By on February 17, 2013

It’s double feature Sunday: Can TTAC’s Future Writers master the tough job of a car review? During Future Writers Week, you chose the writers you want to see again on TTAC. Here is today’s second Future Writer car review. Do you like it? Do tell.

Sometimes the demographic stereotypes for particular car buyers exist for a reason. Being a current legal student that first graduated from that big Colorado university in the People’s Republic of Boulder and will almost certainly become the basic “yuppie”, Subarus have held some appeal to me. The idea of a rugged, capable, different family sedan has piqued my interest for awhile; I nearly purchased a used Subaru several years back, settling on a Volvo when I decided that the comfortable box would be a far greater companion on cross-country drives than the quirky, boxer-engined Subie. However, much of the automotive industry has been on a course of bland convergence since the late-nineties production of both of those vehicles; for Volvos that has meant the demise of the canal-boat-esque 5 cylinder sans turbo found in my old S70, but what does it mean for the Subaru Legacy? Are my stereotypes of Subaru outdated, or should I join the ranks of ex-Boulderites who slowly toil around in a stick-shift Legacy? For better or worse, an impending snow storm in Vail appeared to put a wrench in my cheapo rental car plans for my head-clearing pre-law school semester trip, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car responded with a 7500-mile Subaru Legacy.


Subaru seems to have done something quite incredible with the new Legacy: they managed to make it very ugly but managed to keep it completely anonymous. The front end is simply too busy, with the bottom bumper from a Ford Focus and the ungainly headlights cribbed from a children’s nightmare.

The center grill seems to have tried to emulate the much-maligned grill from recent Acuras, but gave up before meeting the hood. The center box is more appealing, with the rather clean lines even possibly indicative of sporting pretensions, but is still rather forgettable, stemming from wheel arches that everyone and their mother puts on cars these days (I’m looking at you, E90 3-series). The rear end either isn’t noticeable from angles beyond 45 degrees, or looks like a bad adaptation of a rear clip from a copyright-friendly Grand Theft Auto vehicle. Either way, initial impressions were weak, with the Toyota Camry parked next to the Legacy in the rental lot being both better proportioned and more attractive in general; this would become a comparison that would ring with increasing volume in my ears throughout my four day Colorado journey, but more on that later.


I remember getting into a 2012 Kia Sportage and thinking “wow, this is almost there”. Were previous Subarus as dreary inside as the Koreans used to be, I would have had a similar impression with the Legacy; unfortunately, the new car represents a considerable step back in interior build quality. The materials are at best equal to modern Kias, which still tend to be a bit worse than their competition. The Camry in comparison? Still mediocre for the class, but overall more solid and up-to-date than the Legacy. Late model Fords? If you have to ask, then you lack both sight and feel. At least the Legacy is fairly roomy, seeming larger inside than the Camry but if all one cares about is interior space, Chevrolet will be happy to sell you an Impala.

Driving Experience:

After an underwhelming impression on the rental car lot, I would like to say that the Subaru and I had a weekend of bonding, but saying that Pakistan has secure borders would be a more accurate statement. Let’s start with the positive: the Subaru has, despite fairly numb feel, quick steering. Turning into parking lots can be a bit of a laugh, as the quickness of turn-in can allow speeds that cause pedestrians to jump in fright. Exiting that parking lot, however, and the driver enters a world of problems. The power-train, for lack of a more descriptive term, is genuinely awful. The engine is surprisingly slow and hesitant to rev, but it is unlikely that you’ll notice due to how lackluster the CVT transmission is.

To be honest, I have a distinct hatred for CVTs; the unrelenting noise and unnatural feel alone would keep me from ever purchasing one new. I thought the CVT in the Toyota Prius was bad, but anyone who drives a Legacy will be in store for something on another level. The CVT attempts to simulate gears, but simply flat out fails in its mission. When accelerating to 35 from a stop one of two things will happen: either the car will sit at around 3000 rpm and then the revs will completely fall off as it finds another “gear”, and then you’ll start to slow down; or, the care will sit at 3000 rpm and then fail to find said theoretical gear, and then wind down with a noise so vile that the other passengers will begin to laugh.

Other faults? The wind noise is loud, the handbrake can only be disengaged while in drive, the AWD system is dodgy, the ride isn’t composed, and the MPG +/- gauge (which directly correlates to pedal travel, utterly useless) that replaces the coolant gauge becomes a minor disaster when the car begins to overheat (which it will on a spirited drive from Denver to Vail). Although I didn’t track MPG usage for my trip, as with my driving style it would be pointless, the vehicle indicated an overall 27 MPG, which is…acceptable. It is quite sad to say, but if one needs a roomy, AWD sedan, they would be much better served by the used Subaru I passed on years ago. After a long weekend, even I was surprised by the terribleness of the Legacy; to answer my original question of if I should join the ranks of the Boulder Subaru mafia with this entry, the answer is a resounding “no”.

