2015 Subaru Legacy Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 28, 2015

The 2015 Subaru Legacy smooths over its ruffles, and out-domestics some American family sedans with a big back seat, excellent gas mileage and standard all-wheel drive.

The 2015 Subaru Legacy is no niche vehicle. You may not have put it in the same thought bubble as the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, or Ford Fusion--but now, you should.

We have. The Car Connection has named the Legacy our Best Car To Buy 2015.

It's taken a decade or so, but Subaru's gradual upsizing and mainstreaming of its cars has paid off impressively in the new Legacy. The company that once brought you offbeat cars like the Baja and SVX now has a legitimate leader in the brutally competitive family-sedan class.

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The new Legacy is more conventionally handsome and appealing than a Camry, a Malibu, a 200 or a Passat. It's more spacious than the Accord, the Altima, and the Fusion. Add in good gas mileage and a recent run of great crash-test scores, and the Legacy now throws a few elbows of its own in the mid-size segment.

The  Legacy is Subaru's flagship car, but it acts more like an Avalon than a Lexus LS. It's not too large, not too frilly, not at all pretentious. It blends in purposefully with its surroundings: witness the six-sided grille, the granite countertop of the modern family car. It's a subtle social signal that's everywhere, from the Fusion to the Hyundai Genesis.

The Legacy's cabin shifts in lockstep with the sheetmetal toward a handsome, functional median. It's a clean, easily readable design with a band of metallic or woodgrain trim that distinguishes upper-trim levels from base versions.

The 2015 Subaru Legacy is one sedan we'd have expected to drop its optional six-cylinder engine--given Subaru's great turbo fours. That's not the case, though we'd still suggest the four-cylinder still is the bargain that smart shoppers will seek. Legacy 2.5i sedans are powered by a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that needs to be worked hard when more than just a driver is aboard, but good sound deadening filters off a lot of the byproduct. Legacy 3.6R sedans come with a 256-hp 3.6-liter flat-six engine, which isn't as strong or responsive as we'd like. In part, it's because the Legacy puts smoothness first: it blends ratios seamlessly, steers without any hiccups in its electric-generated effort, and damps out rough roads with real grace.

Gas mileage is excellent. Legacy four-cylinders now are rated at 30 mpg combined, the best in a smaller niche of family sedans with all-wheel drive. Still, its 36-mpg highway rating is up there with the 37-mpg Altima. The six-cylinder's less impressive, at 23 mpg combined.

By dialing up the Legacy's width and wheelbase, Subaru's found more interior space than any other mid-sizer--a technical distinction maybe, but a great use of space nonetheless. The Legacy has 119.6 cubic feet of passenger and trunk space, which slides in just beneath the Feds' 120-cubic-foot definition of a "large" car. Front-seat space is great, but the seats need a lot of incline to provide leg support. The back seat's space is better arranged than all its competition save for the Accord, and trunk space is good, as is in-car storage.

The Legacy has already earned top 'good' results in every category from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- and the Top Safety Pick+ award -- as well as five stars in every category and subcategory of testing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It's one of the few models we give a perfect '10' to in Safety.

Among other features, the Legacy's new infotainment system wipes Subaru's slate clean. We've spent a lot of time with their former system; it's poorly thought out and difficult to use. The new system comes at least with a pretty 6.2-inch multi-function touchscreen, one that's controlled via big tiles and icons, and has swipe and tap gesture control. It behaves a lot like GM's MyLink and IntelliLink systems, down to the ability to set favorites across any media, from Bluetooth streaming to AM to XM favorites. The stock system also includes an iPod/USB port, HD radio, an auxiliary input, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, and integration for Pandora and Aha streaming services.

Finally, pricing is giving buyers something to consider, too--the Legacy's $22,420 base sticker is spot-on, especially with its standard rearview camera and Bluetooth with audio streaming. The $30,390 3.6R is very well equipped, though we're not sure anything more than a mid-range four-cylinder is all Subaru fans will need.

