2015 Subaru Legacy - Driven

The Legacy was a bit of a departure from the Subarus of the past when it rolled onto U.S. dealer lots in 1990. The all-new Legacy featured a new flat-four engine that was more refined and quieter than the automaker’s previous engines and it didn’t have to share the engine bay with the car’s spare tire. Yes, that was a thing. The Legacy’s first generation lasted until 1995 when the second generation took over. The Legacy was new again in 2000, 2004, and 2010 with the third, fourth, and fifth generations, respectively. Despite the changes over the years, the Legacy never lost its “quirkiness;” among which was a standard all-wheel-drive system and a manual transmission option.

Now totally redesigned for its sixth generation, the 2015 Legacy is a new bag of tricks. Subaru has seemingly traded quirkiness for quietness – a sort of yielding to the needs of the mainstream. Gone are the manual transmissions and visceral feelings of driving; replaced by a car better suited to compete with the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

I recently spent a week getting to know this new Subaru inside and out. My particular tester came loaded to the hilt with the most inclusive option package. Decked out in the Limited Trim, the car came with the “Moonroof + Keyless Access & Push-Button Start + Navigation” package. What’s more, under the hood was the optional 3.6-liter flat-six-cylinder engine that powers all four wheels.

Click past the jump for the full review of the all-new 2015 Subaru Legacy

TopSpeed Garage

Exterior

Subaru Legacy - Driven
Subaru Legacy - Driven
Subaru Legacy - Driven

Things are much different than before. Subaru’s new design language is fully fluent here, with an all-new, six-sided main grille, LED daytime running lights, HID headlights, and an overall reshaped look that’s much more mature than the fifth generation. Door-mounted side mirrors, new wheels, and a completely new rear fascia finish off the transformation.

The car also enjoys a more coupe-like sloping roof. It gives a little more sport to the car’s appearance, but thankfully doesn’t seem to impede on rear-seat headroom. The front end’s chin splitter and the rear fascia’s twin chrome exhaust tips also add touches of sportiness

Though it’s a departure from the Concept, the new Legacy is more prepared to compete in the mainstream market place

Sadly, the Legacy doesn’t match up to the grandeur displayed by the Legacy Concept shown at the 2013 LA Auto Show, but it does carry a few design cues. That new grille and sloping rear roof are two of the main carryovers. While the production Legacy lacks much of the drama found in the concept, it still conveys the basic idea.

Though it’s a departure from the Concept, the new Legacy is more prepared to compete in the mainstream market place. Its overall design is smart and engaging, yet doesn’t call too much attention to itself. Most importantly, it’s still different than the Camry or Accord. It seems Subaru has found that middle ground on the outside.

Interior

Subaru Legacy - Driven
Subaru Legacy - Driven
Subaru Legacy - Driven

That middle ground continues inside the all new Legacy as well. A completely redesigned interior is much more inviting and comfortable than any previous Subaru has ever enjoyed. My tester’s seats came colored in soft-touch tan leather with French stitching and internal heaters. Also hidden inside are seat cushion air bags help keep occupants in place during an accident. (The clever air bag additions bring the car’s total count to eight.)

A completely redesigned interior is much more inviting and comfortable than any previous Subaru has ever enjoyed

More apparent to the eyes is the Legacy’s new dashboard, steering wheel, gauge cluster, and infotainment system. The new dash is dressed in some of the best fake wood I’ve ever seen. In fact, if it weren’t for the press materials telling me otherwise, I would have assumed it was real. Aluminum colored accents contrast the "wood" and the black, soft-touch dash material.

The new steering wheel feels great in hand, with all its controls easily accessible. The buttons are placed in logical spots and are simple enough to figure out without resorting to the manual. Behind the wheel are two analog gauges for engine revs and speed. In between is a decently sized TFT color display that shows a digital speed reading, navigation directions, fuel consumption info, and a few other tid bits.

Subaru Legacy - Driven

The new Starlink infotainment system that inhabits the center stack is a nice piece of technology. All its functions work well and the screen is fairly quick to respond to touch inputs. The navigation system features a decent map with good voice directions. The audio controls are simple yet effective at controlling the optional, 12-speaker, 576-Watt Harman/Kardon sound system.

Besides the stereo and leather seats, the driver enjoys memory seating position while both front occupants sit under a moonroof. All four main seats get a heating function.

Subaru Legacy - Driven

The comfort extends to the rear seats as well. Legroom is surprisingly generous and headroom is still good, despite the lowered roofline. A center folding armrest and HVAC vents keep rear guests happy.

Overall ergonomics inside the car are pretty spot-on. Everything seems to fall directly under hand and it didn’t take long to find a good seating position – something I’m notoriously particular about.

It’s also interesting to note that several pieces of the interior and even a few bits on the outside are shared with the Legacy’s distance cousins at Toyota Toyota and Lexus. Toyota actually owns a minority stake of Fuji Heavy Industries and the careful observer can tell. A couple of the buttons are common, as well as the exterior door handles. It’s not a big deal, but interesting nonetheless.

Drivetrain

Subaru Legacy - Driven

Behind the Legacy’s fresh face is a familiar engine. In fact, it’s pretty much a carryover from last year. While the 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder is available as the standard motivator, my tester enjoyed the extra pep of the 3.6-liter flat-six-cylinder Boxer engine. It generates 256 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 247 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Revs come quickly and are happily achieved. Vibrations and harsh noises are kept to a minimum thanks to the Boxer design and the new sound-deadening materials used throughout the cabin.

