- Steering and handling
- All-weather ability
- Refined, quiet interior
- Acceleration (2.5GT and 3.6R)
- Roomy backseat
- Still no Bluetooth in base model
- CVT aside, unimpressive fuel economy
- Materials in top 3.6R should be better
The 2012 Subaru Legacy remains the only mainstream, mid-size sedan to offer all-wheel drive; it's also among the better-handling models in this class, and a strong value in 2.5i form.
Subaru completely redesigned the Legacy for 2010. While the core essentials remained—a horizontally opposed (boxer) engine lineup and standard all-wheel drive—it became a bit larger and roomier than before, with more luxury and refinement to boot. And with a new CVT automatic on base four-cylinder models, it's now the most fuel-efficient model among mid-size all-wheel drive sedans.
You can have the 2012 Subaru Legacy with one of three different engines, and each brings a very different personality to this sedan. Base 2.5i models are frugal and sensible but hardly exciting; turbocharged 2.5GT models appeal to driving enthusiasts and get a 265-hp version of the four; and the 256-hp, six-cylinder 3.6R takes the Legacy into more luxurious territory.
You won't see that much of a difference between Legacy models, at least from a distance in Premium or Limited guise. With its recent redesign, the Legacy grew several inches in most directions, with its proportions and stance becoming much more in line with segment best-sellers like the Honda Accord or Nissan Altima. Out went some distinguishing Subaru features like frameless doors, but with the new size and look came a stronger body structure that enables much-improved refinement and safety.
Inside, the Legacy breaks away from the cabin designs of other current Subaru vehicles like the smaller Impreza family, or Forester or Tribeca crossovers. 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.
Across the model line, the Legacy feels just a little bit sportier than rival models from most other automakers--although longtime Subaru fans will sense that this latest model, at least in base form, has a few more concessions to the mass-market (not all a bad thing, really). Steering is very precise and responsive—if a bit over-boosted for some tastes—and the firm yet compliant suspension feels ready for abrupt maneuvers. Each of the models in the lineup has a slightly different feel: Base models and the 2.5GT are light and nimble, while the 3.6R comes across as a little bit heftier, with a nose-heavy emphasis in sharp corners. Fuel economy with the base engine and CVT is good--up to 23 mpg city, 31 highway, making it the most fuel-efficient mid-size AWD sedan, but other models aren't nearly as good for gas mileage.
The 2012 Subaru Legacy is a very roomy sedan, capable of accommodating four adults in comfort—even for an all-day trip. The Legacy's front seats are among the better in this class—even in the base model—and they adjust for loads of legroom and have nice, long cushions. Entry and exit to the back are good, we're impressed with the standard cloth upholstery, and the trunk is very spacious. The ride is firm but just supple enough for most surfaces, and the cabin is as quiet as most affordable mid-size sedans. We also like the simple, straightforward dash and switchgear layout, with nice, round gauges.
While the federal government hasn't yet tested the 2012 Legacy, it remains an IIHS Top Safety Pick. In addition to the usual roster of airbags and stability control, the Legacy's all-wheel drive system is an asset on snowy and rainy highways.
2.5i and 3.6R models are offered in base, Premium, and Limited models, while the GT comes only in Limited guise--which adds fog lamps, dual-zone climate control, and other upgrades. For 2012, audio systems have been revamped; Legacy Premium models get a new audio system with Bluetooth calling and audio-streaming capability; iPod/USB controls, and six speakers. A new harman/kardon system is optional on the Premium and standard on Limited models, and now comes with HD Radio.