With a little stretch here and a reimagined bit there, the Legacy feels primed for the big time. It's a bit larger where it needs to be, a lot more muted where it has to be, and it's full of features in a way Subaru is really just getting the hang of. In all, we think that makes the Legacy a Nissan Altima equivalent, a legitimate Honda Accord alternative, a sublime counterpoint to the engaging but jiggly Ford Fusion. The latter two duked it out for our Best Car To Buy 2013 title, with the Fusion the winner.

8

2015 Subaru Legacy

Styling

No surprises here: the Subaru Legacy has the six-sided grille and the silhouette of a handsome mainstream sedan.

The  Legacy is Subaru's flagship car, and that speaks to the pragmatic core of the brand...said someone in a PowerPoint at some point, I'm sure. It's not too large, not too frilly, not at all pretentious.

In styling, the Legacy is empty of empty-headed details, pointedly flared instead of pointlessly flaired. Everything just falls into line here, from the raked windshield to the mildly sculpted fenders and lower bodywork. The logo lies inside a six-sided grille--you've seen it everywhere from the Hyundai Sonata to the Ford Fusion. Apparently, if you don't have six sides, you're nowheresville, population one. The side view is as rational as the one on a Hyundai Genesis, without reaching for some elusive upscale look.

From the decklid, you'll have to hunt for the badges before you can definitively name what you're seeing--though to be fair, that's the case with a half-dozen cars in the same class.

Where the details reveal themselves to be Subaru in origin, they're pretty purposeful. The best example: The sideview mirrors are set back behind a small triangle of glass, for better aerodynamics and better visibility.

The Legacy's cabin shifts in lockstep with the sheetmetal toward a handsome, functional median. It's a clean, easily readable design with a band of metallic or woodgrain trim that distinguishes upper-trim levels from base versions. Gauges are lit in blue, with a small LCD display wedged between the dials for a quick read of directions or audio status. The vents are stacked higher on the dash, to make room for a touchscreen interface that sits above a panel of knobs and switches rendered in old-school-Japanese metallic plastic. It's buttoned-down, and you have to look--really look--inside the Legacy for the inexpensive bits of trim.

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8

2015 Subaru Legacy

Performance

Acceleration isn't everything: the beautifully balanced Legacy pays a higher dividend with its capable handling.

The 2015 Subaru Legacy is one sedan we'd have expected to drop its optional six-cylinder engine--given Subaru's great turbo fours. That's not the case, though we'd still suggest the four-cylinder is the bargain that classically frugal Subaru shoppers will seek.

The four-cylinder makes perfect sense in a car like the Legacy, one wraps itself in a layer of predictable, clear responses. It measures out its responses, with perfectly smooth steering feel, a stepless transmission that blurs acceleration, and a suspension that snubs roughed-up roads. Like the Nissan Altima and Honda Accord, the Legacy feels more traditional than a Ford Fusion, and as "premium" as any Volvo.

The flip side of the Legacy's muted responses is that it's tough to get it excited when wanted. The four-cylinder's tame responses are granted, a part of the high-economy bargain. The six-cylinder takes more stoking than it should, for a few reasons--cautious transmission programming, relatively lean torque down low, and gradual throttle uptake.

The base powertrain turns in the best gas mileage, and it's happy to get worked hard. The 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder turns out 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, teamed solely to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive. In solo commuter duty, it's fine for mid-8-second acceleration; with two or more aboard, the four-cylinder needs to be wrung out, especially up mild climbs. Extra sound deadening goes a long way to tamp out the wall of noise waiting at the other side of the gas pedal.

The six-cylinder shaves a second or so off the four's acceleration times. It's not obviously fast, though it is unstrained. With 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, the Subaru 3.6-liter flat-six engine gets beat by about 50 pound-feet of torque by GM's turbo four. There’s no turbo lurch here, no double-gearchange down, just a seamless sweep that comes off as maybe less dramatic than it should.