Will Simonsick is a first year law student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. Over the past five years, he has lived in Philadelphia, Boulder, and Brussels, Belgium, and will be spending the summer outside of Frankfurt, Germany. Family rumor has it that his first word was Chevy. He is currently living in automotive purgatory in a hand-me-down Toyota Prius second generation, remaining wistful for his previous Volvo and W-body Chevrolet.

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91 Comments on “Review: Rental Legacy, By Subaru. A Future Writer Story...”

  • avatar

    It’s not 2002 anymore, and Subaru has really fallen off a cliff in terms of quality and enjoyment, not to mention styling. There really isn’t anybody out there making that competent-yet-different family car anymore. The closest you can get probably on the unique front probably *is* a Hyundai or Kia, as sad as that sounds. As far as competency goes, there’s really no reason to walk past the Volkswagen Passat.

  • avatar

    Went for a “spirited” drive in my friend’s 10,000-mile rental Legacy yesterday. You hit the nail on the head. Still fun to do my Sebastian Loeb impression around the local dirt roads. A rental car will always be the fastest car in the world.

  • avatar

    Will, good idea reviewing a rental car. It’s always helpful to get another look at a car through a fellow car-nut’s eyes.

    I do have a few issues with your writing, mostly English-major stuff. Look at your “rather clean lines even possibly indicative of sporting pretensions” and try to count the number of words that hedge what you’re trying to say. Brevity is the soul of wit.

    Regarding the interior — “Late model Fords? If you have to ask, then you lack both sight and feel” — I lack neither, but I do lack a late-model Ford to compare. So tell us what you think, don’t assume your readers have had the same exposure as you.

    Making pedestrians jup in fright isn’t really funny. If you enjoy that sort of thing, you may be a good fit for your chosen profession.

    I’ve driven a stick Legacy as a surrogate for the stick Outback I really want, and I rather liked it. Coming from a first-gen Vibe, I also think a stick Cruze is a lot like an A4 ten years ago, which tells me I shouldn’t review cars or other people.

    I am grateful for another evaluation of the CVT; the ‘professional’ journalists like it just fine, generally speaking, but then they kinda get paid to like it. I’ve considered getting one, but stories like yours help set me back onto the path of manual-shifting righteousness.

    Keep it up, and whenever you finish an article, go ahead and take a fifth of the words out of it.
    Cheers -Mathias

    • 0 avatar

      Also including, but not limited to:
      “a current legal student that first graduated from that big Colorado university”
      “they managed to make it very ugly but managed to keep it completely anonymous”
      “seems to have tried to emulate”
      “unlikely that you’ll notice due to how lackluster the CVT transmission is.”

      All wordy and awkward. Also, what’s with the excess use of semi-colons? And why has no one (including some regular editors at this site) learned that commas and periods go INSIDE the quotations? So, so much that could be cleaned up with a single revision.

      • 0 avatar

        Commasa and periods go outside the quotation marks in most English-speaking countries. Perhaps the writer has been influenced by Obamas’s free-trade initiative and is doing his bit to bring America into line with the world. Next you’ll be forced to endure orange turn signals and petrol sold by the litre.

    • 0 avatar

      Mathias, make certain that you stick with your day job. Your critique of the Subaru article is—to use a word from today’s Book Review in the NYT—a bit of flapdoodle.

      • 0 avatar

        Crapbox, I’m aware that in King’s English the comma goes outside the quotations. In American English (including Canada), it does not. Just a pet peeve of mine that I obviously need to get over given how predominant the error is throughout blog writing. Not sure if your comment is in agreement, though I do find it humorous.

        • 0 avatar

          Don’t get over it just because it’s a common error. Persist with your criticism.

          Too many think good writing isn’t important. People that point out bad writing are frequently mocked as “grammar police” and told “relax, it’s just a blog.” The only way to fix this is with persistence, followed by abstaining from clicking if the issue isn’t corrected.

      • 0 avatar

        @oldfatandrich – How is Mathias’ critique a flapdoodle? This article was very poorly written. That you think otherwise, or don’t think it matters, is one reason online writing is in the toilet these days.

  • avatar

    Your impression of the Legacy more or less equals mine experience when I rented one on a ski trip. I was never a CVT fan, but my work-provided Altima has one, and I learned to be ok with it. But no matter how you slice it, CVTs will never be the enthusiast’s choice. But those who care are in the minority.

