2017 Subaru Legacy

2017 Subaru Legacy Sedan Review

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by Edmunds
Edmunds Editor

The 2017 Subaru Legacy deserves more attention that it typically gets from most car shoppers. It's overshadowed in the midsize sedan segment by ultra-popular and hard-to-argue-with rivals like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion. The Legacy sedan also faces competition inside Subaru's dealerships by the company's selection of crossovers that include the mechanically related Outback. Nevertheless, the Legacy deserves a look -- especially for those living where weather is a factor.

The Legacy owes its excellent all-weather capability to its standard all-wheel-drive system, a trait that differentiates it clearly from its competitors. The Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200 both offer all-wheel drive as well, but it's optional and then only with the pricier, more powerful and less efficient engines. With the Legacy, it's included with both available engines and on every trim, plus its fuel economy compares favorably to the segment best (acceleration is quite a different matter, however).

Beyond its all-weather distinction, the Legacy stands out with its package of EyeSight accident avoidance tech available on all but the base trim. Although not as sophisticated as those found in many luxury cars, Subaru's systems will help save your bacon (and insurance rates) and we recommend checking that option box.

Otherwise, the Legacy is a rather average, run-of-the-mill family sedan -- and we mean that in the best way possible. Though not sensational in any particular way, it has few shortcomings. It's not as pleasing to drive or look at as a Chevy Malibu or Mazda 6, nor does it offer the perceived quality and refinement of the Honda Accord or Ford Fusion. You may also have to explain to your Camry-driving friends why you went with the Subaru. Well, if you live where the sun rarely shines in the winter, you should at least have one easy answer.

The 2017 Subaru Legacy comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, a rearview camera, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and seat cushion airbags that deploy from the seat bottom to help keep occupants in place in a frontal collision.

On the Premium and Limited trim levels, the Legacy comes with Starlink Connected Services, which includes emergency assistance and automatic collision notification. This can be enhanced with the optional Safety Plus and Security Plus upgrade, which adds remote vehicle access, remote vehicle locating and stolen vehicle recovery.

The EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package, optional on all but the base 2.5i, includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, reverse automatic braking, and lane departure warning with automatic intervention.

In government crash testing, the Legacy earned a top five-star rating for overall safety performance, with five stars in the frontal- and side-impact categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Legacy received a top score of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, small-overlap frontal offset, side-impact and roof-strength testing. The Legacy's seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Legacy 2.5i Premium stopped from 60 mph in a short 114 feet, a better-than-average performance for this segment.



what's new

For 2017, the Subaru Legacy receives reverse automatic braking as part of its optional EyeSight safety package. All Legacys now have automatic headlights and auto-up window switches for the front windows.

trim levels & features

The 2017 Subaru Legacy is only available as a sedan. There are a total of five trim levels when you split up the standard Legacy and the more powerful Legacy STI. The standard Legacy can be had in base, Premium and Limited trims; the Legacy STI comes only in base and Limited trim levels.

The base Legacy comes with 17-inch wheels wrapped in summer performance tires, a trunk-lid spoiler, cruise control, sport front seats with cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, a 6.2-inch vehicle information display, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rearview camera, 60/40-split folding rear seats, Bluetooth connectivity and Subaru's Starlink six-speaker infotainment system with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, CD player, USB and auxiliary inputs and smartphone app integration.

Next up the trim ladder is the Legacy Premium, which adds 18-inch wheels (also with summer tires), foglights, a sunroof, heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icers and heated mirrors.

The Legacy Limited model adds to that with an eight-way power driver seat, leather-trimmed upholstery, LED low-beam headlights, keyless ignition and entry and a 7-inch Starlink touchscreen.

Legacy Premium buyers who stick with the manual transmission can also get the optional 7-inch screen, plus a premium nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

The Legacy Limited with a manual transmission can be ordered with navigation and the premium nine-speaker media system, plus optional blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert systems. Limited buyers who select the continuously variable transmission (CVT) can also get those features, plus Subaru's optional EyeSight front collision mitigation system. It includes adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking and lane departure warning/intervention systems, plus an electronic parking brake and steering-responsive foglights that help illuminate corners and curves. The EyeSight system is not available with the stick shift, though.

