The Subaru Legacy is a midsize sedan for drivers who favor practicality and premium engineering over frills and flash. Benefiting from all-wheel drive and a flat engine that rides low in the engine bay, the Legacy delivers excellent handling and outstanding all-weather capability.
The Legacy competes with the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and other midsize sedans. The Legacy was completely redesigned for the 2015 model year, making this the sixth generation.
For 2016, more safety features have been added but the Legacy carries over largely unchanged. A new auto on/off mode operates the windshield wipers with the headlights on 2016 Subaru Legacy models. The electric power-assist steering has been retuned for all 2016 Legacy models to provide a more linear and natural feel. The Stablex suspension dampers, new for 2015 Limited models, have been refined on 2016 Legacy Limited models to reduce vibration over washboard surfaces.
Nothing is flashy or raucous about the Legacy, though it is a nice-looking car. While some automakers place an emphasis on fancy interiors and swoopy styling, Subaru puts its money into engineering. All Legacy models come with all-wheel drive.
The Subaru Legacy offers a choice of two engines, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder developing 175 horsepower and a 3.6-liter six-cylinder generating 256 horsepower. Both mate with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive.
Legacy 2.5i models deliver an EPA-estimated 26/36 mpg City/Highway, or 30 mpg Combined. Legacy 3.6R models only rate 20/29 mpg City/Highway, 23 mpg Combined.
We found the Legacy smooth and comfortable underway. The cabin is attractive and refined.
The Subaru Legacy cuts a pleasing profile, with a fast windshield and slightly sculpted fenders. A six-sided grille contains the Subaru insignia. All told, the Legacy manages to look aerodynamic, even rakish by Subaru standards.
The Legacy measures 188.8 inches long on a 108.3-inch wheelbase.
Clean and refined, the Legacy interior is more conservative in nature than some. It’s space-efficient for five and features better-quality materials than past models. Upper trim levels get a band of metallic or woodgrain trim.
Legroom is notably greater than in the past, and Legacy feels wider, due in part to seat positioning. Seats are a bit short on side bolstering.
Unlike a lot of vehicles, three-across seating in the back shouldn’t be a problem, at least for shorter jaunts. Rear seatbacks are 60/40-split folding, revealing the 15 cubic-foot trunk.
Instruments are blue-lit, and a small LCD display sits between the dials. Vents sit high on the dashboard, allowing for a touch-screen interface above a panel of metallic plastic controls.
The infotainment system includes a 6.2-inch (or larger) touch-screen with large icons, incorporating swipe and tap-gesture control. New for 2016 are Starlink Safety and Security suites, with services that include emergency and roadside assistance, vehicle-location, and remote lock/unlock.
On the road, the Subaru Legacy is expertly balanced, smooth and graceful. The suspension takes the edge off rough roads, for a smooth ride. The electric power steering gets a heavier feel when turning, helping the Legacy to track neatly and drive easily.
Acceleration performance is not the Legacy’s strongest suit. When carrying a couple of passengers, the four-cylinder has to work to tackle steep hills.
Though impressively smooth, the six-cylinder lacks the vigor of Subaru’s turbocharged engines, and the 3.6R is not that much quicker than a 2.5i model. Yet, it’s quite satisfying on the road. When tromping the gas pedal, response may not be dramatic, but it’s clearly seamless and does not feel strained.
Both engines are solid, and traditional Subaru buyers, who typically favor economy and predictable behavior over performance, are likely to be fully satisfied. Because the CVT works with belts and pulleys, not gears, operation is smooth and step-free, though paddle shifts provide six programmed simulated ratios.
A torque-vectoring feature in the all-wheel-drive system can shift power between the front rear wheels, and apply brakes on an inside wheel when cornering. Subaru is a leader in all-wheel-drive technology, a benefit of its extensive rally experience.
The 2015 Legacy and Outback earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating with the available Subaru-developed EyeSight system, which includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking and Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and, for 2016, adds a Lane Keep Assist function. Blind Spot Detection plus Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also available. Also available: fog lights that swivel in the direction of a turn.
Subaru Legacy offers all-weather capability with its all-wheel drive, plus a roomy back seat, impressive fuel economy (from the four-cylinder), top safety ratings, and a smooth ride.
Driving impressions by Bengt Halvorson, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.