    Just some constructive criticism: I found the style of writing a bit heavy handed. In a few cases I had to go back and re-read a sentence because it did not seem to make sense the first time around. Other parts worked perfectly, like the Impala reference. And my brother who lived in Boulder got a chuckle out of the “People’s Republic” bit.

    • 0 avatar

      “I learned to be ok with [the CVT].”

      I could learn to be OK with a CVT also, but one that is programmed to simulate a traditional automatic would drive me bonkers. No dumbed-down engineering for me, thanks.

      OTOH, my dad has a previous-gen Focus CMAX with the 6speed automated manual. For all the hate it gets, I found it rather pleasant in small-town driving.

    • 0 avatar

      “the “People’s Republic” bit.”

      That’s what most Wisconsinites outside Madison call Madison, too.

  • avatar

    Constructive criticism: Calling the AWD system “dodgy” with no supporting evidence tells the reader very little, if anything.

    • 0 avatar

      Especially from a manufacturer who builds the standard for AWD. It’s also one of the few manufacturers who don’t put a FWD bias on their AWD. Have to support that statement.

      • 0 avatar

        Only the manual trannies are balanced. The autos default to a FWD setup. Subaru gets so much love because they sell manual transmissions and journos like them so much better. in reality almost everyone drives an autos.

        If you have the money – you are much better off with an automatic german, IMHO. Real 8 speed autos – turbos paired with autos and better looks and better interior. Sure cost you more to fix – but thats where the money comes in..

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, CelticPete, none of the auto AWD systems “default to a FWD setup” in Subarus. All AWD variants drive all the wheels at all times. A while ago, the AWD system linked to some of the 4 speed automatics did a 90/10 split, but that’s as close as they get. Today, the standard seems to be 60/40 or, as in my vehicle, 45/55 front/rear.

        And really? Your advice is “buy an automatic German”? The money doesn’t just come in when you repair them, the money comes in when you buy the, to the tune of thousands of dollars more for a comparably equipped AWD car. Telling people that the big trick to getting a better car is to spend more money is hardly useful advice.

    • 0 avatar

      About the “AWD is dodgy” in particular. The only unequivocally positive thing I can say about my Legacy is that has never been pulled out of a situation that I got it into, including a spin on a vacant lot that I thought was grass but was actually mud that came up above the kick panels.

  • avatar

    Overall I enjoyed this piece, and the writing style.
    But, in reading the story it seems you glossed over a few items that seem rather significant.

    – “the AWD system is dodgy”
    How so? This would seem rather important as the marketing of AWD has been a selling point of Subaru for decades.

    -“MPG +/- gauge (which directly correlates to pedal travel, utterly useless) that replaces the coolant gauge becomes a minor disaster when the car begins to overheat (which it will on a spirited drive from Denver to Vail).”
    Perhaps I’m not reading this correctly, but did the car overheat on your drive? This too seems worthy of more description, if it did in fact occur.

    • 0 avatar

      It has an idiot light that is blue when the engine is cold, and is red when it get’s too hot.

      • 0 avatar

        It does have an idiot light, which went off that morning for cold engine temperature but did not go off even as the car started to smell and sound increasingly sick (admittedly, I was making good time driving up I-70 before this occurred). I backed off of the throttle just in time to avoid overheating as I’ve had the (mis)fortune to smell that in a car before and recognized the smell, but the idiot light never illuminated. Also, the AWD system seemed a little hesitant to kick on, and did not seem as seamless as previous Subarus I had been in. I can only imagine it stems from the awful CVT being slow to react to throttle adjustments, but I do not actually know if that is the case for certain.

      • 0 avatar

        The new top-of-the-line 2014 Forester Touring (my sister-in-law put down a deposit on one) has an electroluminescent instrument panel, which does include an engine coolant temperature gauge instead of the idiot light. I hope all Subies get the gauge back eventually.

  • avatar

    First, keep up the good work.

    Second, reviewing rental cars is a great idea. Cars from the PR pool will always be optimized in some way, even when they’re not specially built and prepped, as I think they often are. Rental cars are the way many of us first experience a model or brand, a fact OEMs would do well to consider before sending National all the cloth seat, black trimmed strippers (I’m talking to you, VW.)

    Third, I rented an Outback a couple of months ago, when it was a choice of that or one of a dozen white Impalas in the “executive selection” row. I share your views completely. It was competent and practical but cheap looking and feeling, bland, and uninspiring in every respect. I had last driven a Subie in about 1984, when it was weird but fun. I had been first exposed to the brand when my college roommate bought one in 1975, a yellow wagon that was crude and ugly but made lake effect snow in western Michigan totally irrelevant to any beer run. I will put up with almost any idiosyncrasy for charm. The new Outback had none of either.