Legacy STI base models come with all the Legacy Premium items except the sunroof. The base STI also adds a more powerful engine, Brembo brakes, front and rear limited-slip differentials, driver-selectable modes for the center differential, a more aggressively tuned suspension and dual-zone automatic climate control. Step up to the STI Limited and you'll get back the sunroof and add unique 18-inch BBS wheels, keyless ignition and entry, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and the premium audio system with navigation.

Optional for the STI Limited is the no-cost choice between the iconic rally-style tall wing spoiler and a low-profile trunk lip spoiler. Note that EyeSight is not offered for the Legacy STI.

There are also several dealer-installed options available for both the Legacy and STI, including a performance exhaust (for the base Legacy), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, short-throw shifter, various carbon-fiber trim, unique shift knobs and interior lighting accents.

For the standard Legacy, power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder "boxer" engine that puts out 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive and a manual transmission are standard.

A CVT with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters is optional for Legacy Premium and Limited trim levels. Those paddles let the transmission impersonate either a six- or eight-speed automatic, depending on driving mode.

When we tested the standard Legacy with the manual transmission, it went from zero to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. Subaru says the Legacy with a CVT takes 5.9 seconds to cover the same distance. For some perspective, a VW GTI we tested (with the DSG automated transmission) took 6.1 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph. A Ford Focus ST takes 6.4 seconds to get to 60 mph.

EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Legacy with a manual transmission is 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway), while CVT-equipped models are rated at 21 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway).

Power for the STI comes from a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine rated at 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. A beefed-up six-speed manual is the only transmission you can get with the STI. In our testing, the STI accelerated to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds. That's quicker than a Golf R with the manual (5.3 seconds), but a Golf R with the DSG automatic rocketed to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds in our testing.

EPA fuel economy for the STI is 19 mpg combined (17 city/23 highway) for the STI.

driving

Regardless of engine/transmission choice, the Legacy is a blast to drive. It steers nimbly and sharply, and you can utilize the all-wheel-drive system to put the power down a lot more quickly coming out of a turn than you can in a front-drive rival like the Focus ST. The Legacy does exactly what Subaru meant it to be: it's a thrill machine that grips and rips with enthusiasm.

The standard Legacy's turbocharged 2.0-liter engine bogs down a bit if you try to pull away quickly at low rpm, but it's strong throughout the rest of its operating range. There's a big surge of turbocharged power in the midrange that becomes quite addicting. The manual transmission's clutch is tricky to modulate smoothly, but given the overall enjoyment to be had from shifting your own gears, it's a small price to pay, in our opinion. If you don't want to row your own, the CVT is a good consolation prize, with steering-wheel-mounted shifter paddles and driver-selectable operating modes to present plenty of opportunity to make the most of the engine's output.

The more powerful, larger engine in the Legacy STI raises the bar a few more pegs. Combine it with limited-slip differentials, hefty Brembo brakes and a beefed-up six-speed manual and you've got a truly serious performance sedan. It's a blast to drive and makes the most of its all-wheel-drive traction. The STI has a very stiff ride quality, however, which is jarring even for this class of car.

interior

With the Legacy, the emphasis is clearly on the performance, not the interior. As a driver's car, the driving position is spot on, as are the firm, nicely bolstered sport seats. Thin roof pillars provide for excellent outward visibility, and large side mirrors make it easy to monitor conditions to the sides and rear.

Interior design and layout are basic, with simple and easy-to-use controls, but not much in the way of frills. Audio quality and infotainment usability were previously sore spots for Subaru, but with this generation of Legacy, things have improved quite a bit. Especially improved are the base audio system and the standard 6.2-inch screen.

The Legacy has 12 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. This is below average for a small sedan. Also, most of the Legacy's rivals are offered as more versatile hatchbacks (the GTI can hold up to 22.8 cubic feet of cargo behind its rear seats, for instance).

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.