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The Subaru Legacy mid-size sedan is already entering its fourth year since a major redesign, but it's received some significant updates for 2013, with a new, more fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, along with a handful of new active-safety features and improved refinement.
While the Legacy doesn't stand out in styling or design, it handles well, has a spacious interior, and is the only competitor in the segment with all-wheel drive standard at every trim level. It's also one of the highest-mileage mid-size sedans with AWD.
Outside and in, the 2013 Subaru Legacy is about the same size as the volume leaders in the mid-size sedan market, including the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The styling favors a blocky front and exaggerated wheel arches, similar to the Outback wagon but more muted, and wheels aside, you won't see much difference between base 2.5i models and the high-end Premium trim level. Inside, we like the simple, straightforward dash and switchgear layout, with nice, round gauges and the audio system placed high in the center stack, between vents that almost echo the upward "winged" design motif of the headlights and grille. For 2013, Subaru has added new dark glossy wood trim for an upscale touch.
The two engines give the 2013 Legacy two distinctly different personalities. The base 2.5i models are sensible, frugal, and nimble, but not enormously exciting. The six-cylinder 3.6R, on the other hand, is smooth and powerful, and in the high-level Limited trim, pits the Legacy into more luxurious competitors--where its straightforward interior and somewhat limited equipment may prove a handicap for some buyers. The turbocharged four that's been optional in past year and has given the Legacy some of the flavor of the WRX is gone this year.
Handling has always been a strong point for Subaru, and the Legacy sedan sits on the sporty side of the scale among mid-size sedans. Dropped closer to the ground than the high-riding Outback wagon, it corners flat and sticks well, with precise and responsive steering. The heavier six in the 3.6R definitely changes the handling, with that model feeling more nose-heavy in tight corners versus the better balanced and lighter 2.5i. And for 2013, Subaru has retuned the suspension for even better agility while reducing noise and smoothing the ride over lumpy pavement.
Four full-size adults can travel in comfort all day long, and the Legacy's access to the rear seats through wide-opening doors is particularly good. The front seats are among the best in the class--even those in the base model, which are covered this year in new and more upscale seat fabric--and have long lower cushions, an area in which some sedans cheat for extra legroom. The ride is firm but just supple enough for most surfaces, and the cabin is as quiet as most affordable mid-size sedans. The trunk is surprisingly spacious too. For 2013, Subaru has added more premium appeal with both rear-seat air-conditioning ducts and electroluminescent gauges in the Limited models.
The Legacy's all-wheel drive system is an asset on snowy and rainy highways; but on top of that it includes several key active-safety options. With a new, optional EyeSight system for 2013, a stereo camera system provides adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and pre-collision braking.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy comes in three trim levels: base, Premium, and Limited. Standard features in all Legacy sedans include automatic headlights, steering-wheel switches for the audio system and cruise control, a folding 60/40 split rear seat-back, and Subaru's characteristic Hill Holder system, which sets the brakes when the car comes to a stop on a slope until the driver accelerates away. The standard audio system has four speakers and, for 2013, adds Bluetooth pairing for hands-free mobile-phone use and audio streaming, a USB charging port, and iPod control.At the top of the range, the Limited models add to that leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, an All-Weather Package (optional on Premium) that bundles de-icing wipers and heated mirrors and front seats), four-way power adjustment for the front passenger, and a Harman/Kardon nine-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a 440-Watt amplifier, and a 4.3-inch display screen. Options include a power moonroof and an in-dash GPS navigation system with real-time traffic data.