with the CVT should return 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, while the standard manual 2.5i gets a 19/27 mpg rating. Moving up the power chart, the EPA estimates that the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT will get 18 mpg city and 25 highway, as will the six-cylinder option.

All versions of the 2010 Subaru Legacy feature tight tuning that makes them a joy to drive hard; Cars.com is particularly pleased to find that the 2010 Subaru Legacy offers “the same nimble steering the 2009 model had,” while Automobile Magazine reports that overall “body motions are well controlled, and the Legacy is stable going down the road thanks largely to its wider track and longer wheelbase.” JDPower.com credits the Subaru Legacy’s “new rear suspension” for the capable handling, and Autoblog asserts that the new suspension gives the Subaru Legacy “more composed handling with less roll.” Braking response has been improved significantly as well—Automobile Magazine states that “Subaru claims a 20 percent improvement in response from the new brake booster.”


2010 Subaru Legacy

Comfort & Quality

Ride quality in the 2010 Subaru Legacy is excellent and refinement is a huge step forward compared to past models; materials are nice but not spectacular.

The Subaru Legacy mid-size sedan has always lagged somewhat behind its competition in terms of passenger room, especially in the rear bench seats, but for 2010, Subaru has bumped up the size and, correspondingly, the interior passenger volume. The extra space, combined with an increased emphasis on materials and noise cancellation, makes the 2010 Subaru Legacy a serious competitor to sedans like the Mazda6 and Honda Accord.

Inside the Subaru Legacy’s passenger compartment, Car and Driver reports that front seat occupants will be treated to “additional head, shoulder and hip room” than those familiar with the 2009 Subaru Legacy. TheCarConnection.com’s editors found plenty of space up front, even with one tester measuring 6’6”. The real change, however, can be found in the rear seats, where JDPower.com observes that the Subaru Legacy’s stretched wheelbase provides “almost 4 inches of additional rear-seat leg room,” which is “sure to be appreciated by those in the back on a long trek.” The only major criticism of the 2010 Subaru Legacy’s seating arrangement comes from Cars.com reviewers, who assert that “the front seats have less padding than the Fusion’s or Camry’s chairs,” with the end result being that their tester’s “back grew sore over a few long interstate trips.”

Although the 2010 Subaru Legacy sedan features a significantly vaster passenger compartment, not all of the additional volume afforded by the new dimensions has gone to passenger room. In fact, JDPower.com says the Subaru Legacy 2010 lineup’s cargo space has grown to include a “14.7-cubic foot trunk—one of the largest in the segment, according to Subaru, and a significant achievement considering that the car’s design requires packaging a rear differential and drive axles.” Automobile Magazine reviewers break out the measuring tape as well, noting that “interior volume is now 103 cubic feet, just larger than the Toyota Camry’s 101.4 cubic feet, but still a bit behind the Honda Accord’s 106 cubic feet.” Inside the cabin, Autoblog is pleased to note that the 2010 Subaru Legacy offers “a deep storage pocket for odds-n-ends,” while smaller nooks and storage crannies abound.

Despite Subaru’s best efforts, TheCarConnection.com’s research shows that attempts to bring the interior materials quality up to the top of the class fall a bit short. While JDPower.com reviewers report that the Subaru Legacy’s designers “placed an emphasis on refinement, using richer-looking materials on the seats, dash and controls,” Edmunds feels that the improvements are more for show than substance: “though the interior plastics look upscale, most of them are hard to the touch and lack the more upscale feel found in models like the Ford Fusion and VW Passat.” Cars.com reviewers agree, attesting that they “can’t shake the feeling that the interior feels low-rent,” since “too many areas…look trendy, chintzy almost.” Autoblog reviewers are decidedly more moderate in their assessment, noting that the “plastics are nicely grained and solid fit-and-finish [is] in evidence, but greater use of soft-touch surfaces and more sincere-looking faux wood trim on Limited models wouldn’t go amiss.”

