Subaru Legacy Review

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited Sedan Exterior

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Introduced two decades ago, the Subaru Legacy is the company's longest-running nameplate in the United States. Thanks to its all-wheel drive, the Legacy has often been selected by consumers as a winter-beating alternative in the midsize sedan or wagon segment. It's also been highly regarded by editors.

There have been five generations of the Subaru Legacy. For the current model, Subaru revamped the vehicle and its image by giving it entirely new styling, enlarging its dimensions considerably and discontinuing the wagon model altogether, leaving the Legacy-based Outback (reviewed separately) as Subaru's sole midsize wagon offering. The current Legacy isn't as sleek or sporty as its predecessor, but it's more practical for families. For used-car shoppers, past Legacy models are excellent all-season options.

Current Subaru Legacy
The Subaru Legacy is a midsize family sedan available in a wide range of trim levels -- 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5GT Limited, 3.6R, 3.6R Premium and 3.6R Limited -- distinguished by powertrain. The base engine is a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It comes matched with either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Also available are a 3.6-liter six-cylinder boxer engine good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft and a turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer-4 making 265 hp and 258 lb-ft; the former comes with a five-speed automatic, while the latter gets a six-speed manual.

Even the base model with the 170-hp engine comes well-equipped, including air-conditioning, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, an electronic parking brake and a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. Higher trims add niceties like powered and heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, Bluetooth and a Harman Kardon audio system.

Ordering a Legacy with the turbocharged engine brings performance tires, larger brakes and a hood scoop. Exclusive to the top-of-the-line Limited trims is an optional voice-activated navigation system that's bundled with an iPod/USB input, Bluetooth and streaming Bluetooth audio.

On the road, we've appreciated the Legacy's standard all-wheel-drive system, a Subaru calling card that persists even as the rest of the car has been reoriented toward mainstream sales success. While this Legacy isn't particularly sporty, it rides nicely, and its diverse array of engine options sets it apart from the crowd. The only notable downsides are controversial exterior styling, limited access to some popular features and subpar fuel economy for the more powerful engines.

Used Subaru Legacy Models
The current Subaru Legacy debuted for the 2010 model year. Compared to the car it replaced, this Legacy is meant to appeal more to family-sedan shoppers than previous models, and is consequently bigger both inside and out. No major changes have occurred since its debut.

The fourth-generation Legacy was produced from 2005-'09. It was available as both a sedan and a wagon until 2008, when the wagon was discontinued. Although the base car was a bit of a stripper, the other trims were well-equipped and made the Legacy as luxurious and comfortable as some midsize cars wearing luxury badges.

When this Legacy was introduced for '05, it was available as a sedan and wagon, and there were two basic trim levels: 2.5i and 2.5GT. The former had a 168-hp 2.5-liter boxer-4, while the 2.5GT received a 250-hp turbocharged version of the same engine. These models came with either a five-speed manual or an automatic transmission -- four speeds in the base 2.5i, five in the 2.5GT. As time went on, a few additional models joined the lineup, notably the sedan-only 2.5GT spec.B and 3.0 R. The former was a better-handling version of the 2.5GT, while the latter was a luxurious Legacy that came with a 245-hp 3.0-liter flat-6 and a five-speed automatic transmission. As with all Subaru vehicles, AWD was standard.

In road tests, our editors found the fourth-generation Subaru Legacy to be both sporty and comfortable -- a challenging combination for manufacturers to master. The base 2.5-liter engine provided adequate power, but the turbocharged GT model was the one to have for enthusiastic driving. However, the GT performed better with the manual transmission, as the five-speed automatic seemed ill-suited to the turbo motor's power delivery.

In terms of practicality, this Legacy was a bit tight in the backseat relative to its midsize rivals, but it compensated with comfortable front seats and a sleek BMW-like dashboard design. Additionally, the wagon model brilliantly combined impressive driving dynamics with all-star utility. We'd highly recommend looking at this Legacy vintage if you're looking for a used midsize sedan or wagon with all-season versatility and an extra dose of driving flair.

Notable changes to the fourth-generation Legacy began in 2006, when the sedan-only GT spec.B trim was added. For 2007, the GT spec.B received a six-speed manual in place of the original five-speed unit, and the 2.5-liter engine's horsepower rating was revised to 243 (from 250). For 2008 Subaru discontinued the wagon model, and the sedan-only 3.0 R model debuted, bringing six-cylinder power to the Legacy lineup. For 2009 stability control became standard and every Legacy except the base 2.5i received an upgraded nine-speaker audio system.

The previous, third-generation Subaru Legacy was more of a rugged all-weather performer than the current model. Sold from 2000-'04, it launched with three primary trim levels: base L, sporty GT and premium GT Limited. A Brighton value trim was also included in the 2000 lineup for the wagon, but was removed the following year.

Although it was a bit lacking in refinement, the previous Legacy was well stocked with standard features, including AWD. All trims came with a smooth and responsive 165-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission was standard and a four-speed automatic was optional. In 2003, Subaru moved the L trim upscale and added the L Special Edition trim, which was renamed the 35th Anniversary Edition a year later.

Value-minded buyers looking for an all-weather vehicle might take a look at the second-generation Subaru Legacy. Sold from 1995-'99, it was best known for spawning the Outback wagon, a rugged SUV alternative that came with standard AWD. The model's one weak link was its anemic 135-hp 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, which many people felt was a downgrade from the 160-hp turbocharged 2.2-liter four-cylinder that was available in the first generation's Sport Turbo trim (sold from 1991-'94).

Read the most recent 2015 Subaru Legacy review.

If you are looking for older years, visit our used Subaru Legacy page.


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