Subaru Legacy — Safe and comfortable

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(May 3, 2020) Subaru has a very loyal following that has kept the company moving forward in sales virtually every month for the last several years. For instance, sales in February — the last month before the current COVID-19 crisis — jumped 5.3 percent over February 2019 and nearly hit 100,000 for the first two months of the year. There's little doubt that 2020 would have been another record year. We point this out because in addition to the company's loyal buyers, Subaru has kept its vehicles fresh and desirable.

One of the latest examples is the mid-size 2020 Legacy sedan, which has been totally redesigned offering new levels of refinement, a long list of standard safety features, a new interior that includes an optional 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and — as always — standard all-wheel drive.

The Legacy shares its platform and powertrains with the all-new 2020 Outback wagon/crossover, but without the lifted suspension and rugged appearance. Where the Legacy falls a bit short in our estimation is with its very conservative exterior styling. While certainly not offensive, it doesn't move the needle in a shrinking segment that features some outstanding designs. The Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima both have upped their game and the all-new Hyundai Sonata is off the charts in cutting-edge design language. It leaves the Legacy comparably dated.

On the upside in the more important aspect of driving you can feel the Legacy's strong and substantial structure and a sophistication above its pay grade. Credit goes to Subaru's new Global Platform that underpins the sedan with the extensive use of high-strength steel and adhesive bonding that make it 70 percent stiffer than the outgoing car.

Ride and handling are improved with redesigned suspension components helping to reduce body roll while offering a very compliant ride that should please most people. While the Legacy is definitely not a sports sedan, it is a comfortable family vehicle that works very well.

The Legacy comes in six trim levels — Base, Premium, Sport, Limited, Limited XT and Touring XT — with each trim offering a mix of appearance and luxury upgrades. Most versions are powered by a 2.5-liter flat-four engine making 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. The XT models exclusively get a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque.

While we think the smaller engine is adequate there are a considerable number who would desire the larger engine. We wish Subaru would have made the turbocharged engine an option in at least some of the lower trims. We drove the larger engine in Touring XT trim and found it just right for our tastes. Measured by a major car publication 0-to-60 came in at 6.1 seconds. The smaller engine (in the Legacy Sport that we also drove) can make the same run in about 8 seconds and carries an EPA rating on regular gas of 27 mpg city, 35 highway and 30 combined. The larger engine is rated at 24/32/27 also on regular gas.

The Legacy’s interior design is the car's most enticing feature. Passengers immediately notice the 11.6-inch tablet style touchscreen in the center dash that intuitively controls infotainment including Harman Kardon audio, Tom Tom navigation, and automatic climate control.

The top trim levels pamper passengers with soft leather seats, stitched dash coverings, and plush door panels. Heated front seats, rear seats, and steering wheel add comfort — as do an extendable lower driver’s seat cushion and power moonroof. Also included are wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. These things elevate the Legacy into entry-level luxury territory and into a commanding presence against the top trim levels of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Kia Optima.

To Subaru's credit it has endowed all trim levels with its EyeSight suite of driver aids and safety features that include adaptive cruise control, lane centering, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning.

Optional is a driver attention system that uses a camera and facial recognition software to spot driver fatigue or distraction. While the driver assistance system sounds helpful, it can be annoying to the point of utter frustration. A couple of times we got a warning sound and a message to keep our eyes on the road when our eyes WERE on the road.
Subaru really needs to refine its  driver attention system.

Unfortunately, turning off certain safety features is complicated and often requires drilling down into the multimedia system’s menus. And in some cases when a system is turned off, it comes right back on when the car is restarted.

The base Legacy starts at $23,645 — and remember all Legacy's come with all-wheel drive standard. Our Sport with loads of key features and options including Blind-spot Detection, Moonroof and Navigation came to $30,090.  But know that the price escalates quickly in upper trims with the more desirable bigger engine. For instance our loaded Touring XT carried a $36,795 bottom line. All include a $900 destination charge.

2020 Subaru Legacy

Base price: $23,645; as driven, $30,090 and $36,794
Engine: Turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 260 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 277 pound-feet @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable (CVT)
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
Length: 190.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,790 pounds
Turning circle: 36.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 24 city, 32 highway, 27 combined
0-60: 6.1 seconds (Car and Driver
Also consider: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima

The Good

• Standard all-wheel drive
• Energetic turbocharged engine
• Beautiful interior

The Bad

• Driver attention system needs work

The Ugly

• Weak base engine