By on August 3, 2015

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Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system is around $2,600-$3,000 effectively making the Subaru a much better value than the base Volkswagen that is front-wheel drive with a manual. This value proposition is the key to understanding Subaru in general and the Legacy in particular.



By making AWD a core Subaru value, and therefore standard on almost every model, certain costs are unavoidable. How then (or why?) does Subaru give you $3,000 more drivetrain for almost the same base price? Excellent question. The reason is simple: the average shopper has troubles with the concept of value. To be competitive Subaru has to keep their pricing in line with the FWD competition. It’s easier to say “my car has AWD for the same price” than “I know it’s $3,000 more, but we give you AWD and they don’t.”

To keep the MSRP competitive on billboards and pop-up ads, Subaru makes up the difference elsewhere. Building any car in the mainstream segment involves what I jokingly refer to as “cutting corners.” Cash can be saved by strategically placed hard plastics, by skipping a little trim in the trunk, making features optional or streamlining common parts. The trick in this segment is knowing what “corners to cut” and those to leave alone. This is a game that Subaru has been quickly learning. Standard AWD and pricing aside, there’s more about the Legacy that marches to a different drummer.

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Drivetrain
For the uninitiated, almost every modern engine is either an in-line design where the cylinders are lined up in a row, or a “V” engine design where two banks of cylinders interact with a crankshaft at an angle that is either 60 or 90 degrees. Except Porsche and Subaru. Mainly as a nod to nostalgia and uniqueness, these two brands have a dedication to the horizontally opposed, boxer engine. In a boxer design, cylinders are 180 degrees apart in two banks. Four-cylinder boxers are approximately half as long as an inline-four, but considerably wider. Although the boxer design is better balanced than an I-4, the prime benefit to this design has more to do with  the short overall length. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer is good for 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque while the optional 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer bumps that to 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft. The 2.5-liter engine is right in line with the competition but the 3.6-liter lags behind most of the V6 and turbo-four options from the competition. For 2015, both engines are mated to a CVT, although the 2.5 and 3.6 use slightly different transmission internals.

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Subaru’s AWD system has more in common with Audi’s traditional Quattro system than the optional AWD systems you find in the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. That’s because the Legacy is the only car in this segment with a longitudinally mounted engine, a mounting choice normally associated with rear-wheel drive vehicles. Like Quattro, Subaru integrates the AWD system and the front differential into the same case as the transmission meaning that the engine and torque converter are entirely in front of the front axle. So, although this layout resembles a RWD layout in a BMW, the weight balance hovers around 60/40 front-to-rear. Subaru likes to advertize the Legacy’s low center of gravity when it comes to handling, but in my opinion the front-heavy weight distribution has more of an impact on the handling than anything else. On the flip side, the overall dimensions of the drivetrain allow the front wheels more room to turn enabling a tighter turning circle than most midsized sedans.

Previous Legacy generations used different AWD systems depending on the transmission and engine choice but 2015 standardizes on Subaru’s latest multi-plate clutch design. Like other systems in the segment the system can lock the clutch pack to send power 50/50 front/rear with no slip and it can direct up to 90 percent of the power to the rear if slip occurs up front. What’s different is the “beefiness” of the clutch pack, this system is designed to send 40 percent of the power to the rear most of the time, while Chrysler’s 200 disconnects the rear axle as often as possible to save fuel and the Ford system defaults to a near 100/0 power split unless slip occurs.

Oil Consumption
Subaru’s new 2.5-liter engine has been the focus of conspiracy theories about oil consumption. Over my nearly 800 miles of driving, the oil level on the dipstick didn’t budge, but I don’t doubt consumption can be higher than some engine designs. First off, the new 2.5-liter engine uses low friction rings and very low viscosity (0W-20) oil. These two design choices invariably lead to higher efficiency and — you guessed it — higher oil consumption. All things being equal, if you add thinner oil and lower friction rings to any engine design, higher oil consumption is a likely byproduct. In addition, the very nature of a horizontally opposed engine may be a causal factor as well. However you feel about the Legacy’s appetite for dinosaur juice, the resulting fuel economy is undeniably high at a combined 30 mpg in the EPA cycle and a very respectable 28.8 mpg in our actual driving sample. Despite being four-wheel-driven, the Legacy is just 1-2 mpg lower than the thriftiest entries in this segment.

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Exterior
Form ultimately must follow function. Even though the Legacy uses longitudinally mounted engines and transmissions, the exterior still sports a long front overhang (like Audis) because of the engine’s location. Thanks to the “squatter” engine design, the hood slopes gently toward the front improving forward visibility. If you notice something un-Subaru in the side profile, you’re probably noticing that this Legacy ditches the frameless window design long associated with Subaru for a more traditional design. The change has a positive impact on wind noise in the cabin.

Borrowing a page from the Fusion’s design book, Subaru decided to give this Legacy a sportier profile with a roofline that starts plunging just after the B-pillar and extends behind the rear wheel. Like the Fusion and 200, which use similar design cues, this style has a direct impact on rear seat headroom. Overall this generation Legacy is far more mainstream than my neighbor’s Legacy GT with the hood scoop and rear wing.

