- Good value
- EyeSight system is very good, affordable
- All-wheel drive as standard
- Standard infotainment
- Conservative looks
- Aging powertrain
- Average performance
features & specs
The safety and all-weather performance of the 2017 Subaru Legacy are convincing enough. Consider the roomy sedan's value at any trim and decent gas mileage, and it's no wonder it was our Best Car to Buy for 2015.
According to us, the 2017 Subaru Legacy is the best mid-sizer you're probably not buying.
We thought so highly of it that we made it our 2015 "Best Car to Buy," and still its sales pale in comparison to the others against which it competes. It's not entirely our fault; allocative efficiency means that as more flock to SUVs and crossovers, and sedans like the Subaru Legacy have value created by a vacuum that can't last forever. It's very good for mid-size sedan shoppers—if they're still out there.
The Legacy manages a solid 7.3 out of 10 on our overall scale, which is high for an affordable, mid-size sedan. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Starting at around $22,000, the 2017 Subaru Legacy offers an impressive list of standard equipment including a 6.2-inch touchscreen infotainment with internet streaming, rearview camera, standard all-wheel-drive (AWD), continuously variable transmission (CVT), comprehensive standard safety, and nearly 30 mpg combined. Yeah, we don't know how they do it either.
Unlike the Outback, which is based loosely on it, the Legacy fights for attention—its anonymous looks aren't helping much, if we're being honest—and it's struggling to find it. The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord aren't world-beaters either, but both are far bigger sellers thanks to better powertrain options and name recognition.
Therefore, the Legacy's best argument is a nuanced one: its value comes into focus when you consider its all-wheel drive as standard. Only the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200 offer all-wheel drive, as options, and both are only available on pricey, top-end models. We can't imagine more mid-sizers will take on AWD either.
See? The value vacuum is already starting to suck.
Good from the inside, out
The 2017 Subaru Legacy comes with two powertrain options, both mated to a CVT and all-wheel drive. A 2.5-liter flat-4 that makes 175 horsepower is our pick, but it won't be hurried. A bigger 3.6-liter flat-6 is available in top Limited trim, but it's only good for pulling off high-altitude passes and its mediocre fuel economy could be too much for many to swallow.
The flat-6 makes 256 hp and would be a better pick if: its torque were more available; and, the paddle shifters on the CVT weren't so adept at keeping the 2.5-liter on the boil. Keep the 2.5-liter flat-4 a couple programmed "gears" lower—the CVT uses gears and pulleys—and it'll pass just fine.
Subaru's AWD system works well here and on-board electronics help keep the Legacy in shape on the twisty stuff—even though its sporting potential ends at its new-for-2017 Sport trim, which is effectively an appearance package.
Inside the Legacy is roomy and well appointed, with a 6.2- or 7.0-inch touchscreen standard on all models. The seats are serviceable and the available leather trim can punch well above its price category.
The Legacy's sheet metal is conservative and subtle. Even with the Sport trim's 18-inch wheels, gray grille, and chrome accent, we'd be hard pressed to identify it as instantly Subaru if the badges were deleted.
Perhaps the 2017 Subaru Legacy's best trait is its very good safety scores. This year's Legacy aced every federal and IIHS test, and is one of the few cars on the road to do so. When equipped with its optional EyeSight safety system, the Legacy is safer on paper than many cars twice its price.
Subaru is also one of the first—if not only—automakers to test pet safety devices. Like many Americans, Subaru owners tend to own pets, and testing those safety devices is good information from the automaker, for consumers. We can get on board with that.
In addition to Subaru's optional EyeSight system the automaker also makes available blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and new for 2017, rear automatic emergency braking with object detection.
In all, the Legacy is a very safe sedan with very good data to back up that claim.
Mileage isn't a selling point. The 2.5-liter flat-4 returns respectable fuel economy around 30 mpg combined, and more than 30 mpg on the highway. The flat-6 falls down a bit, in the low-20s, and is comparable to mid-size SUVs and bigger sedans with more interior space.
2017 Subaru Legacy
The 2017 Subaru Legacy is one of the more conservatively styled sedans in the segment; a Sport trim helps, but not that much.
The 2017 Subaru Legacy is a handsome sedan in the way settlers found sturdy mates that could survive the arduous journey through middle America. What we're saying is: You won't be wowed, but you will get to work.
The Legacy only gets points for being average in the class, a 5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Everything is in its place on the Legacy and the no-nonsense sedan avoids every empty design trend of today. It's most daring features are its sharply raked windshield and mildly sculpted fenders and lower bodywork.
In front, the logo lies inside a six-sided grille—it's no trend-setter as you've seen it everywhere from the Hyundai Sonata to the Ford Fusion. The more blunt look of the front end, and the taller grille together work a bit better with the closely related Outback than they do in the Legacy, although it doesn't get in the way of an elegant, nicely proportioned side view.
