Full 2011 Subaru Legacy Review
What's New for 2011
After last year's full redesign, the 2011 Subaru Legacy sees only minor changes. The 2.5GT is now only available in Limited trim, which gains a standard sunroof, satellite radio and some upgraded trim. The Harman Kardon upgraded sound system now includes satellite radio.
It's easy to be a copycat. You don't have to think as much and there's less risk of failure. Remaking a known commodity like the "A-Team," for instance, has a better shot of bringing in $500 million than an indie film. The same goes for the midsize family sedan segment, which consists of seemingly countless vehicles that play it safe by riffing on the same formula. One notable exception, however, is the 2011 Subaru Legacy.
For years now, the Legacy has resolutely kept beat with its own drummer, and the current car is little different. While nearly everything else goes with the surefire formula of front-wheel drive and a choice of either inline-4 or V6 power plants, the Legacy keeps on rocking its standard all-wheel-drive and horizontally opposed four- and six-cylinder engines, including one that's turbocharged. Then there's the styling, which has always stood out from the crowd -- for better or worse. Despite setting itself apart in such key areas, however, the Subaru Legacy is still a viable family sedan, with top crash test scores, decent four-cylinder fuel economy and comfortable driving dynamics.
However, some of the Legacy's quirks do have downsides. Standard all-wheel drive has obvious traction benefits in poor weather, but the associated mechanical inefficiencies keep the Legacy from being as competitive in fuel economy and acceleration as it could. The turbocharged 2.5GT isn't available with an automatic transmission, which limits its widespread appeal. Also, increasingly common electronic features like Bluetooth, iPod control and navigation are either haphazardly designed or only available in the top-of-the line Limited model with navigation.
Certainly, being a bit different means the Legacy is unlikely to ever match the mighty Accord and Camry for sales supremacy, but it does mean that it has burrowed out a little niche for itself. Still, there are others to consider. The Ford Fusion and Suzuki Kizashi also offer all-wheel-drive, while the Mazda 6 is a good choice for driving enthusiasts. The new Hyundai Sonata is also a class-leading, well-rounded family sedan. Yet, if you're the sort of person who doesn't automatically follow the crowd, the 2011 Subaru Legacy is a solid, non-conformist choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Subaru Legacy is a five-passenger sedan available in seven trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R, 3.6R Premium, 3.6R Limited and 2.5GT Limited.
The 2.5i comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker stereo with CD player, auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel controls. The 2.5i Premium trims adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat and an auto up/down driver window. The 2.5i Limited adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), an All Weather package (optional on 2.5i Premium and includes a windshield wiper de-icer, heated side mirrors and heated front seats), four-way power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer and subwoofer. This stereo is optional on the Premium trims.
The 3.6R models are essentially the same as the 2.5i models, but gain a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine, bigger brakes and 17-inch alloys for all models. The Premium also gets the All Weather package. The 2.5GT Limited adds to the 3.6R Limited a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, a hood scoop, a sunroof (optional on all other trims but 2.5i), foglights, unique interior trim and satellite radio.
Optional on the Limited trims is a navigation system package, which includes a touchscreen interface, voice controls, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a different Harman Kardon sound system with a single-CD player, USB audio jack and iPod control. Bluetooth is optional on the other trims, but is a port-installed system that plugs into the open dash slot beneath the stereo and relies upon its own small speakers rather than the stereo system.
Powertrains and Performance
The all-wheel-drive 2011 Subaru Legacy offers a variety of engines and transmissions. The base 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (a.k.a. "boxer") four-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission (which includes a hill-holder feature) is standard on the base 2.5i and 2.5i Premium, while a CVT is optional on those models and standard on the 2.5i Limited. With the CVT, a 2.5i we tested went from zero to 60 mph in a mediocre 9.4 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined with the CVT. The manual is notably worse at 19/27/22.
The 3.6R features a 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed traditional automatic transmission is standard. It takes 7.1 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph, which is slightly below average for the class. Fuel economy is an estimated 18/25/20.
The 2.5GT gets a turbocharged version of the base model's boxer-4 and produces 265 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the only transmission choice. It goes from zero to 60 mph in a rapid 5.7 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 18/25/21.
Every 2011 Legacy comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the 2.5i came to a stop from 60 mph in a good distance of 121 feet and the 3.6R was in the same ballpark. The 2.5GT stopped in an excellent 111 feet.
In the government's new, more strenuous crash testing for 2011, the Legacy earned an overall rating of four stars out of a possible five, with four stars for overall frontal crash protection and four stars for overall side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Legacy its perfect score of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Legacy's interior design is sleek and sophisticated, but you better like silver paint, because the center stack is covered with it. Though the interior plastics look upscale, most of them are hard to the touch and lack the more premium feel found in models such as the Ford Fusion.
The seats are comfortable and the Legacy's provide plenty of headroom and rear seat legroom. In terms of technology, iPod control and streaming Bluetooth audio are available, but you have to ante up for the top-of-the-line Limited trim in order to get it. We've also noticed the nav system's functionality is hampered by fussy controls and small touchscreen icons. You should also note that sound quality from the base sound system is poor and we highly recommend the available Harman Kardon upgrade system. Trunk space is an average 14.7 cubic feet.
The 2011 Subaru Legacy provides a smooth ride and respectable handling. Drivers expecting the 2.5GT model to be a sleeper sport sedan will be disappointed, though, as its suspension tuning is the same as all other Legacys. The base 2.5-liter engine is adequate, but outright acceleration trails some of the speedier family sedans. The 2.5GT's turbocharged engine is much more of a thrill, though the mandatory manual transmission will limit its appeal. That leaves the new 3.6-liter flat-6 as the main draw for those wanting some punch.