  • avatar

    In terms of the writing…just don’t try so hard. Your audience is full of motor-heads, not law professors. But a first effort at any new endeavor is going to result in agonizing over your writing, so don’t sweat it. Just “write casual.”

    My take-away on the car is that it is a steaming pile of mediocrity that is making an effort to be an AWD Camcord, but instead feels more like a 2003 Malibu.

    As the owner of a rusty but much-loved 172k mile 2003 Legacy wagon who just spent several days doing head gaskets, I laugh at the notion that the overall quality has gone downhill. My brother-in-law’s 2010 Outback — heck, my sister-in-law’s 08 Legacy sedan — makes my 03 feel like an Eastern Block farm tractor. But with atrailer, it hauls around dirt, firewood, lumber, chicken feed, etc. like a tractor or pickups, certainly more than 98% of the F150s or Silverados out there.

    I have a snowmobile, so I don’t hate the CVT on the new cars as much as the old 4 speed automatic. But I’d get a stick shift if I was replacing my Legacy.

    • 0 avatar

      “In terms of the writing…just don’t try so hard. Your audience is full of motor-heads, not law professors. But a first effort at any new endeavor is going to result in agonizing over your writing, so don’t sweat it. Just “write casual.”

      I was searching for the words, you wrote them perfectly.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I admire Suburu for its refusal to go to a transverse I-4, the rest of the car not so much.

  • avatar

    Don’t hate on your Prius, son!

    Yeah it might be boring to drive, but youre basically driving a spaceship that was arguably as radical when it came out as a Citroen in the fifties.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Not too bad for a first year law student, but then again, lawyers aren’t generally known for their artful prose. Maybe best not to try so hard to entertain. I’d also recommend more precision in your descriptions (essential in a legal brief!). But whatever you do, please never begin a sentence with “To be honest…”.

  • avatar

    As far as Subaru, I grew up in Colorado and I recall that they were preferred by women with short hair, traveling in pairs. I assume that’s still the case. I don’t see many Subarus where I now live.

    And as far as Boulder, it was back then as said called the People’s Republic. If we wanted to see some dirty, stinking hippies hanging out on street corners, like bums waiting for some spare change, we’d take a trip to Boulder. (I had a friend one time move his business out of the city due to it being unpopular to earn a profit.) Well after several recent visits, Colorado has a lot more hippies in other places too. I never saw that twenty-thirthy years ago. I’d honestly rather have the rednecks where I currently live then the those hippies. At least the rednecks have jobs to pay to lift their pickup trucks. :)

  • avatar

    Wait, you overheated a brand new car? I think that requires more than a single throwaway line.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      Not completely surprising to me. My 07 Outback attempted to overheat many times in its infancy… Blown headgaskets at 30k even driving it with ease. If it wasn’t for having a stick (and with that, 50:50 split AWD and LSD) I would have dumped it long ago… It is fun to drive when the pavement ends. The new ones with the 6-speed have lost some character, but so have Accords yet I bought one for a good family cruiser.

      • 0 avatar

        I am on the fence with replacing my ’07 Outback. It is a manual transmission with 50/50 AWD and a rear LSD which is something you cannot buy anymore from any manufacturer. But, Subaru has some of the worst seats in the industry (except BRZ)and the suspension is so underdeveloped that I seldom enjoy driving the car unless the roads are snow covered. Subaru’s peak year was 2007. Its been downhill from there unfortunately.

        • 0 avatar

          “It is a manual transmission with 50/50 AWD and a rear LSD which is something you cannot buy anymore from any manufacturer.”

          Closest is Audi. Older Torsen 2 vehicles are 50/50, but no rear LSD. Newer Torsen 3 vehicles are 40/60 rear-biased but have the sport differential.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. This line made me almost spit out the water I was drinking:

      “when the car begins to overheat (which it will on a spirited drive from Denver to Vail).”

      Was the rental Subaru made in 1970?

  • avatar

    Upon seeing the headline and being on a quest to replace a Munich moneypit, I checked the prices on used Legacies. It seems that there is some good value to be had in a pre-loved Subary these days. After reading the article, I know why. Ah well, the quest goes on…

  • avatar

    An acquaintance of mine leases a new Subaru every three years for his business. He needs a car that’ll tackle any kind of road but is completely clueless about the nuances of vehicular performance.