For 2017, Subaru added a Sport trim that serves as an appearance package. Bigger wheels and chrome accents on the rockers are the only differences on the exterior, if you're really looking. Inside, the Sport trim adds two-tone cloth upholstery with accent stitching (good) and carbon fiber-patterned accents on the dash (not so good). Thankfully, the cabin shifted its design toward a handsome, functional median with 2015's redesign.
Overall, it's a clean, easily readable design with a band of metallic or wood-grain 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.
While we wouldn't call the materials choices in the Legacy the best in its class, it's come a long way. There are a few inexpensive bits of trim, but you have to look—really look—for them.
2017 Subaru Legacy
The Legacy handles well for a mid-size sedan, but it's below average in acceleration.
Subaru will celebrate this year its 50th anniversary of offering horizontally opposed, "boxer" engines in its cars. It's a distinctive setup—the only other mainstream manufacturer that uses boxers is Porsche—and a galvanizing passion for owners and enthusiasts.
The Legacy uses two of Subaru's oldest boxer engines and it's equally endearing and impairing, in our view.
We gave it a 6 out of 10 on our performance matrix for a good transmission and good ride. We're not all that impressed by the base engine, and it loses a point there. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The base, 2.5-liter flat-4 engine makes 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It's flat engine design lays the cylinders flat, not in an angled (in a "vee" layout) nor vertical (in an "inline") orientation. The benefit of a flat orientation has been a compact engine design, lower in the car's engine bay, which can help lower the center of gravity and improve handling. The drawback has been relatively inefficient fuel consumption compared to inline-4 or even V-6 engines because of the boxer's design and complexity.
The optional 3.6-liter flat-6 makes 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque and would be our pick if its twist felt more available across the band. Instead, the bigger-engined Subaru is undramatic and leisurely in its acceleration. The benefit of the bigger engine in the Legacy isn't as pronounced as the Outback—the Legacy doesn't need gobs of power to be a daily commuter, and is likely to carry less gear than a fully loaded Outback.
But the Legacy only weighs around 100 pounds less than an Outback, and the 2.5-liter still gasps for power in our testing. Admittedly, in Denver where we've driven the 2.5i Limited Legacy extensively, the air's a little thinner up here, but we've experienced the same on California's Northern coast.
Our answer for 2017? Pick the 2.5-liter flat-4 and make sure you have paddle shifters for highway passes and through the twisty fun stuff. That's the best compromise with Subaru's excellent continuously variable transmission (CVT).
You'd be forgiven for thinking the CVT is a conventional 6-speed automatic because of the programmed ratios it cycles through during hard acceleration. 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—and it still might come in the form of a GT.
Last year, Subaru revised its power steering set up and we like it. The Legacy offers a nice compromise in the feel of its electric power steering. There's not excessive weight on center, yet it increases weight nicely off-center; the result is a car that tracks well, drives easy, and unwinds smartly from tight corners.
2017 Subaru Legacy
Comfort & Quality
The Legacy has family ride bona fides, and it's seriously improved over previous generations.
The 2017 Subaru Legacy sits at the large end of the mid-size lineup. It sports 119.6 cubic feet of passenger and trunk space, which slides in just beneath the feds' 120-cubic-foot definition of a "large" car. As a result, curb weight is up to about 3,500 pounds in base trim or 3,700 pounds in flat-6 guise. It's riding just a bit more like a big car than before, although in most ways the weight is well-masked.
We gave it a 8 out of 10 on our quality scale thanks to good front and rear seats, good utility and cargo space. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Inside, the dimensions are appreciated. Four adults will travel comfortably—five, if someone loses a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors"—thanks to a couple more inches in interior width and 1.6 inches added to the wheelbase over previous generations.
Rear seat leg room is impressive: 38.1 inches. That's a little behind the Honda Accord (38.5 inches), Toyota Camry (38.9 inches), and Volkswagen Passat (39.1 inches), but the same as a Chevrolet Malibu, which has a longer wheelbase by 3 inches than the Legacy.
In fact, the Legacy does very well in maximizing its interior space with large cupholders and a shallow, covered bin that holds a power point and dual USB chargers. The console bin is deep enough to hold an iPad.
The seats have enough bolstering to better than average, but not enough to move to the top of our list. In the mid-size sedan game, inches matter, and the Altima's seats are better by a mile.
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. And unlike the base Accord, the Legacy's rear seat still has 60/40-split folding rear seat backs. 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.
2017 Subaru Legacy
Few cars on the road today are as safe as the Subaru Legacy.
The 2017 Subaru Legacy boasts one of the most impressive scorecards by both major U.S. safety rating organizations.
