2011 Subaru Legacy Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2011 Subaru Legacy

New Car Test Drive
© 2011 NewCarTestDrive.com

The 2011 Subaru Legacy sedan is an alternative to mainstream sedans. The Legacy was completely redesigned for 2010, so only minor changes make their way to the lineup for 2011.

The 2011 Legacy 2.5GT Limited gets a sunroof, upgraded trim and satellite radio. The premium Harman-Kardon stereo system includes satellite radio on 2011 Subaru Legacy models.

All-wheel drive makes the Legacy an excellent choice for anyone who has to contend with weather. However, its fresh styling, respectable performance and excellent handling make the Legacy is a solid choice for anyone shopping for a durable four-door sedan.

This fifth-generation Legacy offers adequate front and rear-seat legroom, yet doesn't seem overly large, thanks to shorter overhangs compared to the previous generation (pre-2010 models). Trunk space measures 14.7 cubic feet, which is average for the segment.

Powertrains include a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine, a turbocharged double-overhead-cam four-cylinder, and a 2.5-liter single-overhead cam four-cylinder.

Styling-wise, the Subaru Legacy stands apart from the rest with its distinctive silhouette. The body has pronounced fender flares and a grille with a bold chrome trademark wing. The 2.5 GT Limited trim level features a hood scoop that is both functional and adds to the sporty appearance.

We found the Subaru Legacy wonderfully comfortable, with high-quality interior trim. We particularly liked the perforated leather on the Limited models. These aren't luxury cars, but they are premium cars in terms of the quality of materials and the engineering that goes into them.

We found the base Subaru Legacy 2.5i effortless to drive. The transmission works automatically, with nothing to do but put it in Drive and go; the optional CVT gets good fuel economy. The 2.5GT offers sportier performance with its turbocharged engine, while the six-cylinder 3.6R has strong low-rpm power for excellent drivability.

All of them offer good handling, benefits of the all-wheel drive, a low center of gravity and nicely tuned suspensions.

Model Lineup

Subaru Legacy 2.5i ($19,995), 2.5i Premium ($20,995), 2.5i Limited ($25,295), 2.5GT Limited ($31,395), 3.6R ($24,995), 3.6R Premium ($25,995), 3.6R Limited ($28,295)

Walk Around

The Subaru Legacy profile is sleek and the roofline is coupe-like. In front, Subaru's badge of stars is ringed by a chrome grille. Character lines arc from the grille and form power bulges on the hood and taper upward to the A-pillar.

Aggressive wheel arches and edged flares are enhanced by handsome alloy wheels.

There's a short rear deck with squared-off rear valances (smooth and not boxy), part of the standard aero package, giving an impression of size. However, the Legacy looks a bit odd in profile when you study it, slightly platypus-like, with its long rounded nose.

On the 2.5GT, a prominent hood scoop sucks in air and tunnels it to the turbocharger intercooler. Along with the 18-inch wheels with wide-profile tires and twin-tip exhaust, it's clear that the GT means business.

The Legacy's rigid chassis uses a fully reinforced cage of high-strength steel. Fluid engine mounts help reduce noise.

Interior

We found the front bucket seats wonderfully comfortable. The rear seats, especially in perforated leather, fit as nicely as the fronts, with a scalloped seatback that gives more knee room.

The trunk space measures 14.7 cubic feet, which is large enough for four sets of golf clubs. Gas strut supports, no intrusion into trunk space: quality detail, for such an affordable midsize car. Typical for Subaru.

The Legacy is very quiet inside (both four-cylinder and six-cylinder but especially the six-cylinder), thanks to a number of things, such as framed door glass and double sealing of all four doors. The rear doors allow for easy entry and exit.

Interior materials are high quality all around. The center console offers plenty of space and features a standard electric parking brake, which includes the Hill Holder system that lasts until the car accelerates (not just a couple seconds as in the previous generation). The four-gauge instrument panel is clean and stylish, with a multi-information display standard. The controls on the center stack are all well done. The electronically controlled HVAC system offers powerful and quiet air conditioning and optional dual zone control. The three-spoke steering wheel isn't as handsome as the rest of the interior, although the optional leather wrap is nice. The ambient lighting for the console is pleasant. Visibility in all directions is good.

Driving Impressions

We tested both transmissions in the base Subaru Legacy 2.5i. We like the Legacy 2.5i with the optional Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). This transmission makes driving effortless and gets 4 more miles per gallon than the 6-speed manual gearbox. The CVT comes with paddle shifters on the steering wheel allowing the driver to shift into different ratios. Called Lineartronic, and driven by a chain (actually more of a metal belt) for durability, this compact CVT is Subaru's first CVT in recent years, but the company was an early leader in the technology, making CVTs some 20 years ago.

All three models have Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, but they are different systems. The manual transmission uses continuous awd with a viscous-coupling locking center differential to distribute power 50-50 at all times; the 2.5i with CVT uses Active Torque Split awd that electronically varies the front-rear distribution; and the 3.6R model uses Variable Torque Distribution which sends more power to the rear wheels but adjusts to the front when it senses the need.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine produces 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, with the torque peaking at 4000 rpm. We challenged the engine and CVT during a day of driving in the Pacific Northwest, and only hot-rodders will need more acceleration than this 30-mpg sophisticated $21,000 midsize sedan offers.

The Subaru Legacy 2.5GT comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The 265-hp turbocharged engine, with its large turbocharger that sits lowe and near to the exhaust, is capable of pulling 258 pound-feet of torque, available from 2000 to 5000 rpm. And there's no lag. The 2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT pulls off a 0-to-60 acceleration time of 5.9 seconds, much better than the 3.6R's pokey 7.1 seconds.

The chassis features a front subframe with a cradle that allows the engine to sit relatively low. Subarus handle well because of the inherent excellent weight distribution offered by the front-mounted boxer engine. Combined with standard all-wheel drive, there isn't a better design for stability on the road in the midsize sedan segment.

Other technical features contribute to the Legacy's comfortable driving dynamics, including a suspension system that uses MacPherson struts in front with double wishbones in rear, and a responsive steering ratio that put a smile on our faces, even with the base 2.5i model. The brakes feel good and inspire confidence.

The Subaru Legacy 3.6R feels like a more expensive car, thanks to its smooth power train, lovely perforated leather and the nine-speaker, Harman-Kardon sound system. The 3.6R offers the same 265 horsepower as the hot-rod 2.5GT, delivered more smoothly with a sweet 5-speed automatic transmission, while getting 18 to 25 mpg on regular fuel. But as we mentioned before, it's not going beat the competition in a drag race.

In engineering terms, the Subaru Legacy comes out ahead of the its chief competitors, including Camry, Accord, Mazda6, Altima, and Passat. The Subaru Legacy 2.5i offers plenty of power and adequate space, with luxury and comfort exceeding its class, while getting a combined 27 mpg with the CVT transmission. The Legacy 2.5GT is an all-out sports sedan, and the Legacy 3.6R is a midsize luxury car. Each model has class-leading virtues.

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