    A couple of years ago, he pulled up in a brand new Legacy with the gherbil tranny, and suggested I drive it to compare with my ’08 Legacy GT. So off I went, taking in the look and feel of the vacuum moulded dash as I went. Unremittingly cheap was my take. The car was quiet, rode well and appliance-like in its complete lack of fervor.

    Confronted by a very steep hill, once on the full grade at 25 mph I floored it and …… nothing happened. No change in speed that is, although a roar emerged from the engine room as the taskmaster commenced to lash the unfortunate occupants of the circular treadmill to within inches of their sorry lives. Even a paltry 170hp should do better than that! I’ve owned a 1980 Jetta with 90 hp that did better on the hill.

    The same trial in my own Legacy GT involves a half-second while the tranny shifts down to first, followed by a blast to a highly illegal 55 mph through second gear. Also my interior is soft touch everywhere. No comparison in looks, power or performance, but a bigger interior to flop around in seemed the only plus of the Legacy CVT. Ugh.

    The new Legacy is pure white machine-made bread. Highly suitable for those whose minds are occupied by more important things, like the landscape floating by, and a new round of tweets bonging in.

    It is a non car. For me, time to investigate an Accord Coupe V6, maybe. At least the engine is great.

    • 0 avatar

      Nailed it on the interiors. Yesterday I took my son to the Chicago Auto Show in my ’05 LGT. He wanted to sit in an Outback and Legacy sedan, so we did. Cheap, rough plastic everywhere, compared to soft touch materials in the ’05. Why?

      I walked away thinking that the newest Subarus appear to be designed by focus groups, save for the BRZ and WRX/STi.

  • avatar

    Interesting review. I hope the next review is slightly more descriptive. I didn’t really get any impression on what you thought of the interior besides it being better or worse than other vehicles in the class. What are your thoughts on the seats, the ergonomics, the infotainment system, etc.?

  • avatar

    The English offered was horrible. A sign of the times. However, the article was informative and interesting. As a former owner of several Subarus, I wanted to know if the marque has improved in the last few years. The answer is no and even worse.

  • avatar

    The 4th Gen model was all kinds of awesome. This one is just ugly.

  • avatar

    @ Will: You suck as an automotive writer.Please,go back to school.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    The article is sloppily written compared to the others. Why is there a hackneyed reference to “People’s Republic of Boulder”? Get to the point. The article seems to have no theme. Its more like a narrative checklist.

  • avatar

    Overheated a new car…on a cold mountain…in 2013? I’m going to need to see proof.

  • avatar

    Good review. At one time, living in the other Subaru capitol of the world (Maine). I thought long and hard about picking up a used forester. The high demand for Subaru up there keeps them on the road longer than just about any other car and keeps the prices up to the point where any decent comparable 4×4 SUV is less expensive. After doing more research, it appears to me that anyone buying a Subaru with the open deck block, which is about 90% of them (the NA 2.5L) is just asking for a snapped timing belt/blown head gasket. I gladly passed.

    It seems to me that Subaru has always been a second rate company that has had only a few short years of breakthrough products, such as the decision to become the AWD goto niche brand, (if another mainstream competitor had also went there, Subaru would have been long gone by now), the good 2.2L boxer that is highly sought after by home aviation enthusiasts, and the original WRX.

  • avatar

    Take it from a law grad, verbosity is not your friend (despite all the jokes about how we get paid by the word).

  • avatar

    If the writer hopes to succeed in law school, he should reconsider sentences like the second one: “Being a current legal student that first graduated from that big Colorado university in the People’s Republic of Boulder and will almost certainly become the basic ‘yuppie’, Subarus have held some appeal to me.”

    This sentence says that Subarus, not the author, are “being a current legal student.” There’s also the minor matter of referring to himself as “that” rather than “who” – but in fact the sentence is utterly superfluous. If the writer had simply proceeded to “The idea of a rugged, capable, different family sedan has piqued my interest for awhile…,” he would have said the same thing. That is, it would have been implicit that he was describing himself as a stereotypical potential Subaru buyer.

  • avatar

    As the owner of a 2011 Outback, I am calling BS on some of this. The AWD system is great, and JUST TODAY on my way to a ski mountain, I got through a trench a 4WD Trailblazer could not. The interior isn’t on par with Audi/Mercedes/BMW, but it isn’t bad, it doesn’t claim to be something it’s not.

    Also, the power-train is just fine to me. I have never felt like the car needed more power, and I do a lot of mountain driving in CO. The CVT is just fine. Would a 6/7/8 speed be better, yes, but the alternative was the 4EAT, which is a dog of a transmission. The CVT seems smooth and not bad like you describe it.

    • 0 avatar

      To be fair…the alternative to Subaru’s CVT is any other transmission on the market, not Subaru’s previous efforts. Sounds like it doesn’t compare well to other cvt’s, Tc’s or dual clutch units.