The independent IIHS gave the 2017 Subaru Legacy its top "Good" scores in all crash tests, including the notoriously difficult small-overlap crash test. The IIHS also rated the optional forward collision safety systems on the Legacy—dubbed EyeSight—as "Superior," which merited the IIHS' coveted Top Safety Pick+ award.
In addition to exceptional scores by the IIHS, federal safety officials gave the 2017 Subaru Legacy five stars (out of five) in all tests.
It's hard to do better than perfect, so the Legacy aced our safety rating again this year. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Subaru's EyeSight system bundles together active safety equipment including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Altogether, it's a very comprehensive safety system at a very affordable price. Subaru's EyeSight system can be further bundled with blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts, and it's available on all but the very low volume base model.
For 2017, Subaru has complemented its EyeSight safety systems with rear automatic emergency braking with object detection.
All told, the Legacy puts together some of the safest standard and available safety equipment. But we're not yet done.
In addition to the complement of expected safety equipment—front and side airbags, seat belts, daytime running lights, and child-seat latches—the Legacy also has 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. Its standard all-wheel drive helps avoid crashes in inclement weather.
2017 Subaru Legacy
For 2017, Subaru has added a Sport trim to an already stellar Legacy lineup.
Most mid-size sedans come in a dizzying array of trims, with multiple powertrain options and a handful of a la carte add-ons. By comparison, the Legacy has relatively few choices: just two engine options, spread across four trims, one of which is new for 2017.
We gave the Legacy an 9 out of 10 for good base equipment, a solid set of optional equipment, and good infotainment. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The base Legacy 2.5i comes with 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, cloth upholstery, power windows, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and Subaru's Starlink infotainment with 6.2-inch touchscreen that includes internet radio streaming that includes Aha, Pandora, and Stitcher radio. Base Legacy models are equipped with the automaker's 2.5-liter flat-4 and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) mated to all-wheel drive (AWD).
As far as base sedans in the mid-$20,000s, the Legacy's standard AWD is a relative rarity; the only non-luxury mid-sizers to offer AWD bundle the system on much pricier, higher level sedans.
Stepping up from the base model, the 2.5i Premium trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, heated seats, a 7.0-inch Starlink touchscreen with internet streaming and dual USB ports, wood-grain accents, dual-zone climate control, 10-way adjustable driver's seat, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Subaru also makes available on its Premium model (and above) its suite of active safety systems, dubbed EyeSight. The forward-facing camera system and nerve farm near the rearview mirror includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, lane-keeping assist, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. EyeSight can be bundled with blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts to double up on additional safety features.
Also available on Premium models are navigation, Starlink Safety Plus telematics (covered separately), and a moonroof.
New for 2017 is Subaru's Sport trim, which is one step above the Premium model. The Sport trim is effectively an appearance package that includes 18-inch wheels, fog lights with dark surrounds, a gray grille, two-tone gray and black cloth upholstery with blue accent stitching, carbon fiber-patterned dash accents, and chrome exterior accents. The most functional addition to the Sport trim may be the availability of Subaru's new rear automatic braking with object detection.
It's unclear if the Sport trim uses the Premium or Limited's front strut and damper suspension setup (the Limited was adjusted slightly last year for a smoother ride), or less likely, a suspension setup all its own. We'll update this section when we hear back from Subaru.
At the top of the Legacy range is the Limited model, which adds power passenger seat, 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, and a premium Harman Kardon audio system with 12 speakers and 576 watts. EyeSight, keyless ignition, moonroof, navigation and Starlink Safety Plus are available on Limited models.
The more potent, 3.6-liter flat-6 engine is available on Limited models only.
The trim walk is remarkably uncomplicated for a mid-size sedan and it's important to note that 2.5-liter Limited models dressed to the nines top out at roughly $30,000. No, really. Just $30,000.
2017 Subaru Legacy
Green-minded buyers can opt for a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder for 2017, but that's as good as it gets.
This year, the 3.6-liter flat-6 has been rated by the EPA at 20 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined. That's 1 mpg highway down from 2016's rating, most likely due to subtle changes to the federal testing methods. The engine should be identical to last year's model.
The 2017 Subaru Legacy with a more efficient 4-cylinder was rated by the EPA at 25/34/29 mpg, which is fairly impressive for a mid-sizer. The Legacy uses active grille shutters and a weight-saving aluminum hood to eke out every mile from its flat-4 powertrain.
We're basing our 7 out of 10 rating on that model, which is the most common. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Considering the Legacy comes with standard all-wheel-drive (AWD) those numbers are even more impressive. By comparison, a Ford Fusion with AWD and a 4-cylinder is rated by the EPA at 22/31/25 mpg.
When compared to front-drive sedans in its segment, the Legacy starts to fall down. Honda's Accord and Chevrolet's Malibu both manage up to 27/37/31 mpg. Compared to hybrids, the Legacy falls further. The Camry Hybrid is rated at 43/39/41 mpg.