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The rear bumper is a perfect place to see one of the trade-offs for the standard drivetrain. Many vehicles that have single and dual exhaust options use two different bumper moldings but Subaru saves some cash by just using one and inserting a blank in the four-cylinder model. In my mind this is the kind of trade-off that’s worth making for two reasons. The blank is well done (as you can see above) and should you for some reason want to have an exhaust shop upgrade you to a dual exhaust tip look, it’s easier than a bumper swap. In addition Subaru saves a little cash by giving base models steel wheels instead of the alloys found on most base midsize sedans.

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Interior
The same kind of trade-offs can be seen inside the Legacy’s cabin. Base and Premium models lack rear seat air vents, automatic climate control and you’ll find a hair more hard plastic in the cabin than in some of the newer competitors. That said, this Legacy is a definite improvement in terms of interior refinement compared to the last model.

I found front seat comfort to be slightly below average in the base model with the 6-way manual seat, and above average in the 10-way power seat found in Premium and Limited trims. You will find more comfortable seats in the Accord and Altima, but these seats are on par with the Fusion. Another area where costs were recouped is the front passenger seat which is 4-way adjustable only and notably less comfortable than the right seat in top-end trims as a result.

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Because of the roofline’s plunge toward the trunk, headroom is just about as limited as the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. (In other words, if you want AWD, be prepared for a height-restricted back seat.) At 6-feet tall, I had to slouch slightly in the rear to keep my head from touching the ceiling. This profile seems to be a trend in this segment and fewer and fewer midsized sedans have the headroom for six-foot-plus folks in the rear, the Accord and Passat are notable exceptions.

At 15 cubic feet the Legacy’s trunk is a hair smaller than the Camry, Passat, Accord, 200 and Fusion. However, Subaru uses a hinge design that doesn’t consume any trunk space meaning the slightly smaller hold is actually more practical. The Altima still takes top honors in this segment for swallowing multiple 24-inch carry-on sized roller bags in the vertical position.

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Infotainment
The Legacy debuts Subaru’s all-new StarLink infotainment software running on either a 6.1-inch or 7-inch LCD depending on the trim level. The new software brings expanded voice commands, finger gestures, climate control integration, improved USB/iDevice integration and optional navigation. The entire interface is snappier and more refined than Subaru’s previous software, although it still lacks direct voice control over your connected media library a la Ford’s SYNC or Toyota’s Entune. The optional StarLink app for your Android or iOS phone enables streaming audio and unlike some of the competitive apps, it doesn’t make you register and create an account in order to work.

One of the more interesting features of StarLink is unfortunately not supported in the United States: MirrorLink. you can think of MirrorLink as the more open alternative and precursor to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sadly MirrorLink looks to be something consigned to the dustbin, but hopefully this means Subaru will support the other two standards at some point soon. (Note: Although Subaru does not support it in the USA, Subaru owners tell me it does work with a limited number of Android devices.)

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Drive
The Subaru AWD system has a distinct impact on the Legacy’s road manners. Because the system sends 40 percent of the power to the rear without wheel slip, the Legacy is easily the most surefooted and confident on slippery surfaces. [Edit: Shoppers should know that when the temperature drops below approximately 40 degrees fahrenheit winter tires are recommended for optimum traction. AWD does not improve braking or neutral handling but appropriate winter tires will. A FWD car with winter tires will our brake, out handle and likely out accelerate a comparable AWD car with all-season tires in the snow.]

The boxer engine may drop the center of gravity, but it also makes the Legacy just as front-heavy as a V-6 Accord. Like that Accord and every other V-6 front wheel drive sedan, the Legacy feels heavy and reluctant to turn in neutral handling (power-off) situations. Apply power in the corner, and the Legacy feels more neutral and predictable as the car shuttles power to the rear wheels, but the Subaru AWD system does not torque vector in the rear so it’s never going to rotate like a RWD car or an Acura with SH-AWD. The previous generation Legacy 3.6R used a mechanical center differential to give it a slight rear bias, but that has been removed for 2015 in the name of fuel economy.

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Speaking of fuel economy, the Leagcy’s numbers are unexpectedly high. Over the course of a week, I averaged 28.8 mpg in mixed driving with plenty of hill climbing as my commute involves a 2,200-ft mountain pass. Looking back on the recent sedans I’ve tested, the Legacy beat the four-cylinder Camry, tied with the 1.5-liter Fusion, was 1-2 mpg lower than the Passat 1.8T, Altima 2.5 and 4 mpg lower than the Accord with a CVT.

The high fuel economy comes at a slight cost. Subaru’s CVT has a ratio spread of 5.8 (that represents the spread of ratios from low to high, the higher the number the bigger the difference between high and low) which is narrower than most of the other transmissions in this segment. This means that when picking a final drive ratio Subaru had to chose between low end acceleration and fuel economy and they chose the latter. The resulting 14:1 starting ratio is notably higher than the 17.6:1 ratio we find in the four-cylinder Chrysler 200 and explains the Legacy 2.5’s leisurly 8.3 second 0-60 time. Some folks have incorrectly assumed the 2.5-liter boxer is “guttless” at low RPMs, but it really has more to do with this ratio and the torque converter design, as evidenced by the 3.5 second 0-30 time (longer than a Prius). Opting for the 3.6-liter engine certainly adds some scoot, but the big boxer is notably less powerful than the V-6 engines in the competition. Couple that with a tweaked CVT and an even higher starting ratio of 12.8:1 and 3.6R Limited is decidedly sluggish compared to the Fusion’s 2-liter turbo and especially the Chrysler 3.6-liter V-6.

