I’m a fan of Subaru’s Outback wagon/crossover, but the Legacy sedan has always been a bit too fuddy-duddy looking for me. Seems Subaru forgets about styling when it comes to the Legacy.
That’s odd as Subaru’s sedan competes against heavy hitters like Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord, both of which have been restyled, mostly for the better, in the past few years. Legacy has the advantage of standard all-wheel-drive, yet even in its newest 2020 duds, the Legacy’s styling is, well, more dud than dude.
Nope, Legacy continues to look like it was conceived on a drawing board several years ago. Plus, the test car, a pretty bright Crimson Red Pearl pre-production Limited had a few flaws.
There was a slight clunk in the trunk, or rear suspension area. But more annoying was a squeaky driver’s side rear door that squawked every time it was closed, as if it were binding during the last two-three inches of travel. Those aren’t things I expect in a Subaru (I’ve owned two), and in the pre-production car’s defense, most likely won’t appear in a production model.
That aside, I had a few other concerns.
First, while the Legacy handles well and its AWD system is top-notch to handle our sloppy winters, its ride remains too stiff. I felt more bumps and road seams than in its cousin the Outback. And both ride on the same global platform that is known for its increased structural rigidity, especially in the body. That certainly helps handling, but despite its 108.3-inch wheelbase I felt the ride less comfortable than competing mid-size sedans. I’d call it just OK.
Engine power remains solid with the same 2.5-liter Boxer-4 that Subaru has used for ages. It now creates 182 horsepower, but remains a bit buzzy under heavy acceleration. Otherwise the cockpit is pretty quiet and the CVT delivers power smoothly and fairly economically too.
I got 28.6 miles per gallon while the EPA says to expect 27 mpg city and 35 highway. My driving was about 65% around town with a few longer freeway stretches included. Subaru includes a start-stop system to help fuel economy, but I found no obvious way to disengage that system. Most cars include a button on the console to turn that system off, when desired.
Inside, the Legacy is comfortable and its interior seems more luxurious in look and feel compared to earlier models.
Most noticeable is a giant 11.6-inch touchscreen mid-dash for all your infotainment needs. That’s part of a $2,045 option package, as two 7-inch screens are standard. Visually the larger screen is easy to see at night and figuring out all its functions was simple enough. Its drawback is that during the day it can be hard to view, especially on sunny days when the sun’s glare is reflected off the screen. Possible it needs to be positioned more upright.
I like the leather seats, dash and wheel here, the soft touch of it all. This one was black leather with light gray stitching on the seats, dash and steering wheel, which also is heated, part of that option package. Also included in that are a moonroof, DriverFocus distraction mitigation system, plus 3 years of TomTom navigation and SiriusXM traffic services.
Subaru, like Toyota and a few others, now offers much of its safety equipment standard across its lineup. EyeSight is on all Legacy models and is available with a head-up display system. So, all the safety systems are here, including blind-spot warning, park assist, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, rear cross traffic alert, plus steering responsive headlights.
While most of that is welcome, the systems that look down the road for you here are quite sensitive and tend to beep a lot, even when nothing has pulled in front of you and you’re not tail-gating. It can sound a bit like you’re in a pinball arcade at times. I find that distracting.
Also, unlike most vehicles, this driver assist system monitors your eyes-forward time and if your vision wanders to the side for more than five seconds it beeps to alert you. I’m not fond of that either.
On the plus side Subaru’s seats keep getting more comfortable and these power seats were well shaped and supportive, firm but not hard. Seats also are heated and cooled and the rear seats, which are roomy and comfy, also are heated. Sadly, Subaru now controls all this through that monster infotainment screen, so it requires firing up the car, waiting a few seconds for the screen to activate and then pressing the desired buttons. Toggles on the console are much quicker and easier.
The Limited also comes with a fine Harmon Kardon stereo and all Legacy models have big trunks, a benefit on family trips. Five adults also will fit in the Legacy with rear seat legroom growing by nearly 1.5 inches in this year’s model.
Pricing remains attractive too, with a base Legacy starting at $23,645, including delivery. And again, the car comes with AWD, often not available in other mid-size sedans. There also is a Premium model and a Sport, the later going for $27,845 and including a spoiler and 18-inch tires.
Move up to the XT (I’d be tempted) and you get a gutsier 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine that creates 260 horsepower to give the car more power. The XT starts at $35,095 with delivery and the Touring XT, top level Legacy, lists at $36,795.
The tested Limited is smack-dab in the middle with a base price of $30,645, including delivery. With just the one option package this one edged up to just $32,690, well below the average car cost of about $36,000. Subarus also have good repair records and strong resale values, something to consider for the long-term.
Hits: Nice handling plus AWD, good seat comfort, big screen, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats and wheel, good mpg. Loaded with safety equipment, power seats, nice stereo, and big trunk.
Misses: That big screen reflects the sun too much, modest power still and noisy engine under heavy acceleration, ride is just OK, driver distraction system is annoying and the EyeSight system is way too sensitive and beeps too much. Rear driver’s side door squeaked big time, but this was a pre-production model. You must use the screen to operate the heated seats.
Made In: Lafayette, Ind.
Engine: 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder, 182 horsepower
Transmission: Lineartronic CVT
Weight: 3,541 lbs.
Length: 190.6 in.
Wheelbase: 108.3 in.
Cargo: 15.0 cu.ft.
MPG: 27/35, 28.6 (tested)
Base Price: $30,645 (includes delivery)
Major Options: DriverFocus distraction mitigation system, heated steering wheel, moonroof, Subaru Starlink 11.6-inch screen with 3-years of TomTom navigation and SiriusXM traffic, $2,045
Test Vehicle: $32,690
Editor's note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.