2010 Subaru Legacy Lineup: Bigger, Better, Bolder

August 18, 2009

Originally Published in Subiesport Magazine

The Subaru Legacy sedan has long been the black sheep of the boxer-bred family. Whereas the WRX clearly appeals to rally fans and the Outback to hiking enthusiasts, the Legacy isnt so well defined: The plucky sedan has been trying to find its voice ever since Subaru split the Outback and Legacy product lines.

It was way back in 2005 that Subaru last had a distinct marketing strategy for the Legacy lineup. It was a mostly forgettable series of ads that featured vaguely-lit hood lines and taglines reminiscent of Infiniti or Lexus. Problem was, even then, other cars in the mid-sized segment offered more complete packages.

The "Flagship" 2010 Legacy 3.6R with H6.

The 2005 Legacy suffered from back-seat legroom only appropriate for small children, an unacceptable amount of road noise and (though it was greatly improved over the previous Legacy) an interior that was far from best in class. Remember, they were targeting Lexus, BMW and other aspirational mid-size sedans in their ads. As great a car as the 2005 Legacy was, it didnt stand a chance when positioned in a class where owners worried less about expense and more about prestige, comfort and having a modicum of legroom.

Fast forward to 2009. Its a different world than the heady days of 2005. Prestige is on the outs, and frugality is the new excess. That said, even though car buyers are no longer looking for as much outward flash, the basic requirements of a mid-sized sedan are unchanged. That brings us to the all-new 2010 Subaru Legacy lineup. Not one, but three core models. Each level of the new line has been tweaked to meet a particular set of demands in one of the most competitive markets. Has Subaru succeeded? Lets take a look.

Subaru Legacy 2.5i CVT
31mpg on the highway. Thats the big news. We dont know of a more fuel-efficient full-time all-wheel drive sedan. (If you can name one which scores better, feel free to comment below, wed really like to know!) The stellar economy is thanks to modest improvements in the naturally-aspirated 2.5 boxer and, even more so, a new Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The 2.5i only has a single exhaust

Subaru pioneered the CVTs in the Clinton era with the good ol Justy sub-compact. Though it hasnt recently shipped any CVTs to the North American market, it continued to develop and sell these fancy transmissions in other world markets. The CVT in the new Legacy is a chain-driven, zero maintenance unit that transforms the driving experience.

Whats so special about a CVT? No gears. None. Instead of the traditional winding of the tach through each cog, a CVT winds up to optimal load and stays there. 10mph to 80mph, the motor sits (to borrow a sports metaphor) in the zone at all times. As is the style, even the Subaru CVT is available with paddle-shifters, so you can mimic the old-fashioned past-time of running through the tach as you carve through your favorite set of corners, but its technically no longer required.

On the road, fake shifting the paddles is brisk and enjoyable. A voice in the back of my head kept reminding me that it was nothing more than masturbatory motoring. Empty pleasure. Still, it was a good drive, even with the smallest motor Subaru offers on any Legacy, the 2.5-liter 170-hp unit, pulling duty (note: the CVT is currently only available with the N/A 2.5 H4.)

With the optional CVT the 2010 2.5i Legacy is priced at a very appealing $21,690 (inc. destination).  Though you can spend 1G less and get it with a 6-speed transmission, in this range wed recommend at least trying the CVT before committing to cogs.

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