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Subaru’s revised suspension in this generation of Legacy has improved the road manners. While not as soft as the Altima, the Legacy proved to be a smooth highway companion and never seemed upset over broken pavement. This year’s cabin is notably quieter than before in both wind and road noise. This softer side of Subaru translates to plenty of body roll and tip and dive when you’re out on your favorite mountain road, but the Legacy is still firmer than the Altima. The steering rack isn’t as responsive or direct as the Mazda6, Fusion or Accord Sport, opting instead for a middle-of-the-road feel. Subaru has tweaked the suspension further for 2016, but I did not get a chance to sample the change. Although the Mazda6 is not one of the faster options in this segment, it is still the most fun out on a winding road.

In terms of AWD competition, for the 2.5-liter model there simply isn’t any. Ford’s requires you to select the SE or above trims and the 2-liter turbo engine in order to add four-wheel motivation to the Fusion. As a result, the least expensive model is $27,810. Not only is that $6,000 more than a base Subie, the EPA says it’ll cost you $300 a year more to run. Chrysler only bundles AWD with their 3.6-liter V-6, which drops fuel economy to 22 mpg in combined driving and bumps the price tag to $29,562, which is $8,000 more than the base Subaru. On the filp side, the 200 AWD will hit 60 in under 6 seconds, more than a full second faster than the Legacy 3.6R.

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Thanks to high fuel economy and a well chosen feature set, the Legacy 2.5 is a solid alternative to the FWD competition with only few caveats. The 3.6R is another matter. The top end Legacy will set you back 30-large and adding push-button start and navigation bumps this up to around $34,000. For that price, the Chrysler adds real wood trim, ventilated seats, better handling, better performance, heated steering wheel, more comfortable seats, auto high-beams, autonomous parking and a partial LCD instrument cluster.

Taken out of context, the Legacy could seem less than competitive. If you’re looking for the best rear seat accommodations, the highest fuel economy, the best performance or the most luxury features, your future lies elsewhere. But it’ll cost you more and it won’t have AWD. The interesting twist is that even if AWD isn’t terribly important to you, there is little penalty at the pump and almost no price premium at purchase. That means that whether you’re above the snow-belt or not, if you’re looking for one of the best buys in the CamCord segment, drop by your Subaru dealer. If you want the “best AWD family hauler” however, that’s at the 200C AWD from Detroit.

Subaru provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.5

0-60: 8.3

1/4 Mile: 16.2 Seconds @ 87 MPH

Average Economy: 28.8 MPG

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95 Comments on “2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium Review (with Video)...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m surprised Ford didn’t ask for its grille & blue oval back.

    I’ve never driven a Subaru, but would like to, for everyone I know who has and owned them has been very happy with them.

    Unfortunately, Subaru’s styling has become just like everyone else’s, and in so doing, has taken away some of their appeal of being quirky, which was a big plus to me. However, their cars seem to be very reliable, and this should be no exception.

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      100% Good call Zack. I think I’ve seen this exact same steering wheel in a Fusion.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Compare the very first Legacy with an 1987 Mercury Sable, then you’ll understand what Subaru means with “going back to its routes”.

      At EAF:
      The Chevy Camaro and countless modern cars use that same wheel, its like they use the same parts supplier!

  • avatar
    Signal11

    I gotta say, I find the written reviews Alex has been doing since his return to be a little lacking.

    Do the written reviews for TTAC not rate the exclusive Trunk Comfort Index?

    Mediocre, Alex. Mediocre.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      I admit that’s a damn big trunk. Many many dead bodies to be stored.

      This car… I dunno. Subaru builds a 4wd Camry? Is this what it is?

      It seems to me that the 4wd albatross isnt worth it for people like me who live in temperate climes that havent rained in over 3 months… and people who do… buy an SUV? Subaru even have one…

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        “This car… I dunno. Subaru builds a 4wd Camry? Is this what it is?”

        Yeah this generation of the Legacy seems to have basically been turned into an AWD Camry. It reminds me of VW turning the 2012+ Passat into a German Camry, in a way. Subaru has done an infinitely better job of marketing such products though, obviously.

        I don’t understand why they continue to use the 3.6 H6 instead of just dropping in the 2.0T from the WRX. It offers similar power, better torque, and would offer better fuel economy. I get Honda and Toyota still using V6s, as they have excellent ones and they don’t have great turbo 4 cylinders (well Toyota just recently developed one, and it will end up in the Camry but they didn’t have it a few years ago). But Subaru has been doing turbo 4s for years; dragging their feet on replacing the H6 makes zero sense.

      • 0 avatar
        heoliverjr

        Sorta Random/Sorta Relate factoid Subaru actually built Camry’s for Toyota in the same factory with the Legacy for awhile.

        Secondly random note much prefer my 10 Legacy to my fathers 07 Camry, drives a lot nicer to me.

        Subaru has a few crossovers but no suvs.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “Mediocre, Alex. Mediocre”

      Au contraire. Alex’s focusing on Subaru’s strategy of providing cheap AWD at the expense of frills or new engine development shows their grasp of what matters to their core buyers.