      I would like to see more detail on the claimed awd system issues. Could be tires, that CVT or indeed a awd tuning issue in play. Hard to decide based on one throw away line. Awd diffs are certainly not invulnerable after all, esp in a rental.

      The interior is crap though. Materials are above Mitsubishi but below everyone else’s at this price. I guess that’s what pays for the awd.

      • 0 avatar

        The problem is that Subaru is a small company and mostly has to develop their own transmissions because of the longitudinal AWD drive line arrangement. They can’t use any of the numerous transverse FWD/AWD transmissions available from third parties.

        As bad/not great as the CVT is, the 4EAT in my 2006 Legacy is much worse.

  • avatar

    I’m so old that I remember editors who edited. They are few and far between these days. If you want to write for the web, marry an English teacher.

  • avatar

    The author lost me at “Rental Legacy, By Subaru”

  • avatar

    Entertaining article and your experience mirrors my own recent Legacy rental. I really, really wanted to like it but was ultimately disappointed with it. Subarus were much more interesting before Toyota got involved and they were flirting with that Japanese Audi image.

  • avatar

    What’s with all the Subie love over at Consumer Reports?

    Seems less than half the models have a full red circle for reliability, some have a white one. Yet every model is “recommended”.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve seen lots of Subaru fans referring to “expected repairs” (as opposed to ‘how dare it break’) and “Oh, it wouldn’t be such a money pit if you bought it new.” I would not be surprised if Subarus are given leniency in CR surveys for the breakdowns, because many fans consider Subaru as the discount brand you buy when you want to thumb your nose at the others. When your favorite child turns on you, with lots of high cost maintenance, niggling problems, or endless repairs, where do you go? What do you say? (I’ve had about a half-dozen Subarus, but never again. Never.)

  • avatar

    I didn’t know the Legacy was so popular with rental agencies these days.

    The Legacy seems to be overshadowed by the Outback, Forester, and Impreza within the Subaru lineup. It’s as if the large platform was designed with the Outback in mind, and it is excellent for that purpose. But the Legacy seems like an afterthought.

    Compared to the other midsizers out there now, why bother with the Legacy? Most people would be better suited with an Accord, Altima, or Passat plus a set of snow tires (or Camry, if you deliberately seek an appliance). If the Fusion and Mazda6 hold up in terms of reliability (different platforms, I know), they would be better, too, and the Fusion should then beat the Legacy at the AWD sedan game.

    Take away the AWD and the Legacy is just as “meh” as the Malibu. But I want to see what Subaru will do with the 2015. I’d like to root for the Legacy in an underdog way – I like seeing Subaru do well, and they’re doing VERY well with their other products indeed.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re popular in areas that cater to the ski crowd that flies in and needs a rental. Many ski lodges in my area own Subarus from different years and they seem to hold up very well.

    • 0 avatar

      I recently had a free upgrade to a rental Outback and there were quite a few others in stock. I did have the “rental car road test” phrase pop into my head, but as it was a work trip I didn’t have the time to go through things in any detail.

      After working out where the park brake release was, the engine was loud enough that I wondered whether it was the diesel version. The engine had the traditional ‘Subaru sound’ when working hard, I soon adjusted to it but it is definitely louder than a Camry. Once up to speed it was fine, and there was adequate power on the highway. The CVT worked well enough for me, without a jarring rubber-band effect I’ve experienced in other cars, and the paddle shifters (!) were useful to access engine braking in hilly terrain.

      It drove nicely enough in urban traffic and then on the highway, but later on some winding roads it was clear that outright grip is compromised by the all-terrain nature of both the suspension setup and tire choice – fair enough due to the nature of the vehicle really and something I am not unfamiliar with. The ride was notably comfortable.

      It was ‘ok’ for fuel economy, I didn’t note the mileage covered but estimate around 26mpg overall, thirstier than the average midsize car but typical for a CUV. I also didn’t gain any useful information from the mysterious fuel economy gauge – and was not curious enough spend/waste time consulting the manual to learn more.

      Interior reviews always amuse me as I just don’t seem to conduct such an earnest assessment on all the different aspects. I thought it looked ok, there were no squeaks or rattles, the design was neat, the finishes looked decent and it was easy enough to use all the controls without referring to the manual with the exception of bluetooth pairing. The Subaru had a nice ambience, far preferable to the previous model Camry for example, certainly acceptable.

      Overall I’d say that the Outback matched my expectations with the exception of the engine noise, and that wouldn’t put me off buying the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with almost all of this. I don’t understand the criticisms.

