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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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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

  • Lou_BC While we discuss Chinese cars, Chinese politics, and Chinese global desires, I'm looking at TTAC and Google display advertising for Chinese tires. They have nukes aimed at us but their money and products are acceptable to consumers and business?
  • TheTireWhisperer And a thankful Memorial day to all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Take some time today to realize that virtually zero soldiers had died defending your border.
  • Tassos As somebody who is NOT a stupid fanatic about EVs one way or the other:No manufacturer has built a "Better Tesla" EV yet. Most have tried, we wait for TOyota only (last hope for the Tesla haters)UNLESS a DIRT CHEAP Model 2 comes along (will never happen in the next 2 or 3 years), Do NOT expect that 7% to go to even 10%, let alone the ... 30% clueless Idiot Joe Biden voters expect. If anything, PLUG INS and HYBRIDS may, in the SHORT term, bring the 7% down.
  • Pig_Iron 💝