      I don’t care about AWD so I had no idea you could have it in a sedan for 21 K-ish. Given the preconditioning manufacturers have accomplished with average middle-class buyers regarding the miraculous nature of AWD, Subaru’s priorities seem perfectly calculated for the job of selling its sedans in a market decreasingly desirous of them.

      My only question for Subaru is when do their sedans finally get phased out?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m kinda finding a lot of this sites articles lacking, either that or I just wish Hammer Time would return.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      ????

      This is probably the best review I have seen of a midsize sedan in years. Gear spreads and starting ratios, provide infinitely more useful info than the usual, “boxer lacks torque, needs turbo” papp most reviewers contend themselves with.

      Ditto for a high level description of engine/tranny/diff layout etc.

      Keep it up, Alex! Look into DB readings as well. At low, engine dominated speeds, hi, aero dominated ones, combinations, and over chassis dominated bumps/washboard…

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        I thought this review was absolutely excellent in its level of information. It was fascinating to hear so much more information than I had about a car I drove and reviewed myself. My compliments, Alex.

    • 0 avatar
      wolfinator

      How was this review lacking? I thought it was knowledgable, and did a good job of focusing on what makes this car unique – AWD, Boxer engines, low price tag. It talked about the tradeoffs (gear ratios, trim shortcuts).

      There was some good coverage of the continuing de-quirking of Subarus (no more frameless windows).

      Perhaps the review seemed lacking because the car is a bit…boring?

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I like how everyones taking that one comment so seriously.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          It was a peevish and substanceless comment about one of the most professional and rational reviewers out there.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Really? I thought it was just a joke.

            “Do the written reviews for TTAC not rate the exclusive Trunk Comfort Index?”

          • 0 avatar
            Signal11

            Nope. I am being completely serious.

            I don’t feel completely informed about any given vehicle until I know how comfortable the trunk is for a six foot tall man. A couple months ago, I had to squeeze five airmen into a Mini Countryman, which meant one guy had to go in the back. For contingencies such as this (especially since the Air Farce takes these quality of life things so seriously), I think a TCI is paramount to give we consumers a realistic idea of the distances we can travel without the trunk traveler requiring medical attention.

            Also, it’s an important measuring stick for ease of loading during evidence disposal.

            In the words of the Cult of V-8: mediocre!

  • avatar

    Subaru and Chrysler did a good thing building AWD cars less than $34,000.
    AWD is the new must-have “luxury feature” in the North Eastern US.

    I test drove the Hyundai Tucson yesterday – will definitely check out the Legacy – and all that I ask is that crossovers and cars exceeding 3500 pounds get V6 linked to AWD so they don’t feel like slow, soul-less econoboxes.

  • avatar

    If you want the “best AWD family hauler” however, that’s at the 200C AWD from Detroit.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I understand the marketing appeal of these. Subaru marketing has done a great job of painting themselves as the safe choice. Taking a FWD car out in the rain is taking your life in your hands. Consumer Reports, the official spokesman of Squat To Pee, loves them. They’re in.

    And because they’re in, there are of course no incentives whatsoever so declaring it a value buy on the strength of the sticker price is a fool’s errand. A Camry has $4500 on the hood.

    You could make a reasonable case that a Forester is a couple thousand dollars better than a CRV, or that the Outback doesn’t directly compete with anything. But this one’s just a less reliable Camry with a $3000 AWD premium.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    “Consumer Reports, the official spokesman of Squat To Pee”

    AWD is one of the few issues for which I go apostate to my tribe.

    And BTW, squat-peeing saves a lot of nasty cleanup around the base of the bowl!

  • avatar

    I did say my next car would be longitude-engined, so the Legacy qualifies, technically. I can’t find any drivetrain diagrams, but you said the entire engine sits before the front axle. I assume that means said front axle comes straight out of the sides of the transmission case and leads to either wheel, rather than power needing to be routed from the rear of the transmission to the front axle through a separate perpendicular shaft, like…say, xDrive?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Subaru mounts a ring and pinion at the front of the output shaft on the manuals. The CVT uses a separate layshaft inside the case to run the front diff.

      http://www.sunrisejdmmotors.com/images/parts/MrONsTBHi0wQ.jpg

      http://www.finelineimports.net/From%20Sonic/Already%20Lauched%20Website%20Items/images/wrx_transmission_rebuild2.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Yeah, it’s similar to the layout in all the non-transverse Audis. Unlike Audi, they no longer offer any FWD versions, though the setup would let them if they just subbed in a transaxle for the combined transmission/front differential unit.

  • avatar
    redliner

    No. Just no.

    If you want a “cheap” family hauler with AWD Subaru is a good choice.

    If you want the best, then swing by the Dodge dealer and buy a Charger AWD. Will it cost more? Yes, but it’s more car.

    • 0 avatar

      No, thanks. The Charger looks like a cartoon, especially with the 2015 refresh.

      • 0 avatar
        redliner

        At least it doesn’t look like the 2011 Mediocrity. It’s sad that Subaru know resembles the very thing they made fun of.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        At least the old Charger was a cohesive design. The new ones with a modern front clip and rear clip on a retrostyled greenhouse and door panels looks so disjointed that I don’t see how anyone could consider it a handsome car.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “The Charger looks like a cartoon.”