        I drove a 2011 Outback two winters ago, on a snowy day, to boot. I thought that if I was in the market for a midsize wagon/CUV, this takes the cake. Gas mileage, space, and capability embarrass the competition.

        The CVT didn’t bother me at all. It’s a CVT. Buy the 6-speed if you don’t like it-Subaru offers one.

        I actually was surprised it was only a 2.5L. It had plenty of passing power on the highway. The paddle shifters are very useful and responsive.

        It was also rock solid. Wind noise and road noise were low and it felt totally planted. I had trouble sliding in the snow even when I tried.

        Yes, the older one is a much more attractive car. But the newer one is, functionally, very good.

  • avatar

    The best description of this article: impenetrable. I was able to gather that the Subaru was cheap, loud, and slow, but it took way too much effort to read.

    It’s like the author couldn’t find quite the right adjective, and just decided to throw as many as he could at the article.

  • avatar

    You made pedestrians jump when you turned in, LOL>
    get this guy out of here.

  • avatar

    It almost looks like TTAC is trying to kill off it’s amateur stories with the last two . I mean a review off of a one time rental and one night in a Nissan Cube driving drunks home ? Why not just start out with this one time at band camp I drove this (name/make/model) with an awful CVT transmission ! Oh and add some criticisms about writing that somehow just never appear on articles from the staff writers – something stinks here other than those lousy CVT transmissions !

  • avatar

    While I agree with the sentiments, this review just seems like “piling on” like the author read some Subaru reviews and just regurgitated those. Sure some think Subie has lost its way, but the sales tell a different story, why don’t you try to connect with that, or tell us something new? Barrier to entry is low to car blog journalism so you better bring something unique.

    You lost a little credibility when you compared to the 2002 Subaru…the only gen Legacy with a premium interior (and the only good looking Subaru. Ever.) is the 05-09 “BP/BL”. Subaru had trouble unloading the top end GT and 3.0R models in the US so they gave up on that and cheapened out a bit. Not that I like it at all as an 05 Outback XT owner but it seems to work for them.

  • avatar

    Who told this guy he could write? A very tough read. Yikes! Aside from being pedantic, derivative, convoluted, and pretentious, it was fine.

  • avatar


    Congratulations on having been admitted to Marquette Law School. It’s an excellent law school that will prepare you very well for your chosen profession.

    As for your article, a couple of things: Re-read Strunk & White. Develop the ability to convey the most meaning with the fewest words. Clarity. Brevity. Simple declarative sentences.

    Best of luck!

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “Overall I’d say that the Outback matched my expectations with the exception of the engine noise, and that wouldn’t put me off buying the vehicle.”

    See, your review was helpful. Was it a ’12 or ’13?

    I am so on the bubble with Subaru….

    • 0 avatar

      I think a 2012 but I’m not sure. The vehicle only a couple of months old and had under 5000 mi, but I’m in Australia (hence the reference to the diesel version) and I don’t know if the model cycle is exactly in sync.

  • avatar

    The “author” didn’t specify what year this model of Legacy is, which is vital seeing how the ’13 got a significant engine and transmission upgrade.

    I drove the ’12 Legacy, which had the old EJ series engine, and phase 1 CVT. I was unsure of it at first, and it certainly felt strange, until I drove it about a half an hour and I forgot that it even existed. So-called reviewers get way too hung up on CVTs and their infinite weirdness. Once you get past its strange mode of operation, they actually make more sense than a traditional automatic.

    Getting back into my Subaru with the 4EAT in it, shifts suddenly felt awkward and intrusive. I actually missed the CVT that I had in my loner Legacy, for the few days that I got to drive it.

    I’d like to drive a 2013 Legacy, which has the new FB engine and phase 2 CVT.

    • 0 avatar

      Great points. My mom has the ’13, and I have the ’11… my dad has an ’11 Outback. To me, they all feel the same. However, my Mom’s car only has 2000 miles on it so I would not call it representative yet.

  • avatar

    The pre 2010 Legacy or Outback has tight rear seat room, something that was corrected in the current models.

  • avatar

    German friend was going to Ouray, CO to do some ice climbing and simply wanted a rental car with snow tires on it. He called around and we to the conclusion that none of the rental house even knew what a snow tires was so he ended up with some crappy rental car and took him ages to get over the passes. Sure we al l know the benefits of AWD but go see the Brit car site AUTOcar test with fwd and snow tires and awd with regular tires – unless you’re going up a huge incline it’s better to take the fwd / snow tire option.

    I was going up Berthoud Pass last weekend and it was snowing, were quite a few fwd cars but obviously had snow tires – see the video and to to 15:31s – an old accord doing just fine.