The six-cylinders also come with a CVT, a different one derived in this case from the WRX sport sedan, one capable of handling the higher torque. With either setup, the Legacy gets a set of steering-wheel paddle shifters and six programmed points on its infinite ratio curve--you'd call them "gears" in a conventional automatic or manual, but CVTs use belts and pulleys instead. The paddles can pull more emotion out of either engine, though it takes more than a click or two down before things get interesting. Unlike other applications, there's no SI-Drive setup in the Legacy--no more aggressive throttle or steering programs, no eight-point shift pattern. There's room here for an easy upgrade.

Between the all-wheel-drive's new torque-vectoring feature--it can shift power front to back, and use the brakes on an inside wheel to tighten a cornering line--the Legacy's default mode is calm, cool and collected. It skims gracefully around winding roads without any of the traction-control drama that's obvious in some overpowered front-drivers. Its electric power steering is a nice compromise of increasing weight off-center, but not excessive weight on-center. It tracks very well, and doesn't weight up unnaturally or step off center too quickly. It just flows with the same ease as the compliant ride. The Legacy is settled, but also absorbent--not squishy and listless like a base Camry, not borderline stiff as in any Fusion.

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9

2015 Subaru Legacy

Comfort & Quality

The Legacy has excellent space for five passengers, and a high-quality feel inside its quiet cabin.

Subaru has gradually upsized its vehicle lineup, to counter the generic size creep going on all across the auto spectrum. The current Honda Civic has the same wheelbase as the original Ford Taurus; today's Forester wagon is the size of the early-2000s Outback. 

The new Legacy expands its footprint, too. Subaru says it's the biggest and roomiest sedan it's ever offered, and also promises the biggest cabin in the family-sedan segment. The numbers ring true, even though the Legacy's about the same length overall as the last edition.

By the numbers, the 2015 Legacy is 188.8 inches in overall length, and it rides on a 108.3-inch wheelbase. It's a couple of inches wider than before, with 1.6 inches more in wheelbase. At the same time, leg room is up, to 42.9 inches front, 38.1 inches rear.

The bulk is fairly well disguised but it's there. The Legacy has 119.6 cubic feet of passenger and trunk space, which slides in just beneath the Feds' 120-cubic-foot definition of a "large" car. And as a result, curb weight is up to about 3,500 pounds in base trim or 3,700 pounds in six-cylinder guise.

A quick comparison puts the Legacy squarely in the ballpark with the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord. The Fusion has a 112.2-inch wheelbase, weight about the same, and has 118.8 cubic feet of interior volume. It nets out with 44.3 inches of front leg room, 38.3 inches of rear leg room--but it also loses some of that volume and leg room to a more sloped roofline. The Accord is closest to the Legacy's specs, with an inch more wheelbase and a zero-sum gain in front and rear legroom.

A bit smaller are the Nissan Altima, which gives front seat passengers two inches more in legroom carved right out of the back-seat space, and 2 cubic feet less interior volume; and the Chevy Malibu which doesn't seem so small, but is down in every critical measure against the Legacy--most noticeably off 1.3 inches in rear seat legroom and 3 cubic feet of space.

Subaru splits out that space in a very functional way. The front seats are mounted a little higher than before, and with power adjustment, they have a very wide range to accommodate a lot of drivers. The seats themselves? In cloth or leather, they could use more side bolstering, and really need a lot of tilt in the cushion to feel adequately supportive.

The console that divides the front seats has a big pair of cupholders and a shallow, covered bin that holds a power point and two USB ports--aside from the console bin, deep enough to hold an iPad.

The Legacy's back seat has a better setup than the Fusion; the Altima has better cushioning but the Subaru's rear bench has a less sunken feel, maybe a perception issue stemming from the brighter colors and trim in our primary test car. You could probably put three adults across in back for short trips and still have a working relationship with them afterward.

And unlike the base Accord, the Legacy's rear seat still has 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks. Once folded down, the seats expose a large cutout that expands the 15.0 cubic feet of trunk space. The trunklid itself is nicely squared and cut widely, so loading wider objects should be a snap.

