We’ve always liked Subaru. They’re the perfect example of a company zigging while others zagged. Steadfast in their belief in all-wheel-drive (except for the BR-Z sports car), Subies gained a foothold in areas with lots of snow or slop and became beloved for their mountain-goat-like abilities. The brand has been smart, spreading the gospel of AWD, the horizontally-opposed “Boxer” engine, and has created a name with true identity; green, caring, safe. Subaru isn’t just for the snow-belt anymore.
They use the word Love a lot in their ads. All good.
Of course, the other brands aren’t just going to sit and let Subaru gobble into their market share, so while the Legacy sedan used to have a lock on the all-wheel-drive sweepstakes, we’re now seeing AWD available on the big name players like the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima.
So, the question is, does the all-new Legacy still have enough to stand apart, or are the other automakers ready to steal their thunder?
Subaru Legacy Exterior – A Little Leaner, A Little Meaner
At first glance, you might not notice a big change in the design, which is okay. Subaru isn’t the brand that usually tries to wow you with flashy style – they like to put the money in the engineering. Still the ’20 Legacy is handsome, with Subaru designers using a “Bold in Movement” concept.
The design looks a bit more muscular, with a thicker profile, wider fenders, and raised trunk surface. Subaru says the frameless hexagonal grille and lower grille evoke the image of an aircraft – we’ll just say it look modern, clean and aggressive.
Being a Sport trim, our Legacy adds a little visual badness with a front grille with high-gloss black bar, high gloss black mirrors, dark metallic 18-inch alloy wheels, crisp rear spoiler and Sport badge on the trunk lid. We loved the choice of Crystal White Pearl for our tester – it really helps show the contrasting black trim pieces. Nice and tasteful.
Subaru Legacy Interior – Posher, more Premium
Like the Outback we recently tested, the new Legacy reflects a significant step upscale. Most notable is the huge 11.6-inch center display that reminds us of the very nice Volvo unit, which is a good thing. The tablet-style display is the most advanced info-tainment screen ever in a Subaru, with cool features like being able to split the screen – like navigation and audio – and thank heavens, is flanked by knobs for both volume and scrolling, etc.
An interesting note, when we used our WAZE app, it gets confined to the upper half of the display, but if you use the optional Subaru Navi, it takes up the whole screen, and is much easier to read. On the bright side, our tester featured standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity so you can have up to eight devices connected at once. Impressive.
Ahead of the driver are crisp and clear analog tach and speedo, with a convenient LCD driver display.
Also worth noting is the quality of materials which is very nice, soft to the touch, and assembled with care. Our Sport tester is the middle of the lineup – no leather seats here, but very comfortable and stylish cloth, some nice contrasting red stitching on the leather steering wheel, door trim, shift lever and seats, plus some cool fiber-like trim on the door panels and door trim that add up to a sporty but tasteful interior.
While you don’t get all the luxury treatments of the expensive trims, all models enjoy increases in front shoulder room, front and rear hip room, and rear legroom. It’s quite spacious, and there’s a large pass-through that takes good advantage of the split-folding rear seats, and large trunk.
Subaru Legacy Performance – Sporty Sport?
If you’re expecting hard-edged performance that will challenge WRX drivers, you might be disappointed. The Legacy Sport takes more of a cue from models like the Subaru Forester Sport and Honda HRV Sport. Think sport motif, if you will. Which is not to say the Legacy is no fun. It just shines more with quiet competence than accelerated adrenaline.
Under the hood is the familiar Subie 2.5-liter Boxer engine, with 182 hp and 176 lb.-ft of torque. A large-ish 4-cylinder, it gives nice smooth power at the bottom end, making for a nice pull away from stops. If you want more, the Sport features an SI-Drive switch that lets you dial up I (for intelligent) and S# (sport sharp) that perks things up. And if you can restrain yourself mid-30 mpg’s on the highway seems doable.
Unfortunately, the CVT transmission doesn’t seem up for games. You can work it hard and try to get it to play, but it seems much happier delivering smooth, quiet progress, and doing its best to serve up thrifty fuel economy. If you want real muscle, you’ll have to opt for the higher (read that as $$) trim levels, with the available 260 hp turbo motor.
All is not lost, however, as the chassis is notably improved and more fun to drive than the previous model. It starts with a new chassis that is much more rigid, while lightweight suspension components enhance ride quality. We were impressed the way our Legacy rode, it feels the way Audi’s used to, with long travel, a soft ride quality that would let you glide over almost anything, but still felt tight and responsive enough to be very enjoyable.
That soft suspension allows for a little lean in the corners, but the torque vectoring all-wheel drive gives loads of grip and turns in eagerly. This is not a car that begs you to drive fast but is supremely enjoyable to drive quickly – if you get the difference. And if you’re not an enthusiast, you’ll just enjoy a friendly, comfortable drive, with the confidence that whatever the weather throws at you, you’ll be in good shape. An added bonus – it’s noticeably quieter this year as well.
And since Subaru is a safety leader, you’ll feel well protected, too. Standard on Legacy trims is EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which optimize cruise control, features Automatic Pre-collision Braking, and is now equipped with a Lane Centering Function, which provides steering assist when you start drifting out of your lane. Upper trim models add DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation, which uses a dedicated camera and facial recognition software to see if you’re not paying attention and give you a heads up. Pretty cool!
Does it cost an Arm and a Legacy?
Another thing we love about Subaru is that you don’t have to buy the most expensive trims to live the good life. If you want a big, comfortable sedan, with excellent safety equipment and all-wheel drive, the base Legacy at $22,745 strikes us a real bargain. Opt for the Premium at $24,995 and you’ll get the larger info-tainment display, dual-zone a/c, wi-fi capability, 17-inch alloy wheels and more.
Our Sport tester has the added style elements and the SI drive system, and started at $26,945. We had the Optional Package that includes Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Power moonroof, Reverse Automatic Braking, and Navigation, for a very reasonable $2,245. All totaled, we came in at $30,090. Competitors would include the Camry SE AWD at $32,390, and Nissan Altima SR AWD came in at $29,025.
So, we’ll say the Legacy is competitively priced, but the Subaru brand has that special something that might be difficult For Toyota, Nissan, heck- anybody to pull the loyalists out of their Subies.
We love the all-new ’20 Legacy – a bit more stylish and sophisticated, a bit more fun to drive – but at its heart, loaded with the same unique vibe that makes a Subaru a Subaru.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.