- Striking value
- Active safety comes standard
- So does all-wheel drive
- Portrait-style 11.6-inch touchscreen
- Lots of interior room
- Well, it’s styled
- Expensive turbo-4...
- ...and it’s meh on mileage
- Not quite sporty
features & specs
The 2021 Subaru Legacy aces its value and safety tests, and gets a pass on the rest.
The Outback crossover SUV across the showroom floor gets all the attention, but the 2021 Subaru Legacy sedan doesn’t deserve to be so overlooked. It’s an incredible bargain, it’s spacious and stacked with features including standard all-wheel drive, and it’s a smooth pavement player. If it were a person you’d call it Midwestern nice—fitting since it’s assembled in Indiana.
We give the 2021 Legacy a TCC Rating of 7.2 out of 10. If it flashed a little more personality, it’d be at the top of our family-sedan scores. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
You’d need a spotter’s guide to detect the differences between the last couple of Legacy sedans. The latest wears a slightly trimmer nose and sleeker tail, and a roofline that tapers a bit quicker. Inside, an available 11.6-inch touchscreen stands upright on the center console; it’s the biggest Legacy styling news in a decade.
Subaru sells the Legacy sedan with a 182-horsepower flat-4 coupled to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and standard all-wheel drive. It’s good for moderate acceleration and relatively quiet operation, and fuel economy isn’t far behind the segment leaders. A whizzy 260-hp turbo-4 comes in XT models and it’s much quicker, but it consumes more gas and is maybe not the point in a sober Subaru sedan. In any case the Legacy’s improved body structure permits a more relaxed ride and softly tuned steering without losing the sure-footedness enabled by all-wheel drive.
The Legacy can carry five adults in comfort, and has 15.1 cubic feet of cargo space for their belongings. Higher-spec models come with very supportive front seats which can be heated, cooled, power-adjusted, and covered in nappa leather.
The 2021 Legacy comes with standard automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Subaru sells blind-spot monitors and rear automatic emergency braking too, and a front-facing camera for easier parking.
The base $23,820 Legacy’s suite of power features, touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 16-inch wheels make for excellent value. We’d spend a little more; about $26,000 gets a Legacy Premium with the 11.6-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, 17-inch wheels, and four USB ports, with options for navigation and blind-spot monitors.
2021 Subaru Legacy
The Legacy’s tasteful to a fault.
The Subaru Legacy could write a textbook on family-car styling. It’s tasteful to a fault, inside and out—and it’s a 5 here.
All the pieces are in place to make the Legacy blend right in with its more carefully styled four-door colleagues. The Legacy splits its grille with a single band of chrome, flanks it with moderately sized LED headlights, and tucks the corners of the bumpers like bedsheets with hospital corners. Some minor strafes down the side do nothing to take away from the straightforward cabin. A slightly steeper roofline drops more quickly toward the trunk than in Legacy sedans past, but the taillights correct that with perfectly fine outlines.
The Legacy cabin leaves a large shield-shaped frame in place for either a pair of smaller touchscreens or the tour de force 11.6-inch tablet. A nice echo of that shape drops around the transmission lever, pulling the dash lower. Subaru wraps the dash and door panels in a higher grade of trim, softer and nicer than before. A quibble or two aside, the Legacy’s a nice, if not memorable, place to work.
2021 Subaru Legacy
The ride in the 2020 Legacy is calm and collected, steered more toward comfort than sportiness.
The Legacy turns adequate performance into high art. It’s offered with a turbo-4 and comes with all-wheel drive, but its best moments come when it’s loping along relaxed curves or brushing off highway miles with ease. It’s plus one for its ride, which brings it to a 6 here.
We don’t see much reason to spend more for power. The base 2.5-liter flat-4 makes 182 hp, and it’s teamed to a CVT with paddle shifters and simulated gear ratios that take a laid-back stance to quick stabs at the gas. This Legacy’s perky throttle tuning masks its slower pace without feeling drained at a 75-mph clip. For more pep, the 2.4-liter turbo-4 on tap can hurtle the Legacy to 60 mph in about six seconds, thick with power past 3,000 rpm and a drag on fuel economy while it does it. It’s quick without feeling frantic, but seems aside the point. In either case Subaru fits its CVT that responds better than most of its kind, without the rubber-banding effect common to the pulley-type transmission.