The Legacy's cabin is quieter than ever, thanks to a new acoustic windshield, thicker panels, liquid-filled engine mounts, and more noise insulation throughout.

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10

2015 Subaru Legacy

Safety

The Legacy has pegged the Top Safety Pick+ meter, and it's a perfect five-star NHTSA performer.

The 2015 Legacy has already earned top 'good' results in every category from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- and the Top Safety Pick+ award, as well as nothing but top five-star results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In the IIHS battery of frontal and side crash tests—including the roof strength and rear (seat-based) tests—the 2015 Subaru Legacy earned nothing but top results in every single subcategory.  Last year's models had a very good yet imperfect report card, with the second-best 'acceptable' rating in the front small overlap category.

Along with the standard safety gear--it includes all-wheel drive and a rearview camera--the Legacy can be configured with a bundle of the latest active-safety technology. The bundle includes blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warnings, and rear cross-traffic alerts. It also comes standard with airbags in the front of the bottom seat cushion, to help prevent submarining in an accident. And we really appreciate the Legacy's excellent visibility; its stiff body structure is delivered with slimmer roof pillars, a boon to rearward visibility.The safety thoughtfulness goes as far as a feature we never knew existed on any Subaru. A car-mounted touchpad lets drivers set a code that allows the keyless-entry fob to be left in the car. If you're off chasing waterfalls or mudrunning, you can leave the fob behind in the car, and just tap the code for re-entry.

The Legacy also introduces the latest version of its EyeSight driver-assistance system. It has smaller, better cameras that are better able to handle glare, have 40 percent better detection range, and can now recognize brake lights ahead in traffic. Subaru also says its system will be less expensive to repair after an accident--since the cameras are mounted inside the windshield, they're protected better from impacts.

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9

2015 Subaru Legacy

Features

A big infotainment upgrade and standard all-wheel drive give the Legacy a great edge, especially in base versions.

When it arrives in showrooms this summer, the 2015 Subaru Legacy will have some strong-selling crossovers and cars at its back. It'll share showrooms with the recent Impreza sedan, its hot WRX and STI spin-offs, and the Forester and XV Crosstrek crossover wagons, not to mention its own Outback wagon spin-off due a little later this year.

The new Legacy will be priced to go up against the most brutally competitive set of family sedans, some available with all-wheel drive, some not. The 2015 Legacy 2.5i carries a base price of $22,420, and comes with a rearview camera, power accessories, and cruise control. Moving up to the $24,290 Legacy 2.5i Premium adds a 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, and an all-weather package, as well as Bluetooth hands-free text messaging and a 7.0-inch touch screen for the infotainment system. The Legacy 2.5i Limited, at $27,290, upgrades to leather seats, 18-inch wheels, a harman/kardon audio system and heated rear seats.

The infotainment system that makes its debut in the new Legacy wipes the Subaru slate clean. We've spent a lot of time with their former system; it's poorly thought out and difficult to use. The new system comes at least with a pretty 6.2-inch multi-function touchscreen, one that's controlled via big tiles and icons, and has swipe and tap gesture control. It behaves a lot like GM's MyLink and IntelliLink systems, down to the ability to set favorites across any media, from Bluetooth streaming to AM to XM favorites.

The stock system also includes an iPod/USB port, HD radio, an auxiliary input, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, and integration for Pandora and Aha streaming services. Upgraded systems and those with optional navigation have two USB ports and voice-command recognition with a good grasp of natural language. Depending on which system you get, there's a separate reconfigurable display (up to five inches across) in front of the driver.

At the top of the range, the six-cylinder Legacy 3.6R Limited starts at $30,390. It comes with the 2.5i Limited's gear, as well as stainless exhaust tips and HID headlights. There are a handful of options, too, ranging from $1,195 for the Moonroof Package up to $2,990 for a package that adds moonroof, navigation, keyless start and Subaru’s EyeSight collision avoidance system.