        “If you want styling that doesn’t look like a 6-year-old boy made the car out of Play-Doh, a Charger won’t cut it either.”

        “Chrysler fans are often out of touch with reality, I find.”

        :\'(

        No one likes my car. I am too fragile for Dodge ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      Scott_314

      Approximately 0.0% of people would cross-shop the Legacy and the Charger.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Chrysler fans are often out of touch with reality, I find. They’ll go out of their way to make comparisons which don’t make any sense between two cars.

        “Dude you’re seriously considering an Escalade Hybrid? Why not go get a CPO Aspen Hybrid, for realsies.”

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I remember a thread here where someone suggested a Charger to a person who was looking to downsize from some midsizer or other. Brand loyalty trumps reading comprehension.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      If you want Subaru-like ground clearance with your AWD, a low Charger won’t cut it.

      (If you want styling that doesn’t look like a 6-year-old boy made the car out of Play-Doh, a Charger won’t cut it either. But admittedly that’s subjective.)

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I was pricing out cars this weekend, and I was surprised at the low MSRP’s of the Subarus I was looking at. (The Forester and the Outback.) Their pricing really is pretty great, even if you ignore the AWD. It appears that a lot of the “cost-cutting” comes from high-tech doo-dads (like automatic climate control, a fancy infotainment system, etc.) that many buyers (including myself) are fine without.

    That said, I was thinking of taking an Outback out for a test drive, and in my entire metro area of 2.3M people, there was precisely ONE Outback in stock. The other two dealers in the area only had some listed as “In Transit”. Methinks that despite the value-priced MSRP, you ain’t actually getting to drive one out the door for much (any?) less than that number… no cash-on-the-hood here when they sell every one they can make. This means your out-the-door price will be quite a bit higher than some of the competition.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Yeah, the comparison with the Passat MSRP was particularly irrelevant, because that Legacy will sell for around MSRP while VW is desperate to move Passats now with the model being so long in the tooth and overdue for a refresh. You could probably get a Passat that MSRPs at 21k and change for under 18k quite easily.

      But even Honda is offering decent incentives on Accords these days, so the Legacy is basically the only midsize sedan that you CAN’T get for a few thousand under MSRP. That really erases a lot of the value proposition that exists on paper.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      “the “cost-cutting” comes from high-tech doo-dads (like automatic climate control, a fancy infotainment system, etc.) that many buyers (including myself) are fine without.”

      no. the cost cutting is pretty evident in the entire car, especially the drive.
      Drive this car and the Fords or the Honda or the Toyota and even the Mazda6 with its lightest car in the segment.
      They all drive better.
      Money is saved in the build as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        “no. the cost cutting is pretty evident in the entire car, especially the drive. Drive this car and the Fords or the Honda or the Toyota and even the Mazda6 with its lightest car in the segment.
        They all drive better. Money is saved in the build as well.”

        Perhaps you’re right but quality of drive can be subjective. I’m not sure the Fords and Toyotas drive better than the Subarus right now. I just drove a bunch of cars over the past month and bought a 2016 Subaru Forester. And, you know what? The 2016 drives a bit better than a 2015 Forester that my sister-in-law had on loan a few months ago. If the cars you mention do, in fact, drive better than the Subarus, it’s not enough of a difference to make a difference to me (an ex-race driver) or to justify a higher purchase price.

        The thing is, I’ve never shopped by price only. But the cost of most new cars has finally reached a point that I’m not willing to pay. Moreover, most new cars have become fairly boring. So why pay $30K or more to own one? Subaru hits the right point – for me – when it comes to the balance between reliability, technical interest, utility and price. The fact that I’ve owned two other Subarus (Imprezas – a 2011 and 2010) with no problems made my purchase that much easier.

        • 0 avatar
          legacygt

          I’m also not sure the Legacy doesn’t drive exactly the way Subaru wants it to drive. It’s not necessarily cost-cutting as much as targeting the broad middle of the market that cares little about steering and handling. The last 2 generations of Legacy and Outback are not my cup of tea but the sale numbers speak for themselves. These cars are selling in greater numbers every month as they have been for years. Subaru’s sales growth has been staggering…even if they aren’t delivering exactly what the enthusiasts might be looking for.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Just wait a few months. The new Outback for 2015 was a big hit and supply hasn’t normalized yet. Once Subaru catches up with demand there will be cash on the hood, progressively more as you go through the model cycle.

      I bought a 2013 Forester a couple months before the 2014s appeared and got $4000+ off the already reasonable MSRP together with 0% financing.

  • avatar
    Counterpoint

    Nice review. It’s interesting that you could search and replace “Legacy” for “Impreza” and the majority of the review would still apply. The CVT and symmetrical AWD are great, but Subaru really skimped on other areas to keep the price competitive with FWD alternatives.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …i’d like to commend your exemplarily thorough and balanced review, alex: very well-done and keep them coming!..

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Overall this generation Legacy is far more mainstream than my neighbor’s Legacy GT with the hood scoop and rear wing.”

    I haz a sad.

    And I do not concur that the exhaust blank is well done. It’s very obvious in all but the darkest colors, and also due to location collects dirt around the seam there. Horrible.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m surprised someone still makes a car with an exhaust “blank”.

