Subaru is a company with an incredible rallying pedigree – it doesn’t really do ‘soft’. So when the company tuned its latest iteration of the Legacy towards American tastes (think large dimensions and a more relaxed demeanour) there were many detractors. But by changing tack, it seems that Subaru has created a car with growing appeal.
So start by getting rid of any preconceived ideas of the Legacy being a sporty machine. Design-wise, it is your almost generic, run-of-the-mill, four door saloon. But in this context, the Legacy is a very good car, and in many respects, tries to remain true to Subaru. From the front the Legacy is very Subaru, and has an almost shark-like appearance. Viewed from the side, two things really stick out: the side skirts and those stylish 18-inch wheels. The rear-end, however, is pretty plain, but well-rounded or, rather, well-squared.
The interior is where the Legacy starts to really come into its own. The amount of space is just immense! The interior is genuinely a nice place to be. My only complaint is the cheap-feeling bits of hard plastic hiding in and around the cabin, such as on the doors around the electric window controls. The ‘brushed metal’ plastic used in the centre console is also a little so-so. All the controls fall to hand relatively easily, except for the electric handbrake which is hidden near to your right knee… and positioned right next to the traction control button!
All the instrumentation is clearly marked and where you’d expect it to be. I do love how the needles on the instrument cluster run back and forth when you first start the car, but I guess it’s becoming a little cliché as more and more manufactures start doing it.
The seats on this car are probably one of the greatest highlights. They are incredibly comfortable, yet supportive at the same time. The driver’s seat is electronically operated with 10-way adjustability and lumbar support. There is ample legroom for all five passengers, and all are treated to brilliant levels of comfort.
Sadly though, the rear seats cannot be folded flat – except for the ski-chute, but that brings us to the next point in question, the boot space. There is loads of that too – 384 dm³ to be exact. The carpets in the boot can easily be moved to gain access to the full size spare wheel under the floor.
Very little noise filters into the cabin under normal driving conditions, only the engine can really be heard once in the revs start to build up. As for wind and tyre noise, they are both well-suppressed.
On the features front, the Legacy is pretty well equipped. Features of note include a front-loading 6 CD shuttle, dual-zone climate control with vents for rear passengers, and electric windows all round. Having said that, one thing that I was surprised not to find were rain-sensing windscreen wipers and automatic headlamps – features that are becoming standard-fitments on more and more new vehicles.
The powerplant in this specific model is a 2,5 litre, four-cylinder boxer engine. It produces 123 kW and 229 N.m of torque. This particular engine is refined and smooth, but you do get the impression that it is hindered by both the weight of the vehicle and the CVT transmission. By all accounts the transmission has been calibrated towards offering better fuel consumption and cruising characteristics, and therefore doesn’t react crisply to sharp throttle inputs. At cruising speeds the gearbox is just fine, and if you use the paddles behind the steering wheel is very quick to respond to inputs when gearing either up or down. Left to its own devices the box occasionally hunts around for the correct ratio, and on one occasion while cruising down a decline, geared down for no particular reason.
In a CAR road test for the November 2009 issue, this model completed the 0–100 km/h sprint in 10,68 seconds on the way to a top speed of 210 km/h. The CAR fuel index figure for this model stands at 11,5 litres/100 km and CO2 emissions are 214 g/km.
The Legacy’s ride is very refined both at low and high speeds and only major road imperfections can be seriously felt. The only downside to the Legacy’s softly-sprung set-up is a fair amount of body-roll when tackling twisty sections of road, but it’s a sensation that you quickly adjust to.
Initially I found that the steering a little heavy when manoeuvring around tight corners at low speeds, but once you get going, it starts to feel very meaty and solid. Feedback from the steering is also relatively good, and doesn’t leave you wondering where the front wheels are.
Now for the handling and this is where the Subaru does shine a bit. It has Subaru’s renowned symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Couple this with the nice meaty steering and you have a vehicle that inspires huge confidence. Go down a nice bit of twisty road a little faster than you normally would and I promise the Subaru will put a smile on your face. In addition, the Legacy’s brakes are strong without being grabby.
The Legacy is a very good vehicle, and even though I wasn’t blown away by it at first, the more and more I think about it; the more it grows on me. If you are in the market for a comfortable, spacious cruiser the Legacy could well be worth a look.