The family sedan segment isn’t the hotbed of activity it once was but it’s still an important piece to many manufacturers’ lineups. So in a Camry and Accord world can others stay relevant?
Well, Subaru has updated the Legacy for 2018 and its calling card continues to be all-wheel drive.
If you want a reasonably priced, all-wheel drive, 4-door car with midsize dimensions there’s either the Ford Fusion or the Subaru Legacy. And unlike the Fusion, all trims of the Legacy come standard with 4-wheel traction and that’s an important selling point here in the northeast and other parts of the country where the roads get slippery. Factor in fuel economy and price and the Legacy look even better…if you’re willing to sacrifice lots of power and driving dynamics. Now if those aspects of car ownership aren’t a big deal to you, this Legacy 2.5i Sport – a higher end trim level – achieves 29mpg in combined driving, boasts a driving range of over 530 miles and checks in at only $29,300 when optioned with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology…an attractive trio for the frugally minded.
Last redesigned for the 2015 model year, the Legacy is refreshed for 2018 with updated front and rear styling for a sportier look, retuned dampers for a softer yet more controlled ride, adjustments to the steering and brake pedal feel aimed at making the drive more engaging, a quieter cabin, and redesigned interior bits including a new steering wheel and updated tech. When I last drove this 5th gen Legacy I noted that the car was tricky to take off smoothly and that the ride was harsher than in should be. Well, Subaru addressed both areas of concern reprogramming the electronics to provide the continuously variable transmission with smoother acceleration and reworking the suspension to take more of an edge off of bumps. This car was supposed to lead the charge into midsize relevancy for the brand but 4 years later, staring in the face of the recently launched all-new Camry and Accord, the Legacy has once again capitulated to the banality of father time.
Priced from $23,055 and available in 5 trims, the highest of which runs with a 6-cylinder engine, this here is the Legacy Sport, but don’t let the name fool you. Its 2.5-liter Boxer engine makes the same 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque as the rest of the lineup with no additional mechanical tinkering. What you do get is upsized 18” wheels fitted with Goodyear all-season tires, keyless access with push button start, a power moonroof, blue stitching which now includes the dash panel, gloss black and carbon fiber interior trim, chrome-accented rocker panels and a unique Sport grille. New items for 2018 include a subtle trunk spoiler, satin chrome mirrors with integrated turn signals, and LED fog lights but unfortunately, the carpet doesn’t match the drapes.
So here are the Legacy’s positives: it looks pretty sharp in a Subaru kind of way, it’s one of the more spacious cars in the midsize segment, the suspension tweaks have resulted in a more compliant ride, the infotainment system is excellent and of course there’s the benefit of all-wheel drive. Now on the downside, this powertrain is extremely underwhelming, there’s no sport in this sport model, it takes an unusually long amount of time for this cabin to heat up, the stereo sounds like an old transistor radio, and I’ve noticed how susceptible this car is to crosswinds. At this point it’s probably best to wait and see what Subaru has in store for the next Legacy.
That is rumored to be in the works sometime next year. But if you’ve got to have one now you can feel good about the fact that Subaru’s legendary all-wheel drive system truly is better than the rest; it works beautifully and incorporates torque vectoring for improved handling. The STARLINK system is spot on, equipped with easy to use Tom Tom navigation and lots of easy-to-use features and there’s a big trunk and spacious back seat with additional USB ports. The EyeSight system includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collison Braking, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist in addition to Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. I found the driver’s seat bottom to be too short but the front buckets are heated and get nice and hot. You feel like you’re sitting particularly low to the ground so with a low center of gravity and good balance it performs very well in the white stuff. It simply isn’t very interesting to drive though, especially when compared to the Legacy’s stiffest competition which has really elevated the driving experience.
Subaru’s sales are lead by their trifecta of crossovers and a 4th is on its way. So the Legacy needn’t shoulder much of the weight but an affordable all-wheel drive sedan is a nice piece to have.