And in what we can only chalk down as an impressive economy of scale, Subaru has managed to price its products pretty closely with front-wheel-drive versions of rival models. The 2014 Legacy starts at a base price of $21,090. Load a moonroof and Subaru's breakthrough EyeSight accident-avoidance suite into a Legacy Premium, and you add up to around $27k—which still sounds like a great deal considering all you get (yes, things like adaptive cruise control, heated seats and mirrors, and a power driver's seat).
But Subaru didn't spring for such things with the rather basic 2014 Legacy that we drove earlier this winter. At just $26,418, it epitomized what Subaru has become best known for: providing simple, honest all-wheel drive transportation for the family.
Sharp on the outside; looking dated inside
The Legacy might not turn heads, but it's good-looking and on the outside doesn't look all that dated—even though it was last redesigned for the 2010 model year. Its profile is conservative but handsome, and the chiseled sheetmetal line running from the front fenders all the way to the rear lights—a cue that looked perhaps too heavy-handed five years ago—fits right in today.
Inside, the lack of excessive chrome and brightwork is noted, and much appreciated. There's only one exception. The brushed-metal-on-plastic look of the center console, as well as the audio system and interface altogether look like they were beamed in from 2004—not even 2010. It's reasonably functional, though; the system sounded quite good on FM or satellite radio, and it's modern enough to include USB inputs as well as Bluetooth audio streaming that played well with my iPhone.
We wonder, though, why the large, lidded compartment that you get at the center of the dash is above, not below, the climate controls—pushing them farther downward from the line of sight. Although we'll concede that it's a pretty useful storage space. You get another big bin farther down, by the way, as well as a lidded center-console bin large enough for a DSLR camera.On the steering wheel you have a rather extensive array of button and toggle controls for audio, phone, and cruise control functions—as well as a hot button for this car's rather rudimentary voice controls. The Legacy dealt well with the extremely coarse road surfaces around this editor's Portland, Oregon, locale; and the Bluetooth hands-free calling features in this car were remarkably clear.
What an all-weather trooper
Our car, in Twilight Blue Metallic—a color that looked more like gray in some lighting—fit right in with a particularly messy, wet-and-windy winter week. The all-wheel drive system assured that we never missed a beat for traction, and given some strong crosswinds, the steering felt confidence-inspiring, and the cloth heated seats were comfortable and welcoming in the cold.
The character of the powertrain remains one of the items for which you're either going to cross the Legacy off the list, or find it kind of...charming, as we do. The 173-hp, horizontally opposed 'flat' four-cylinder engine definitely has character; it lopes along at idle and thrums at around 2,500 rpm at mild acceleration with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) until you ease off with your right foot. Mash it down for passing, and the CVT responds faster than in some other models, bringing the revs up quite quickly.
The bright side is that the engine has plenty of torque in the low to mid rev range, and even in moderate acceleration the engine won't be racing. But if you're in that mood, grab one of the steering-wheel paddles and you can click through six ratios; it's not as quick and responsive as the shifts that you get in the WRX or the Forester XT, but it allows you to lock in a ratio down a long grade or for a steady ascending series of corners.By the end of the week, we'd averaged more than 24 mpg, over 130 miles and a style of driving that was far from efficiency-minded—with plenty of short trips, stops, and cold temperatures (the EPA rating is 24 mpg city, 32 highway). Not bad for a roomy all-wheel drive sedan with a back seat that this 6'-6” editor can actually fit into.
The test Legacy 2.5i Sport we drove started at $23,595, but it was optioned with the 'Sport Equipment Value' package, including 18-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, a back-up camera system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, fog lamps, upgraded trim, alloy pedal covers, and black cloth seats with stitching. It also added a cargo net, for a grand total of $26,418.
Should you wait for the 2015 redesign?
There's an obvious, lingering question here: Should you wait for the 2015 Subaru Legacy? While we haven't yet driven the 2015 Legacy, we're going to keep this simple. If you value in-vehicle connectivity, and want an interface that's more modern and like that tablet you might carry, then absolutely. And if you tend to place more of a priority on style, then you likely also should wait. However if you're a pragmatist who wants a trusty all-weather sedan, the Legacy's value can't be beat.