      I expect this with a body-clad era Pontiac, less so on whats supposed to be a “premium” Subaru.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Look at it here, in a lighter color. Terrible. And picture it in the winter, with road salt and grime highlighting that seam.

        http://s1.cdn.autoevolution.com/images/news/gallery/subaru-announces-2015-legacy-us-pricing_10.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I’m surprised they didnt just install fake exhaust outlets, would’ve hidden things better.

          At dal:

          Daewoods and Suxukis are good value too, ditto the GMs everyone knocks for having cheap interiors.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Unlike a Daewoo or Suzuki, you can get parts and service for a Subaru without a messy goat sacrifice.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I wonder how much it would cost to get and install a catback from a 3.6R model, just so you could knock out that blank?

      It’s characteristic for Subaru, though. They really don’t care much if their cars look cheap. They’re more focused on other things.

      My 2013 Forester has switch blanks even though it has every available option, unfinished black plastic rocker panels that scuff at the drop of a hat, a factory pre-bent rear passenger door (looks like a door ding from a certain angle, but is just the shape of the metal), and more hard plastic than you can shake a stick at inside. None of those things changes that it was a terrific value for what we use it for.

  • avatar
    wmba

    The Chrysler 200 AWD has two large demerits:

    1. The AWD completely disengages both the prop shaft and the rear half-shafts when cruising along. Re-engagement time is at best 0.4 of a second. That is not AWD, it’s FWD and the car handles like it, IMO. Also, the one I had alone for an hour would loudly chirp the front right tire on the one-two shift when given some welly, not a sign of AWD. Four tenths of a second for engagement is useless on ice (and no Haldex was ever as slow), you might as well save 200 lbs weight and get the straight FWD model. The so-called AWD does not enhance handling on corners in the dry or light-footed driving in snow or ice, simply because it’s disengaged. Useless.

    2. The ZF 9 speed transmission is quite simply the worst modern automatic out there – that I’ll always argue till the pigs come home. I’ve now driven a half-dozen cars including Acuras with it, and not a one of them has been any good. It’s not a secret – forums are full of moaning owners, if anyone cares to look.

    The Legacy? Well, I own an older GT, and since the 2011 Stay-Puft models dispensed with the good turbo engine and went CVT, I’d say the car is suitable for meandering down the road without a hint of engagement for the driver. That’s what my pal’s 2011 and subsequent 2014 feel like to me, and they cannot pull the skin off a rice-pudding powerwise. The Legacy’s party trick is that it seems as equally oblivious of snow/ice as it is to a dry road, and that’s about it. Same for the rest of the Subies except for WRX/STI. And still they keep selling more. Amazing.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      You’d think they’d at least provide a button to disable the drive draft disengagement, for use in rain or snow (or if you just prefer how it drives with AWD active). A system like that makes some sense in good weather and to get better EPA numbers, but it shouldn’t be active when you’re driving on a snowy road. That’s just poor design.

      “The Legacy’s party trick is that it seems as equally oblivious of snow/ice as it is to a dry road, and that’s about it. Same for the rest of the Subies except for WRX/STI. And still they keep selling more. Amazing.”

      While this is sad for enthusiasts, developing AWD Toyotas was pretty brilliant by Subaru for targeting the US market. Their sales in Europe have gone completely in the toilet though, unsurprisingly.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        They do actually. If you put it in Sport mode it will not disconnect the rear axle and is much more aggressive about fully locking the center coupling.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          That seems helpful, but a winter mode would seem necessary as well. I don’t think many people would think “oh, snow on the roads, time to his Sport mode!”

          Other than enthusiasts that want to do 4 wheel drifts around snowy corners, of course.

          • 0 avatar
            eamiller

            The essentially identical AWD system in my Cherokee Trailhawk (minus the locking rear diff) would beg to differ in terms of ability. It’s equal to my 05 Legacy GT (5MT) with a mechanical limited slip system, with the added benefit of traction and stability control.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Agreed on the AWD. That’s not an AWD system, that’s just a lot of dead weight attached to a feature that might, at best, help you get out of a snowy parking spot.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “If you want the “best AWD family hauler” however, that’s at the 200C AWD from Detroit.”

    I question overall reliability and resale value of this unproven model from BHPH and cash-strapped marque.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    AWD stumps me.
    AWD is absolutely silly and causes the manufacturer to cut back elsewhere to save money.

    I just do NOT understand why people need AWD today.
    OK…I get it IF you live in a world that requires you to drive up gravely, dirt hills or live in a climate of ridiculous snow.
    Who does?
    And if there are such living conditions…how can the numbers ever make a business sense for the consumer as a whole? The number has to be a small number! The rest of the purchases MUST be for image or something else.

    Let’s face it…FWD should make the better choice for a real family sedan in 99.9 percent of car life. It allows for traction in MOST snow and allows for the best interior use and design.

    I understand IF your engine has sooo much power the FWD and trans make up might not allow for FWD only. This is obviously the case in the Ford Ecoboost systems. If not we would see the Focus and Fiesta Ecoboost in auto. We see only standard trans and I am guessing this is from the high power o these auto trans.

    Otherwise…this is all image…and silly.
    Getting higher priced AWD systems in these cars forces Subaru to cut on more ecencial needs…like sound deadening and material quality.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I hope as you’re typing all this that your MKS is a FWD one!

