An unseasonably cool summer with a lot of dismal rain seems like the perfect time to meet the new-for-2015 Subaru Legacy. For starters, the standard all-wheel drive would laugh at anything that Michigan’s summer sky could throw at it. I figured that with luck, the Legacy’s sunny disposition (and heated seats) would dispel some of the chill as well.
I wasn’t wrong. As Subaru has progressed from its origins as a manufacturer of quirky and often downright weird fringe vehicles to a more mainstream nameplate, it’s inevitably come into competition with class leaders like Honda and Toyota. The latest Legacy is proof that Subaru learned from them, as well. The new Legacy is pretty much the equal of the Accord, and matches the class leaders point for point.
Which is not to call the Legacy a copycat, by any stretch. Subaru still does things just a bit differently. Not enough to make things weird, though. The Legacy’s quirks have been carefully distilled down to a unique feel and sound that doesn’t get in the way of day-to-day operation. The engine is a 2.5 L DOHC boxer 4-cylinder producing 175 hp. A 3.6 L 6-cylinder is also available, but the Legacy actually doesn’t need it. It’s just a 4-cylinder, but the horizontally-opposed layout provides strong torque delivery and good acceleration.
Fuel economy is a surprise—in past years the Legacy has been disappointing on this front, but the new car returns up to 36 mpg on the freeway thanks to reduced friction in the transmission. Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT is still a bit slow to react in most situations, but it provides a smooth ride thanks to the available torque.
All-wheel drive is standard (this is a Subaru after all) and Active Torque Vectoring is a part of the stability control system. By braking the inside front wheel, it helps to keep the Legacy neutrally balanced during cornering. Larger brakes are installed on the base Legacy for 2015: they were previously optional on the 6-cylinder model.
The suspension is surprisingly sophisticated, with MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone rear. It’s agile and responsive, in a generally unobtrusive way. Subaru lost a bit of its quirkiness over the years, taking a cue from mainstreamers like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Legacy is politely sporty, but not enough so to turn off the average driver. It’s entertaining enough for a daily driver, and certainly not bland. Electronic power steering is standard equipment, serving as another efficiency-improver.
The mechanical bits are good, but there’s also the parts you have to touch and look at. The Legacy’s styling consists of familiar elements, but they’re not pulled from its competition. Subaru’s family grille resembles that of a Ford truck, while the C-shaped headlight accents are reminiscent of Volvo. The rear greenhouse has hints of BMW, and the pedestal mirrors are Lexus-ish. All of these elements come together in a sedan that doesn’t look quite like anything at first glance.
The Legacy is just interesting enough to escape the “generic” label, but not by much. The conservative style is actually a bit of a stretch for Subaru, whose penchant for, ahem, weird styling is well known. The Legacy is the very definition of a “handsome” car.
The cabin’s most striking feature is the center console, with its glass touchscreen panel that carries infotainment information and the navigation system, if so equipped. The Legacy’s equipped for voice control of the navigation system and climate control. The not-quite-generic look consists of nice-feeling materials and very good ergonomics arranged into a comfortable and pleasant but not very memorable pattern. On the instrument panel, twin gauges flank a driver information screen.
It is spacious inside, front and rear, and it’s much quieter thanks to an acoustic windshield and additional sound deadening added to the floor panels. Three-mode heated seats and dual-zone climate control keep the environment comfortable inside. A 576-watt, 12-speaker harman/kardon sound system is available, and it uses a high-efficiency amplifier that requires less power and produces less heat than standard systems.
Subaru’s EyeSight deserves a mention as well. This active driver aid uses a pair of cameras installed above the rearview mirror to monitor the car’s path, and informs the adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision auto-brake systems. Because it’s using visible light instead of radar, it can even detect traffic lights. EyeSight is also used to inform the adaptive cruise control. Blind spot monitoring and a rear collision alert are also available, handled by a rear-mounted radar. The backup camera is standard.
The Legacy’s pretty much the equal of the Accord at this point. It feels more substantial, but the fit and finish and drive are the same. All-wheel drive is Subaru’s trump card. It’s priced reasonably, too, with a MSRP starting at $21,745. I drove a Legacy 2.5i Premium with EyeSight and the rear collision alert, and the sticker price was an extremely reasonable $25,984.