The Subaru Legacy Sport Utility Sedan Returns, in a Sense

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
the subaru legacy sport utility sedan returns in a sense

What does an automaker do after the company’s three-year-old midsize sedan — the only midsize sedan with standard all-wheel drive — is slightly upgraded for 2018?

It initiates a new marketing campaign. And what must that marketing campaign entail when the car is chronically unpopular and suffering from sharp sales declines in a shrinking category? It must utilize a catchy, attention-grabbing slogan.

Thus, for 2018, Subaru gives us the rebirth of a tagline: sport utility sedan.

Only this time, unlike 1998, the Legacy SUS isn’t lifted, it doesn’t wear two-tone cladding, its tires’ lettering won’t be emboldened by white font. The 2018 Subaru Legacy Sport Utility Sedan is just a Legacy.

The SUS idea isn’t dead, of course. Volvo USA has sold, ahem, 1,034 copies of the S60 Cross Country over the last two years. But for now, there’s no plan for an actual return to Outback-like characteristics for the Legacy sedan that originally spawned Subaru’s most popular product.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Subaru Canada’s marketing campaign for the 2018 Legacy talks about and plays up the Legacy’s standard all-wheel drive. An attempt to portray the Legacy’s smaller-than-an-SUV cargo compartment as a step forward because of its cargo isolation likely draws just as much attention to its smaller shape, but given the tone of the ad, it’s pretty clear Subaru knows that already. The fine print is even an attempt at humor: “In all its majesty, the all-wheel drive Subaru Legacy sedan has been around since 1989.”

The ad goes further, showing the lowering process from an SUV to a Legacy, as if to shine a light on the car’s lack of true SUV characteristics.

There’s a strong sense of Silicon Valley sarcasm, as if Subaru is making fun of Subaru making fun of tech elites who think they’ve introduced the next big thing. Remember friends, a Pause Pod is just a tent. By talking up cargo isolation and trunkification, Subaru Canada seems to acknowledge that the 2018 Legacy is just a sedan, and is confident in such classification.

Granted, isn’t in the same facetious mood. “Introducing the Sport Utility Sedan,” the company’s homepage says in all seriousness. Only with a click-through do you witness the subtle nudge and wink: “An SUV like no other, because it’s a sedan – a Sport Utility Sedan,” Subaru Canada says. The company once again speaks of trunkification, all-wheel drive, and the fact that the Legacy is anything but high, “It’s lower,” Subaru says, “for precise handling and control.”

Any attention Subaru earns for the Legacy will be good attention. And the Legacy is in desperate need of positive attention. Fewer than 3 percent of the midsize cars sold in Canada so far this year have been Subarus. The Legacy’s volume is down 18 percent, year-over-year, in a category that isn’t shrinking quite that fast.

Back in the United States (where the Legacy is actually built), sales are down 19 percent in a midsize segment that’s down 17 percent through the first eight months of 2017. Subaru’s share of the segment is just 2.8 percent, and every competitor aside from the Mazda 6 produces more volume.

Subaru USA is not going to follow its northerly neighbo(u)r down the SUS route, however. “We promote Legacy’s versatility over regular sedans,” Subaru USA’s director of corporate communications, Michael McHale tells TTAC, “but not in this direction.”

[Image: Subaru Canada/YouTube]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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5 of 37 comments
  • Kyree Kyree on Oct 02, 2017

    I feel like my MKS could be an SUS. It's a very tall sedan with high ground clearance.

    • See 2 previous
    • Gtem Gtem on Oct 03, 2017

      @Kyree Oh he's been quite active as of late.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Oct 03, 2017

    Jeebus this species is stupid.

  • Jkross22 Aren't toy cars by definition those with 2 seats?
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