The Car Connection Subaru Legacy Overview
The Subaru Legacy is a mid-size, four-door sedan. Over six generations, it's established a following as a reliable entry in a crowded segment filled with best-selling nameplates. The Legacy ultimately is more popular when it's given a wagon body and more ride height when it becomes the Subaru Outback.
Although available as a wagon in the past, the Legacy is strictly a sedan now. The redesigned 2020 Legacy features new underpinnings shared with the Ascent and Forester crossover SUVs, plus a choice of two flat-4 engines including a turbocharged engine in the Legacy XT.
The Subaru Legacy competes with the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima, especially in snowier climates where its all-wheel drive gives it excellent ability to cope with extreme weather.
MORE: Read our 2021 Subaru Legacy review
The new Subaru Legacy
The latest Subaru Legacy debuted at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show. Its look is similar to its predecessor, but the redesigned Legacy shares little other than its shape with the outgoing car. A new, stiffer platform underpins the Legacy. A 182-hp flat-4 is standard while the Legacy XT features a 2.4-liter turbo-4 rated at 260 hp. Regardless of engine, the Legacy comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive.
Inside, all but the base Legacy comes with a vertical 11.6-inch touchscreen that absorbs most climate, audio, and infotainment functions.
The Legacy comes standard with a high level of active safety tech such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. A driver-attention monitoring system that uses an infrared camera to watch the driver's eyes for fatigue or lack of concentration on the road is available on high-trim Legacy sedans.
Like prior years, the Legacy is available in base, Premium, Limited, and Touring versions with increasing comforts and material quality.
The Legacy again forms the basis for the Subaru Outback. Changes were minimal for the 2021 model year.
Subaru Legacy history
Going back a few generations, the 1995 model was a refresh of the original 1989; the Legacy generations introduced in 2000 and 2005 rode on a newer platform.
Initially, the Legacy was powered by a 2.2-liter flat-4 engine. For 2000, the engine grew in size to 2.5 liters. Over the years, Subaru has offered turbocharged versions of its flat-4 engine in Legacy sedans and wagons, including the sporty Legacy GT model. For 2008, a 3.0-liter flat-6 finally migrated from the Outback wagon and into the Legacy sedan. That engine also grew eventually, with a 3.6-liter version coming online for 2010.
Legacy GT models—including rare Legacy GT wagons through 2009—used an intercooled and turbocharged performance version of the flat-4 engine. In 2008, a limited-edition "Spec B" model was offered. It was the first Subaru to offer SI-Drive, which allows the driver to select among three software profiles for throttle response and shift points: Normal, Sport, and Sport Sharp. The system would later be found on the STI.
The fifth-generation Legacy sedan launched in 2010 with the carryover 2.5-liter engine from previous sedans. Also in 2010, the wagon was finally dropped from the Legacy line. Since then, all sedans on the platform have worn Legacy badges, while all wagons carry the renowned Outback nameplate.
For 2013, Subaru installed an all-new 2.5-liter flat-4, which produced 173 hp across a broader, flatter torque curve and offered better fuel efficiency. With the company's own continuously variable transmission, it was rated at 27 mpg combined—quite respectable for a car that came with standard all-wheel drive, Subaru's hallmark since 1997. If you ordered the 6-speed manual transmission (a rarity itself among mid-size sedans), the combined rating fell to 24 mpg. High-end Legacy models continued unchanged with the 3.6-liter engine, delivering an unimpressive 20 mpg combined.
The Legacy was redesigned for 2014 and two powertrains were available. Legacy 2.5i sedans featured a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter flat-4 with acceptable power and fuel economy of up to 30 mpg combined. Legacy 3.6R sedans came with a 256-hp, 3.6-liter flat-6 engine, which doesn't feel quite as strong as it might suggest.
Helping it appeal to families, the Legacy offered more room than its predecessor. Like some other cars in the mid-size class, the interior volume is just under the limit for categorization as a "Large Car" by the EPA. The trunk is similarly roomy.
The Legacy offered an automatic emergency braking system dubbed EyeSight, which uses cameras to help safety systems intercede before accidents happen and also provides adaptive cruise control functionality. The system was initially optional but became standard for the 2019 model year.
The 2014 Legacy marked the debut of a new Subaru infotainment system with a 6.2-inch touchscreen on base models and a 7.0-inch display as an option, one that's controlled via big tiles and icons, with swipe and tap gesture control. The Legacy also comes with standard Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
For the 2016 model year, the Legacy received a tuned steering and suspension feel, and a lane-keeping system is added to the excellent optional safety equipment. Only a year later, for 2017, the automaker added rear automatic emergency braking and a Sport trim that added bigger wheels, two-tone cloth with accent stitching, and exterior chrome accents. For 2018, Subaru slightly revised the interior and exterior. A new grille, headlights, and stitched dashboard were added; a new infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto made its debut. The 2019 Legacy added the automaker's EyeSight tech as standard fare across the lineup.
All Legacy and Outback models sold in the U.S. are built in Lafayette, Indiana.