  • avatar

    OK guys how about giving the author a break here; I don’t come to this site to brush up on my past participles. Gotta love all the english language tips here, wow, and I wonder how many of them speak a second language? I say piss off to the grammar police and well done mate!

    For all those that have commented on writing style of the article please IM me as I’d like a writing sample by Wednesday – no really I’d love to see what you got. Strunk and White is dead from what I’ve heard, much better books out there on how to write. Jesus I swear I’m going to develop my comment tweaking / blocking algo one of these days, just to filter out all the negative shite that people say because they have the freedom to write anything on the internet and probably have never expressed themselves in person before. It comments like these that stops people from writing and expressing themselves and make us have to listen to the same old codgers from the same old exclusive Boy’s Club.

    • 0 avatar

      “[..] and I wonder how many of them speak a second language? I say piss off to the grammar police [..]”

      And a good day to you also.

      English IS my second language.
      And I like to read articles that are well written.
      Don’t you?
      Or can’t you tell the difference?

  • avatar

    While you’re at it, the Legacy’s key looks like a rip-off of Honda’s all-in-one units…

    • 0 avatar

      Well how many different ways can you make a remote key…though both are made by the same company Alps so not a big wonder they are so similar.

      I like the Honda and Legacy key they are very compact, though most people love the giant “switchblade” remotes.

  • avatar

    I won’t be like many and critique the writer’s style (or lack of substantive arguments) but this article leaves me flat. I can’t say I am not biased, since I actually have owned one of these cars for almost 40K miles… with the CVT. This is one of those cars that takes awhile to appreciate. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. If the author was experiencing “preprogrammed shifts” then he had it in manual mode. And he’s right, the shifts are artificial in manual mode… because they ARE artificial. If you’re not being a lead-foot this car is actually VERY smooth if left to it’s own devices. IF you’re not used to how a CVT works, then of course it’s going to feel odd. And as with many things, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The CVT takes this car over 30mpg (rated at 32 to be fair) highway and still has AWD. In the previous generation you couldn’t even THINK about 30mpg with a conventional automatic. And as for Colorado driving… well, I took mine on a long road trip with 3 adults and our luggage all the way from WI (where the author is located no less) to Grand Junction CO, by way of Denver, Durango, Junction, Boulder, Cheyenne, then home without so much as a hiccup and we averaged 30mpg over the trip.

  • avatar

    I haven’t driven the CVT. I have a 2012 auto (5EAT) turbo wagon which I quite like. The car has a lot of room and the combo of 4WD and strong turbo torque makes it well matched to the twisty and often wet roads in NZ with limited overtaking areas. Yes it’s no Audi but it costs half the price of the smaller S4 and its better than half as good.

  • avatar

    I’ve got the previous generation Legacy, an ’08, as my primary driver, but it’s a 2.5L turbo and a 5-speed manual. It will be hard to replace this car with anything else. It’s a tank in snow, even with its 45 series all weather tires, unsuspectingly quick, and still pre current Legry, Subaru quirky. Spending some time in the current Legacy, I disagree with the writer on certain points, but can’t argue the CVT angle, it’s really not good.

  • avatar

    Having owned a 2011 legacy CVT for 2 years 6 months, I assure you everything said in this article is 100% understated. The cvt makes it feel like you are pushing the car down the road with your right foot. There seem to be only 2 modes, accelerating or slowing down. The car just will not coast.

    The AWD system seems to work ok, but there is definate wheel spin at the front wheels that doesnt seem to be present on my 5mt forester going up the hill to exit my apartments parking lot in slippery weather.

    At the top of my “I hate this frikkin car” list is its rather odd behavior at highway speeds. The car has a tendency to violently wander in and about its lane of travel. There is a serious issue with the way suspension is tuned/aligned it seems. Im pretty sure subaru knew it also, because they made major modifications to the 2013 legacys suspension and subframes.

    All this could have been forgiven if at least the seats were somewhat comfortable. which they arent. unless you are a 4’6″ 90lb person i guess. The seat bottom has no support at the front and ends a whopping 5″ short of my knees. IM SERIOUS! Its like sitting on half a seat!

    and finally let me say the grey faux metal plastic control plates for the stereo and cruise on the steering wheel are misaligned. They are freakin crooked and it drives me nuts. Im not talking just a little crooked, its over 1/8″ difference. the radio control is 3/64ths gap away from center airbag at top and 1/4′ at bottom the cruise is 3/16′ at top and 1/32nd at bottom.

    At this point im not having the wipermotor safety recall done in hopes the car will catch on fire and burn. so far, no luck.

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