The engine is decently strong,but Subaru’s new Lineartronic CVT transmission seems to quell the fun

Though the engine is decently strong, Subaru’s new Lineartronic CVT transmission seems to quell the fun. The drivetrain suffers from that rubber band effect found in most CVTs. Acceleration, even under full throttle, is generally uneventful with a delayed response between the pedal-down and power-down events. The CVT does have a manual mode that switches between six ‘gears’ via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Under spirited acceleration, ‘shifts’ come quickly and help the situation of rubberbanding. Pull the paddles under normal acceleration though, and the transmission shifts rather lazily. To be fair, my tester is also a pre-production model, so just maybe the CVT’s programming isn’t quite up to final production standards.

In automatic mode and under normal acceleration, things get much better. The car just floats forward with little fuss or commotion. For someone who isn’t looking for their next rally car, the CVT will do just fine.

Subaru Legacy - Driven

As all Subarus (save for the BRZ), the Legacy comes standard with Symmetrical all-wheel-drive. The system works really well at keeping forward momentum through the heavy Florida summer thunderstorms. Adding to the handling is Subaru’s Active Torque Vector Vector ing. The system applies braking to inside front wheel in sharp turns to limit the amount of understeer while electronic power steering provides direction inputs. The car could benefit from a sportier set of tires if twisting corners and curvy roads are your things.

The electronic steering went nearly unnoticed throughout my time. It provides enough feedback and on-center feel to disguise itself. Braking was also quite good with a responsive pedal and a linear feel. Emergency stops are completed in a respectable distance with little side-to-side dancing from the car.

Safety Features

Subaru Legacy - Driven

With Subaru thrusting the Legacy head first into the midsize sedan category, creating a safe car was a top priority. New for 2015 are the front seat cushion airbags that deploy to keep the front occupants securely centered on the seat. Dual stage front airbags, side curtain airbags, and front side airbags are all standard.

There are quite a few features that keep the car from getting in to a crash to begin with. Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert help keep the driver informed about what’s around. What’s more, Subaru offers the EyeSight safety system. It works by monitoring the road ahead and is directly responsible for the pre-collision warning system, pre-collision braking system, lane departure warning, and the active cruise control.

There are quite a few features that keep the car from getting in to a crash to begin with

That active cruise control acts similarly to other automakers’ radar systems, but works in a different manor. It’s not necessarily better or worse; just different. Regardless of its method, the active cruise control works really well at holding distances between yourself and the vehicle in front. It even worked at keeping my speed and distance managed while exiting the Interstate and circling around a tight cloverleaf off ramp. I was impressed.

The EyeSight system will even help with avoiding a rear-end situation. It will partially cut the throttle and apply the brakes in case the vehicle ahead stops suddenly. Thankfully, I never tested this system.

Pricing

Subaru Legacy - Driven

The Legacy is Subaru’s flagship sedan, meaning the car is designed as the brand’s most well-appointed model with the highest level of luxury and refinement. Despite being that, the 2015 Legacy wears a rather reasonable price tag. Its base price starts at $21,695 for the four-cylinder 2.5i model. My tester, however came in the most top-line trim and powered by the larger engine. Base price for the 3.6R Limited starts at $29,595.

Add in the nearly all-inclusive Moonroof + Keyless Access & Push-Button Start + Navigation Package for $2,195 and destination at $795, and my tester retails for $32,585

Competition

2015 Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry

Also new on the scene is the 2015 Toyota Camry. Heavily restyled and reworked with Toyota’s new design language, the Camry is a lot more interesting to look at than before. Power comes from two optional engines: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6. With 178 horsepower in the four banger and 268 horses in the V-6, the Camry offers a wide range of power for a wide range of customers. It even comes in a hybrid form with the 2.5-liter I-4 providing most of the thrust.

Like the Subaru, pricing stays mostly in the $20,000 area with the top-line model breaking the $30k mark. In the Camry’s case it’s the hybrid version.

Toyota has always led the pack in terms of sales and longevity, but Subaru’s new Legacy just might be good enough to steel a hardy number of buyers away.

Honda Accord

Honda Accord

The Honda Accord has always been a top seller in the midsize sedan category for more years than I can remember. It’s made its reputation of solidly-built, reliable transportation that somewhat sporty to drive. That recipe hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years as the Accord continues to rank near the top of the sales charts.

Powered by a sweet 3.5-liter V-6 featuring Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve timing system that helps the engine produce 278 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Sixty mph comes a quick 6.2 seconds. That conventional automatic gives an extra level of driving dynamic over the Toyota and Subaru’s CVT.

Pricing for the Accord starts at $21,995 and rises to nearly $35,000 with all the boxes checked on the top trim level.

Conclusion

Subaru Legacy - Driven

The all-new 2015 Legacy represents a huge step towards the mainstream for Subaru in its quest for larger sales numbers. The competition is strong, but Subaru Subaru is bringing its A-game. While the Legacy is now a great all-round sedan for the masses, it’s lost some of that quirkiness that made Subaru fans loyal back in the 1990s and 2000s.

That’s forgivable though, as the Legacy is a good bang-for-the buck buy in terms of style, creature comforts, safety features, all-weather performance, and low sticker price. If it were my money, I’d stick to the 2.5-liter flat-four-cylinder. It gets better gas mileage at 26 mpg city and 36 mph highway while its performance numbers aren’t too far behind the 3.6-liter’s. Besides, it saves roughly $3,000 in the initial purchase price.

Perhaps the larger profits from a more mainstream Legacy will fund more fun and exciting projects in the future. It’s getting about time for a refresh on that BRZ, and with a little extra scratch in its pocket, maybe Subaru will finally throw a turbo under the hood. We can only hope.

LOVE IT
  • New exterior and interior design
  • Quite and comfortable interior
  • AWD and active safety systems create peace of mind
  • Moderately priced
LEAVE IT
  • CVT transmission
  • Lackluster fuel economy with the 3.6-liter
  • Understeer and body roll when pushed
  • A GT version with a manual would be amazing

What is your take?

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