Road Test Review – 2016 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

2016 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited Review

By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman


In the late 60’s Subaru came to the United States.  Like other Japanese brands at the time, Subaru’s were small, oddly styled, and considered quirky, compared to US autos.  In the early 1970’s Subaru chose to set themselves apart by introducing all-wheel-drive.  And while they didn’t invent AWD, but at that time, if a customer wanted a vehicle with all-wheel-drive, they were pretty much limited to Jeep products, or truck models.   By offering all-wheel-drive and introducing economical, small displacement boxer-style engines, Subaru cars appealed to an audience interested in frugality, with the flexibility of taking their cars off pavement, or for safer driving in snow. They quickly gained a reputation for quality, and even had an advertising slogan, “Cheap to Keep”, which reminded their customers that their cars would last and not require expensive maintenance.  Eventually, their All-wheel-drive vehicles became so popular, that virtually all Subaru came with that drivetrain as standard equipment.  The same is true today.  Subaru knows all-wheel-drive, and their systems are famous for being bullet proof.

Subaru is still a small manufacturer in the global market, but they enjoy a fiercely loyal, dedicated core of buyers, who are not so much interested in flashy styling or frills, but in premium engineering, practicality, safety, and value.  And their audience has steadily increased because folks who are more adventurous, and lead more active lifestyles have gravitated to the brand.  The old joke is goes like this . . . “How do you spot a Subaru going down the road?”   You simply look for the kayak or bike rack on the roof.

And while you may think that Subaru’s Forrester, Outback, and Crosstrek SUV models are the ones attracting those adventure folks, remember that those people also own second and third cars, and they want the same attributes in the family sedans they buy. The Legacy is Subaru’s top of the line mid-size family sedan, and we had a chance to spend a week with one, and came away very impressed.

Just because the Legacy doesn’t strive for ground breaking styling doesn’t mean it’s ugly. It has nice proportions, with sculpted fenders and hood, and it shows a rakish sleek profile. The six-sided chrome front grill with the Subaru badge in the center, boasts active grill shutters that automatically open and close to increase aerodynamics on the road and improve gas mileage.  That’s the kind of forward thinking engineering that Subaru buyers appreciate.

The Legacy cabin is also conservative looking, but it is well laid out and looks refined.  It has nicer and better quality materials, with soft stuff on the door armrests and sills, and the console is also easy on the elbows.  Our test car being the Limited model level gets woodgrain and brushed metallic trim on the dash, and doors.   And that dash is nicely laid out with two large round gauges with an info screen between them for the driver.  The Center stack is dominated by the 7” Nav touch screen (as part of an option package) and surrounded by a black plastic panel with touch-pad controls to bring up the various options controlled by the screen.  It’s all very easy to see and use.  The same goes for the HVAC controls with their round knobs for dual zone temperature and mode selector.

A nice large storage cubby, with closable door, has the connectivity ports and can hold more than one cell phone or other devices.  The soft perforated leather heated seats are very comfortable for long trips, and rear passengers also get the bun warmers.

Speaking of rear passengers, there is plenty of room for legs and shoulders, and the Legacy seats 4 people comfortably.  Like all middle seats, Legacy’s is OK in a pinch, but only kids will be comfortable for more than an hour or so.

The trunk capacity is 15 cu. ft. which expands when the rear seatbacks fold down.  The trunk has a low lift-over height and has a nice 3-compartment under-floor storage bin, and beneath that is the compact spare tire. Nice feature.

The cabin is very quiet on the road, and you don’t get much wind noise at speed.  The ride quality is very comfortable as it is on most mid-size family sedans.  The Legacy also maintains its composure, even on potholed and rough Chicago streets and roads, perhaps due to refined Stablex suspension dampers, first fitted to last year’s model, and improved for 2016. New this year is Subaru’s Starlink Safety and Security suites with services that include emergency roadside assistance, remote lock and unlock, and vehicle location. Also the headlights come on automatically when the wipers are used.

Also retuned for this year is the electric power-assist steering which gives a more natural and linear feel.  The legacy’s cornering capabilities are surprisingly good, with little body roll in turns, and the car feels well planted and predictable.  It isn’t meant to be a canyon carver, but the all-wheel drive system and a stiff, well sorted chassis and suspension platform provide the driver with the confidence to play with it on challenging roads.  It’s a stable and well balanced vehicle.

Our test car was fitted the optional 3.6 liter, 6-cylinder engine generating 256 horsepower and 247 lbs.-ft.  of torque.  It feels strong and responsive and there always seems to be more than adequate punch when you want it.  The standard 2.5 liter 4-cylinder only makes175 hp and 174 lbs. ft. of torque, which is great for gas mileage, but not so much for drivability.  The 6-cylindr gets 20 City and 29 Highway mileage, which is right up there in with the competition.

Either engine gets mated to a Constant Variable Transmission (CVT), and it is a smooth unit.  Nudging the gear shift lever over to the left, allows the driver to change 6 gear ratios with the paddle shifters, and that works quite well.  The up and down shifts are quick, and makes the car more entertaining when you’re feeling frisky behind the wheel.  The brakes won’t let you down either, as they’re strong with good feel and feedback.

The base 2.5i Legacy starts at $21,745. Move up to the 2.5i Premium and you’ll get a nicer interior with dual-zone climate, Bluetooth and 7” touch screen, a 10-way power driver’s seat, and an all-weather package. Bump up top the 2.5i Limited and you’ll get 18” wheels, leather seats, heated rear seats, and a Harmon Kardon sound system.  Then you jump up to our 3.6R Limited, which adds the 6 cylinder engine, high intensity headlights, and stainless steel exhaust tips, for $29,945. This car added Option Package 23 which buys the Moonroof, Auto-dimming rear view mirror with compass and Homelink.  In addition you get the Navigation system with larger screen, Voice activation features (which worked well for the audio, phone, and HVAC controls) and Keyless access and push button start.

But the most important and features of the package is the Eyesight Driver Assist System, that buys you Pre-Collision braking, Steering Responsive fog lights that turn with the vehicle, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, and Pre-collision throttle Management System.  The latter are outstanding safety features that every driver will want to have, and the $3,090 price for all of those features is a bargain.

The bottom line with freight came to $33,830.   That is a very good deal for a car of this size and quality, with the content it has.  There is so much competition in this segment from almost every auto manufacturer that sells cars in this country. But you owe it to yourself to look at this Subaru before you walk into a Ford, Chevy, Nissan, or Honda dealer.  You will be surprised how well this Subaru Legacy will stack up against all the others in the segment.



Road Test Review – 2016 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman









About The Author

Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman has been a motor journalist for over 30 years, reviewing automobile, as well as motorcycle ride reviews and accessory reviews. His car articles have appeared in Robb Report Magazine,, and other media. His work has also appeared in Road Bike Magazine, Motorcycle Tour and Cruiser,, and others. As motorcycle columnist for The Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, the paper became the only major circulation newspaper in the country to have a separate weekly section devoted to motorcycles. Later he wrote a weekly column for Cyclefocus Magazine.