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With its replacement unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February, and redesigned 2015 models already arriving at this point, the 2014 Subaru Legacy is nearing its expiration date; but that doesn't mean it isn't a strong entry in the mid-size sedan field. Like its successor, the 2014 Legacy remains the sole mid-size sedan that provides all-wheel drive as standard equipment in every model. Despite that extra technology, its gas-mileage ratings are some of the segment's best, though that's a constantly moving target as automakers upgrade their new cars to meet continuously tougher fuel economy rules.
In its final year, the 2014 Legacy was largely unchanged after a number of improvements and new features the previous year. Those included the well-reviewed EyeSight camera system, a number of infotainment upgrades, and some additional electronic safety systems as well. Refinements to the suspension also improved the ride while making the handling and roadholding smoother. But the biggest change was to an all-new generation of 2.5-liter flat-four engines--which is how Subaru boosted the Legacy's previously uncompetitive fuel-efficiency numbers.
The exterior design of the five-year-old Legacy match the profile of most mid-sized sedans, with a long hood and a short trunk following a steeply raked rear window. The Legacy has a somewhat slab-sided shape, with extremely exaggerated wheel arches. The front carries the characteristic Subaru hexagonal grille, a somewhat chunky shape that underscores the car's sturdiness while giving it a slightly more aggressive appearance than before. But you'll have to be a Subaru expert to tell the difference between the least expensive base 2.5i model and the top-of-the-line and rather more luxurious Limited models--specific alloy wheels aside, they're almost identical to the eye.
Inside, the interior is straightforward and the switchgear and dashboard are pleasantly intuitive. The gauges are round and easy to read, and the audio system sits high in the center stack, easy to reach. It's flanked by vents that echo the upward-wing shape of the headlights, and on top-line models, there's dark glossy wood trim that adds a touch of luxury to the otherwise practical interior.
The Legacy offers two engines, and the car takes on quite different personalities depending on which one is specified. The bulk of Legacies are sold with a 173-horsepower, 2.5-liter flat four. They're nimble, frugal, and--in the end--sensible, like most Subarus, but they're not all that exciting behind the wheel. The 256-hp flat-six in the 3.6R model, on the other hand, provides a surge of smooth power and puts higher-end Legacies into competition with some pricier mid-size sedans--where its sensible interior and limited feature list may hurt it for all but diehard Subaru fans. (Of which there are a growing number, Subaru having almost doubled its market share in recent years.)
Among mid-size sedans, the Legacy comes in on the sporty side. Subarus generally handle quite well, and the Legacy benefits from its low-mounted engine and the ground clearance of a sedan rather than the Outback's truck riding height. The car sticks well on turns and corners flat, and the steering is responsive and precise. You'll notice the heavier front end in the 3.6R six-cylinder model; the four is definitely a better-balanced and more neutral-handling car. Last year's suspension upgrades improved agility while both smoothing out the ride over broken or choppy pavement and reducing cabin noise.
The all-wheel drive fitted to every four-door Subaru is renowned as a safety asset in rain, snow, and ice, but Subaru added new safety features last year to keep the Legacy competitive in a fast-changing area of the market. The EyeSight system uses a stereo camera to process images that give the car lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and pre-collision braking.
Four adults can ride comfortably in the Legacy, which has one of the more spacious rear compartments of any mid-size sedan--including wide-opening doors that make it easy to enter and exit. The front seats are simply excellent, even in the low-end base models, and taller drivers will find the lower seat cushions are sufficiently long--an area where some makers cheat. The ride is on the firm side, but smooth enough on most types of pavement, and cabin noise is among the lowest in the mid-size class--though the five-year-old Legacy has lost some ground to newer competitors. The Legacy's trunk is large too, at almost 15 cubic feet.
Like most Subarus, the 2014 Legacy comes in base, Premium, and Limited trim levels. Even the base 2.5i model, at just over $20,000, includes audio and cruise-control switches on the steering wheel, automatic headlights, a folding rear seat-back that's split 60/40, and a Hill Holder system that sets the brakes if the car stops on a hill--until the driver accelerates to move away. The four-speaker standard audio system has Bluetooth pairing and audio streaming, iPod control, and a USB charging port. For 2014 models, Subaru has made the formerly optional All-Weather Package standard on the Premium trim level; it bundles heated mirrors and front seats with de-icing windshield wipers.
Most Legacies will likely be the Premium, or mid-range level, but at the top of the range, Limited models include such niceties as dual-zone climate control, rear-seat air conditioning ducts, electroluminescent gauges, leather upholstery, four-way power adjustment for the front passenger seat, and a nine-speaker, 440-Watt Harman/Kardon audio system with its own 4.3-inch in-dash display. Options include an in-dash GPS navigation system with real-time traffic data and a power moonroof.
- Sporty handling
- All-wheel drive standard
- Spacious interior, large trunk
- Good gas mileage for AWD
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- Unremarkable styling
- Performance of 2.5i only average
- Priciest 3.6R models short on features