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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
throttle response is dulled by annoying turbo lag
ride quality is a Legacy strong point
pleasant around town and in a parking lot
Kelley Blue Book
The 2009 Subaru Legacy can be equipped with three different engines and a choice of manual or automatic shift on all but the top six-cylinder models; the three engines span a significant range from frugality to edgy performance or more refinement.
According to Car and Driver, the 2009 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited and 2.5GT spec.B "both add an intercooled turbocharger to the engine." On these upgraded models, however, ConsumerGuide remarks "throttle response is dulled by annoying turbo lag." Nonetheless, Edmunds insists that while the 2.5-liter engine "provides adequate power...the Legacy GT Limited (with its turbocharged engine) is truly a fun car to drive hard."
Cars.com reports that "standard Legacys use a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine." With the base engine, the 2009 Subaru Legacy has adequate power when carrying a light load, but if you plan on hauling a lot of stuff or driving in the mountains, the engine can feel taxed. The turbocharged engine in the GT Limited and Spec.B is the most responsive, with none of the turbo lag that sometimes plagues turbos, but the six is the smoothest and most refined.
At the top of the 2009 Subaru Legacy lineup, the six-cylinder engine comes just with the five-speed automatic. Stating just the facts, Cars.com reports that the Subaru 2009 engine "teams with a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission." ConsumerGuide testers "find the manual transmission to have imprecise, overly long shift action" on base cars, and Edmunds notes that the "one glaring bit of criticism has been the GT Limited's automatic transmission, which seems to be ill-suited for the vehicle's turbocharged engine." All-wheel drive is standard on all Legacy models. Models with the base engine have either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while turbo models have either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, which comes with Sportshift paddle shifters and a rev-matching downshift throttle-blipping feature for performance driving.
The SI-DRIVE system has three different modes that allow throttle response, transmission shift, and other characteristics to change from smooth to sharp as desired. The system comes standard on all 2009 Subaru Legacy models with the turbocharged four or the six-cylinder engine. “Subaru's SI-Drive works with the 3.0 R Limited and 2.5 GT Limited by mapping accelerator response and shift points according to three settings,” Cars.com comments. “Subaru says Intelligent mode yields up to a 10 percent increase in gas mileage, while Sport mode nets quicker accelerator response for better performance. Finally, Sport Sharp modifies the accelerator and transmission for maximum performance.”
Edmunds editors “found the Subaru Legacy to be both sporty and comfortable—a challenging combination for manufacturers to master.” ConsumerGuide declares "handling is composed, with little body lean in fast corners," while "brakes feel strong on all” editions of the Legacy. Motor Trend observes "ride quality is a Legacy strong point." Autoblog notes that "Bilstein Sport Suspension equips the Legacy 3.0 R Limited with performance-tuned shock absorbers for improved cornering." Even in one of the less expensive models, the 2009 Subaru Legacy handles very well on the road, with crisp, rather communicative steering and not much body lean; ride comfort is quite good as well. Responses are especially sharp in GT Spec.B models, though not at the expense of comfort.
According to the EPA, the Legacy gets 20/27 mpg in base versions with either transmission, 19/24 mpg with the GT; Spec.B editions hit 19/24 mpg in manual and 18/24 mpg in automatic form. This particular model "averaged 20.1 mpg in mostly highway driving," according to ConsumerGuide, which does not differ greatly from other mileage estimates. The six-cylinder 3.0 R checks in at 17/24 mpg with either transmission.
Many different powertrain combinations—each with all-wheel drive—allow the 2009 Subaru Legacy to cover everything from basic all-weather sedan to high-performance tourer.