Standard all-wheel drive contributes to the well-planted feel of the stable Legacy. The steering doesn’t have much heft to it, and it builds in a non-linear way in spirited driving. What has improved is the Legacy’s ride and handling: It leans less into corners, feels confident and stable as it slews through California canyons and Georgia gulleys, but still composes itself well, though its front strut and rear multilink suspension can bound over some high-speed bumps. With bigger wheels and tires—base cars have 17-inchers, while Sport, Limited, and Touring cars ride on 18-inchers—the Legacy XT would be a superbly sporty family sedan.
2021 Subaru Legacy
Comfort & Quality
The Legacy carries five adults in slipper feet.
The Legacy’s nearly a large car by government standards, and it’s noticeable whether you sit in front or in back. With space for five adults, good front seats and good trunk space, it’s an 8 for comfort and utility.
The front seats are comfortable and wide, with extendable thigh cushions and adequate bolsters on top models. Subaru swathes the base Legacys in durable cloth upholstery, but wraps pricey models in soft nappa leather. The small-item storage in front has some foibles: The cubbies are sort of small, and the one ahead of the cupholder’s too small for most of today’s bigger smartphones.
Back-seat passengers climb in through wide doors to a bench seat big enough to seat three. With 40 inches of leg room, the Legacy’s back seat plays well with knees, but head room suffers a bit compared to the related Outback thanks to a lower roof.
The trunk in the Legacy can hold 15.1 cubic feet of mulch or luggage or paper towels, whatever solids you choose.
Subaru fits a sound-damping windshield to all models, but the Limited XT and Touring XT also get thick side windows to quell road noise; the Legacy’s grown quite quiet in that regard, a big improvement over its recent past.
2021 Subaru Legacy
Cars don’t get safer than the Subaru Legacy.
The Legacy sports a flawless crash-test record, and with good outward vision and safety options, it’s perfect 10.
The Legacy comes with standard automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitors and rear automatic emergency braking are widely available, and not too expensive. A front-facing camera comes on the most expensive models.
As for crash-test scores, the NHTSA gives the Legacy sedan five stars in every crash test it performs or calculates, while the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick+.
2021 Subaru Legacy
Subaru stuffs the Legacy with everything, from leather to big-screen infotainment.
The 2021 Legacy costs just $23,820 in base trim. With its standard all-wheel drive, twin 7.0-inch infotainment and vehicle-function screens, active safety features, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, it’s a great bargain and very well-equipped, without spending a dime more. The Legacy’s warranty and options aren’t anything dramatic, but its larger available infotainment screen is—which earns the Legacy an 8 for features.
From that base version, Subaru sells a $26,070 Legacy Premium we choose as our best buy. It comes with 17-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, dual-zone climate control, four USB ports, and the 11.6-inch touchscreen, with options for a sunroof, navigation, keyless start, and blind-spot monitors.
From there, the Legacy steps through Sport, Limited, Limited XT, and Touring XT editions. That $37,070 Legacy Touring XT slathers up with the turbo-4 engine, nappa leather upholstery, navigation, 18-inch wheels, heated and cooled front seat, thicker sound-insulating front windows, and a forward-facing camera, as well as the larger 11.6-inch touchscreen.
That big tablet-style, touchscreen, by the way, doesn’t work like the portrait-style screens in Tesla and Volvo cars. Subaru stocks more hard buttons for vehicle functions, but some climate controls route through the touchscreen, which can be laggy. The screen also shrinks CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces into a lower band, for a screen-inside-a-screen effect that’s somewhat compromised.
2021 Subaru Legacy
The Legacy’s gas mileage isn’t bad.
The 2021 Legacy earns a green score of 6, because both of its available engines turn in fuel economy higher than 25 mpg combined. The more popular flat-4 gets EPA ratings of 27 mpg city, 35 highway, 30 combined. With the turbo-4, it’s scored at 24/32/27 mpg. No hybrid or plug-in versions are available.