Aside from the questionable materials choice, the 2010 Subaru Legacy does benefit from solid overall build quality, a fact clearly on display once you go for a ride at highway speeds. Compared to the outgoing Subaru Legacy, Autoblog says Subaru’s latest sedan offers “a quieter, more comfortable ride,” and Cars.com agrees that overall “wind noise is low,” although they find “road noise with…[the] 17-inch wheels seemed loud.” One of the reasons for the reduced cabin noise levels is the Subaru Legacy 2010’s new door design, which features fully framed windows that Automobile Magazine claims “bring noise, vibration, and harshness levels down considerably.”


2010 Subaru Legacy


The 2010 Subaru Legacy offers all the expected safety features, including stability control on the base model; top crash-test results are anticipated.

Subaru has carved out a nice little niche for itself by heavily marketing the safety credentials of its vehicles, and the 2010 Subaru Legacy carries on the Subaru tradition of safe, family-friendly sedans.

Neither NHTSA nor the IIHS has begun crash-testing 2010 models, but Subaru officials tell TheCarConnection.com that they expect the Subaru Legacy to earn perfect five-star impact ratings from NHTSA, as well as the IIHS’s highest impact rating, "good,” once the 2010 Subaru Legacy is tested. Based on the Subaru Legacy’s previous performances in similar crash tests, those targets seem quite reasonable. Furthermore, JDPower.com reports the 2010 Subaru Legacy features a redesigned frame that includes “a new engine cradle design [that] improves front-impact safety,” while the entire vehicle “features greater use of high-strength steel.” Stay tuned to TheCarConnection.com for the latest safety updates on the Subaru Legacy 2010 lineup.

All vehicles in the Subaru Legacy 2010 lineup come loaded with a bevy of safety features, the best known of which is Subaru’s standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, which provides increased security in inclement weather. In addition to standard electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, Cars.com notes that the 2010 Subaru Legacy’s other standard safety features include “six airbags,” as well as seats that “use a whiplash-mitigating design.”


2010 Subaru Legacy


Subaru has lowered prices and increased standard equipment, so the value proposition and features list are better than ever.

Subaru has attempted to take the Subaru Legacy upscale for the 2010 model year with the addition of several new high-tech features, and the initial impressions in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are positive.

When comparing the Subaru Legacy 2010 lineup to last year’s model, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the standard features list has grown substantially. JDPower.com reviewers are quick to point this out, reporting that “the base 2.5i model, for example, features standard steering wheel audio and cruise control buttons, a 65/35-split folding rear seat, a new electronic parking brake, [and] an automatic lights-on function.” Cars.com notes “an MP3 jack is standard on all trims” of the Subaru Legacy, while Edmunds says the 2010 Subaru Legacy in Limited trim includes “a four-way power passenger seat…dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.”

For those who crave more than just the standard features found on the Subaru Legacy, Subaru has made several desirable options available. One of the more noteworthy options that can be had on the Subaru Legacy 2010 lineup is a “voice-activated navigation system,” according to Automobile Magazine, which Cars.com says includes “a backup camera” as well. The 2010 Subaru Legacy’s navigation system in one of the better ones on the market, but Cars.com reviewers caution that “some simple actions—canceling route guidance, for instance—require an excessive number of intermediary screens.” The navigation system will probably be a sought-after option, but unfortunately Autoblog notes “you’ll have to open your wallet for the Limited trim before you can order it.” For those who aren’t interested in the navigation option, Automobile Magazine lists some of the 2010 Subaru Legacy’s other major options as “an upgraded Harman-Kardon stereo, Bluetooth phone and iPod connectivity, a backup camera, [and] a moonroof.”

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April 13, 2015
For 2010 Subaru Legacy

Great Sedan Value -- what Honda Accords used to be!

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In the four years I've had my Legacy, it has been comfortable, realiable and semi-luxurious transportation. With a family including two kids, safety and economy are primary concerns. Solid crash test ratings... + More »
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April 12, 2015
For 2010 Subaru Legacy

Formerly underrated, not anymore

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Sound, dependable vehicle with above average safety ratings. comfortable interior, satisfying performance from the 4 cylinder and all wheel drive. Interior dashboard controls are good, but later models are... + More »
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Styling 8.0
Performance 9.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
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