      So my thoughts on AWD:

      1) It’s pitched as the “luxury” version/option and costs more. Sometimes you have to get the AWD version in order to get some other options. (See upcoming CT6, base model 2.Slow is only version with RWD, all others AWD.)

      2) Many drivers are silly about driving and traction, and know the AWD is “better” than driving two wheels for slick surfaces, so they get it. They don’t care about the MPG difference, because America.

      3) Some people do need it. I’ll give you my situation, in SW Ohio. I live alone, and have one car, due to a 1-car garage. Exiting my garage is a fairly steep slope, as the garage is situated underneath my house. Even when I shovel, it’s still slick, and flanked either side by solid block walls. There isn’t much clearance either side, because my house is from the 1930s, when such things were not considered. As well sometimes when I head to work, the streets aren’t exactly fully plowed and I do go over couple hills. I struggled here with my RWD GS for a little while, and ended up purchasing a little Impreza for these days.

      Sometimes it snows 15 times in the winter (last year) and sometimes only once (year before). And for those occasions, I want AWD. If I can get that assurance in a single vehicle rather than having two separate ones, I will.

      Thus is the appeal of AWD.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I live in the same latitude and FWD is find.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Remember when I linked that topo map, how hilly it was?

          Also, on that hill out of my garage, there are literally about 4″ of clearance either side. You slip, you’re f-cked.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            would not FWD help or be enough?
            My experience growing up in Chicago winters is any drive lost out once slippery. Getting cars moving is one thing…once slipping, nothing, AWD 4WDR…nothing helped.
            And again, my 1965 VW bug was wonderful in the winter…except there was no heat!!!

            For non enthusiasts RWD power nuts and everyday sedan folks, FWD is a better all around concept.

            But I understand and feel your pain. My drive in the Ozarks has a edge where it meets the road. My MKS grinds horribly unless I take it at an extreme angle.
            But that is a ground clearance issue.

            The Ford trans strength must be the issue on my MKS forced, non optional AWD because this same engine in the F150 get a whole lot more power.

            PLus..the Ford AWD system is a day late and a dollar short in reaction time. Stupid system.

          • 0 avatar
            heoliverjr

            AWD can keep you from slipping in the first place. The one and only time (it doesn’t snow much round my area) I drove my Legacy in snowy/icy conditions I braced myself for slips as I watched the cars in front of my weaving and sliding but the slips never came for me(well until I got over confident and took the last turn before home too fast like and idiot).

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        No..I understand My MKS TT is AWD. But again, I am presuming this is due to the force of the TT and the lack of strength in their trans.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Alex informs me Ford explains the stick only on its Fiesta and Focus ecoboosted cars is nobody would buy them. This makes for a poor business decision to use auto.
      I disagree with their remark. I think, in the USA at least, the standard trans limits sales. This is not Europe and we drive autos here.
      Limiting any car to standard limits sales here…a lot.
      I would have had a Mazdaspeed3 long ago IF my family did not out vote me. Nobody would agree to a standard.
      No standard trans.
      No wagons.
      Still stick that a family sedan in the USA with AWD is 99.999 percent silly

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        I have been informed by powerful legal minds (auto enthusiast friends)this anti wagon/stick attitude of my wife and family is perfect 1000 percent solid legal ground enough for me to use in separation from all! Any good judge would listen to my position and understand they are causing me mental anguish and I can leave without any punishment or fear of family abandonment!

        • 0 avatar
          wsn

          TrailerTrash, maybe you are not well educated in understanding what AWD is for.

          The single most important instance where AWD is superior than a FWD is at an intersection where you are about to take a left turn. You speed is 0 because you are waiting for oncoming cars to clear. And then a gap comes where you have a chance to turn left before the next car arrives. You hit gas and your FWD with snow tires spin and moves sideways. That’s because, under your front tires is a concave of smooth ice created by other FWD cars spinning. You don’t have that issue with an AWD. I own both a Legacy and a Camry, so yeah I know it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Depends what you do for recreation. We ski in the winter and hike, sometimes from remote trailheads, in the summer. Good AWD (and the Forester’s 8.5″ ground clearance) are very useful for us.

    • 0 avatar
      Zekele Ibo

      >> “I just do NOT understand why people need AWD today.
      OK…I get it IF you live in a world that requires you to drive up gravely, dirt hills or live in a climate of ridiculous snow.
      Who does?”

      This actually describes my situation exactly! I live at the top of a “gravely, dirt hill” and round here we have snow on the ground for seven months a year. So I drive a Subaru Crosstrek. However, before moving to my current house, I never bothered with AWD as I virtually never got stuck, even in the worst snow-storms, with FWD vehicles with snow tires. So yes, the “need” for AWD is vastly overstated.

      Of course, there are some vehicles with what I call “placebo AWD”. That Chrysler 200 AWD is one, the Honda CR-V is another good example. These AWD systems don’t really do anything in any meaningful real-word sense, and the manufacturer knows that it doesn’t matter. Vehicles with placebo-AWD offer the AWD badge without the downsides of the AWD system actually engaging and ruining the fuel economy.

      In most cases, FWD and snow tires are the best options for cost-effective winter transportation. But people are willing to pay for the AWD badge, just not for a second set of tires.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Bravo, Zekele Ibo.