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8

2015 Subaru Legacy

Fuel Economy

A combined EPA rating of 30 mpg for the four-cylinder Legacy puts this Subaru near the top of the segment.

With a combined EPA rating of 30 miles per gallon, the four-cylinder Subaru Legacy is among the most efficient mid-size sedans with all-wheel drive. Broken out by test, the Legacy achieves 26 mpg city, 36 highway in 2.5i trim, numbers that put it slightly below the best front-drive vehicles in the segment, the Nissan Altima and Honda accord.

Helping the four-cylinder Legacy earn those excellent ratings are active grille shutters, which close to smooth airflow at higher speeds, and a weight-saving aluminum hood.

Six-cylinders are quite a bit more drinky, getting 20/29 mpg or 23 mpg combined.

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May 15, 2016
2015 Subaru Legacy 4-Door Sedan 2.5i Premium PZEV

My Subaru Legacy Premium 2.5i with EyeSight and PZEV

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Pros: A competent vehicle in good and bad weather. Excellent ride quality, equal to some luxury cars. Reliability has been excellent so far, but I have only 10k miles on the odometer. Fuel economy is... + More »
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May 9, 2016
2015 Subaru Legacy 4-Door Sedan 2.5i Premium PZEV

This car is a secret to most buyers. It has style ,comfort , great gas mileage. If looking for a mid size car give it a test drive you will be suprised.

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The Subaru dealer was in the auto park with Ford Chevrolet Chrysler dealers. It gave me the chance to test drive and compare 4 comparable cars without driving all over town. For my car buying dollar the Subaru... + More »
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April 4, 2016
2015 Subaru Legacy 4-Door Sedan 2.5i Limited

LONG TIME SUBARU OWNER

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I have owned a 2007 Forreste LL Bean ,then a 2011 Outback Wagon Limited. There were a few short coeing though. The engine was noisey on exceleration and the NVH needed work. I read the reviews on the 2015... + More »
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December 30, 2015
For 2015 Subaru Legacy

Best mid size 2015.

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The best legacy ever. It drives well and is really quiet cabin. Easy dashboard layout and spacious rear seats. Good boot space and good driver seat position and space.
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October 12, 2015
2015 Subaru Legacy 4-Door Sedan 3.6R Limited

smooth performer

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Near luxury performance, smooth ride, quiet, excellent safety features, plenty of freeway power, lots of room front and rear, big trunk despite being an inch or so shorter than other mid sized sedans. A... + More »
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August 8, 2015
2015 Subaru Legacy 4-Door Sedan 2.5i Limited

One of the better cars I have owned

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Good solid feel on the road. Power is fine for most situations. Lots of room for both front and back seat passengers. Road noise is average. This new transmission takes some getting used to but now I like it... + More »
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June 28, 2015
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2015 Legacy

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With 3000 miles on the car, we are loving the new Legacy. The car handles very well, due to torque vectoring steering. Impressive for an affordable family sedan. The ride is smooth and quiet. Subaru has... + More »
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June 8, 2015
2015 Subaru Legacy 4-Door Sedan 2.5i Premium

Our second Subaru

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Overall, the 2015 Subaru legacy is an outstanding vehicle. Loads of leg room, excellent placement of all controls and a clear and useable rear camera. If this one lasts as long as our first, we most likely... + More »
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May 29, 2015
2015 Subaru Legacy 4-Door Sedan 2.5i Premium

Yes, the 2015 Legacy really is THAT good

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Unless the most important thing about a car to you is how impressive it is to others, there isn't another possible reason why you would chose anything else, at any price, over the Legacy. This is far and away... + More »
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May 13, 2015
2015 Subaru Legacy 4-Door Sedan 2.5i Limited PZEV

Infotainment center was very poorly designed, but otherwise the car is beautiful!

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Although the car is beautiful on the outside and has a quite impressive looking interior, the infotainment center is very poorly designed. I never thought it would be so difficult to change the channel with... + More »
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