Subaru's Most Troubled Model Gets a Makeover, Bows Next Week

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
subarus most troubled model gets a makeover bows next week

Few automakers can boast of 85 consecutive months of yearly month-over-month growth, but that’s exactly what Subaru did as the calendar turned from 2018 to 2019. Still, despite the automaker’s impressive performance in the United States, not every model in Subaru’s lineup is a sales stud. There’s always a problem child or two.

As American buyers drain from the passenger car market, Subaru plans to make a pitch for the non-traditional traditional car, unveiling a next-generation 2020 Legacy at next week’s Chicago Auto Show. By the way, you should wish the Legacy a happy birthday today.

It was on February 1, 1989 that Subaru’s all-wheel drive midsize sedan first appeared in Japanese dealerships. Americans received their first Legacys for the 1990 model year, and the current, sixth-generation model bowed in 2014 for the 2015 model year.

Offering the company’s signature AWD system in a conservative midsize package (the badass-looking second-gen model deserves recognition), the Legacy provided weather-weary buyers with a more capable family vehicle. Those looking for more cargo space had — and have — the Legacy’s brash Outback sibling as an alternative. Thing is, everyone’s looking for more cargo capacity these days.

For 2020, the Legacy moves to the global platform shared by its smaller Impreza and Crosstrek stablemates and the larger Forester and Ascent. While Subaru hasn’t mentioned much about the seventh-gen Legacy, it did provide us with a couple of teasers, including that shot of a vertically aligned touchscreen seen above. Expect a big cabin makeover. Outside? Maybe not so much.

As the below photo shows, the Legacy adopts the brand’s signature C-shaped headlamps and a new skin, though the word “radical” does not apply to this vehicle. Subaru’s sticking to familiar and somewhat staid design.

Legacy sales climbed rapidly in the U.S. during the model’s early years, but faded around the turn of the century as new, unibody AWD crossovers began showing up in greater numbers. The trend continued up to the recession, but sales picked up in its wake. The release of the sixth-gen model saw Legacy sales rise to their highest point since the nameplate’s earliest years, but the collapse of the passenger car market didn’t leave the Legacy unscathed.

From a post-recession high of 65,306 vehicles sold in 2016, Legacy sales sank to 40,109 units in the U.S. last year. That tally represents a 19.5 percent decrease from 2017, and makes the Legacy the fastest declining model in the brand’s lineup. Sure, the BRZ is in trouble, but its volume is too low to make much of a dent in Subaru’s overall health. The Impreza and WRX are also on a downhill slide, though not as steep as the Legacy’s.

Can a new platform and styling revamp arrest, or at least slow, the Legacy’s descent? Time will tell, but I’d wager a guess that the word you’re all whispering right now is “no.”

[Images: Subaru]

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  • Ryan Ryan on Feb 02, 2019

    Subaru, if you want to the Legacy to improve sales do these two things. First, only offer one power plant -the 2.4 Turbo from the Ascent. Second, offer a manual transmission in each trim level. This sedan has to be different and not just "well its soon to be the only non luxury AWD sedan".

  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Feb 03, 2019

    I'm waiting for the AWD Corolla

  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
  • Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
  • Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.
  • Lou_BC How to Fix Auto Media? Stop fixating on soft touch plastics and infotainment systems. I did quite a bit of research on my ZR2. There was no mention of the complexity of putting the transfer case into neutral. (9 step process). They didn't talk about how the exhaust brake works with tow/haul mode. No mention that the exhaust brake does not work with off-road mode. Nannies only stay turned off with the lockers engaged. Only one review mentioned the tail pipe as a vulnerability.