        I’ll only listen to enthusing about AWD from people who’ve already tried FWD + snow tires.

      • 0 avatar
        Brumus

        Well said, Zeke.

        I spend weekends in eastern North America’s snowiest region (northeast VT) and have done quite well with FWD + snow tires.

        The difference between snows and no-season tires is significant: night and day, black and white…pick your cliché.

        I’m always surprised — and somewhat pissed off — at the number of asshats with VT, NY, and NH plates I see at ski hills with AWD vehicles and no-season tires. Pray tell, how the hell does AWD help when descending the mountain with 3 inches of greasy snow on the road and you have to hit the brakes?

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I do believe that a horizontally opposed engine is a perfect fit for a mid engined sports car. I also can think of absolutely no good reason to put one in a front drive or AWD sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Wasn’t the advantage in the FRS/BRZ was that they could lower the hood while meeting the pedestrian collision standards?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Because you can get transverse-like interior packaging with a longitudinal AWD system. Does it really matter anymore now that there are some pretty good transverse AWD systems? Maybe not. But it took a long time before any transverse AWD system was decent.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I desire the 3.6 R model and the true AWD is part of it. My only AWD vehicle does a 50/50 torque split constantly and I have found it to be very useful when the weather turns nasty.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Great review Alex, I always want to hear your detailed review of a vehicle I’m actually considering which this Subaru is.

    However, why no mention of Eyesight? This is another area where Subaru is actually quite a ways ahead of the competition, and it looks like your tester is equipped with it.

    On other cars it (adaptive cruise control etc) is only available on the very top trim models, typically $4K to $6K more than the price of the Legacy, if available at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I don’t consider EyeSight to be that unique per se. Mazda offers it on vehicles in price ranges that aren’t too far off and VW will be as well starting in 2016. Aside from that however EyeSight has its own advantages and disadvantages. I like that it offers full speed range adaptive cruise control but it is not as smooth in operation as the Chrysler or Ford systems. EyeSight also has the disadvantage of not functioning as well in fog or rain as a radar system because if you can’t see the car, it can’t see the car. Inclimate weather reduces the functionality of radar systems as well but to a smaller degree. EyeSight is of course cheaper and isn’t going to be damaged in minor fender benders.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        Well, if the fog or rain is so bad you can’t see the car in front of you, you should probably be driving a lot slower with 110% of your attention out the windshield anyway, which means cruise (adaptive or otherwise) really isn’t necessary. (I know that when I drive in conditions like that, I turn off the radio, constantly grip the wheel with both hands, and ask my wife not to talk to me.)

  • avatar
    Brumus

    An Accord/Fusion/Camry/etc./etc. equipped with winter tires will be a safer, more competent vehicle in the snow and cold than a Subaru fitted with no-season rubber.

    That is all.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I tell people this every day and yet nobody believes me. AWD will not, I repeat: not improve braking or neutral handling period. When it is below 40 degrees when the road is dry, wet, snowy, icy, etc a car with a comparable curb weight and winter tires will out handle and out brake an AWD car with all-season tires every day. Depending on the surface, the car with winter tires is also likely to give you better acceleration traction although AWD does help there. My preference would be the 2WD car with winter tires every day.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        At the risk of sounding like the little girl in the taco shell commercial: “WHY NOT BOTH?”

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        We had a Saab 9-5 wagon for 10 years and equipped it with Blizzaks on separate wheels, which we mounted in the winter. That was more than adequate here and more than adequate in Madison, Wisconsin, where my daughter went to college, taking this car with her for the last 3 years of her time there.

        When we owned a house in Canaan Valley, WV (the highest part of the state, which gets some 120 inches of natural snow a year), we owned (and used) a 4wd vehicle with Blizzaks at all corners. Unstoppable in over a foot of fresh snow.

        As Alex says, 4wd/awd does nothing to improve stopping distance in snow or ice; Blizzaks or the equivalent, do regardless of which set of wheels is driven.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      “An Accord/Fusion/Camry/etc./etc. equipped with winter tires will be a safer, more competent vehicle in the snow and cold than a Subaru fitted with no-season rubber.

      That is all.”

      You are totally wrong. The Subaru, with no-season rubber, will beat any Accord/Fusion/Camry/etc without tires mounted.

      See where this is going? If you choose to make a comparison by eliminating some equipment from a model, I can do that too.

  • avatar
    heoliverjr

    Kudos for writing an article that mentions the previous gen 3.6R having a slight rear bias, and mulitple awd systems! Not that it was anything game changing but I never saw a review for a Legacy that mention the 3.6 bias and few that mention the different awd systems(one for each transmission offered).

    Side note the frameless windows got ditched with the 2010 redesign.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Have to agree on the use of snow tires. I drive a MK6 GTI and i install 16 inch snow tires on my car every year. I have never gotten stuck in the snow. My buddy drives a Subaru and for the life of me i can not get across to him to put on snow tires. He feels the AWD will always get him out of trouble. Of course when it snows he never takes out the car until the streets are plowed. I owned 1 Subaru years ago and it was enough for me. I can understand under certain conditions you can make use of the AWD like going up an snow covered road but to haul all that extra weight and moving parts is crazy. In NYC we have many winters where we get only a few inches of snow and sometimes we do get hit but when we get over 6 inches of snow in NYC everything stops.

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