Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana; 1989 Subaru Legacy & engine bay. Click image to enlarge
Review and Photos by Jeff Wilson
Lafayette, IN – Whenever a manufacturer sends a group of journalists on a new car launch event, the marketing and PR folks always put on a decent show. There’s a lot of fanfare and bragging about how improved the new machine is over its former self, and often how the new vehicle bests its competitors even if it is in trivialities like highest thread count in the floor mats.
With the new Legacy however, one gets the sense that the entire Subaru team truly is proud of their latest achievement, and that they really mean business in this mid-sized sedan class.
At the Lafayette, Indiana plant where the Legacy has been made for the past 25 years (along with the Toyota Camry for the last five, but only until 2016 when they’ll be replaced by Impreza production) Subaru had a host of high-level folks flown in from the Japanese headquarters for the launch event. They were on hand to answer any questions we journalists might have, yet they seemed to be more keen on hearing what we had to say after driving their new pride and joy.
The Legacy has almost become a forgotten child within the Subaru lineup in recent years. The Outback has proven to be the more popular choice than its less rugged sedan sibling, and Subaru’s mid-sizer reaches about 1/10th as many driveways as each of the Accord, Camry or Fusion.
Subaru’s market research identified a few problem areas with past Legacy models, namely exterior styling, interior quality and a confounding infotainment system. These significant items – which can dramatically affect the emotional appeal with potential customers – certainly speak to the disappointing sales figures.
What’s more, consumer perception of the Subaru brand is that the cars are expensive to purchase and operate thanks to the all-wheel-drive systems.
Subaru has taken great strides in alleviating any cause for these concerns with the new Legacy.
For those familiar with the current-generation Legacy, the interior and exterior styling are likely to be the greatest surprise in the new car. Happily, subtle character lines and smoother styling replace the slab-sided doors and awkwardly oversized fender arches of the old car. The rear end features a more stylish taillight treatment and a small, integrated ducktail spoiler, and six-cylinder cars receive dual exhaust outlets versus the four-banger’s single outlet.
The overall look moves upmarket, but the styling is contemporary and conservative at best – bland and derivative at worst, especially the front end, which will surely be mistaken by many as a Ford Taurus given the remarkably similar grilles and blue-oval logos.
1989 & 2015 Subaru Legacy. Click image to enlarge
Inside all trim levels one finds handsome and functional designs with dials and switches exactly where they ought to be. Here again, the styling is anything but revolutionary in the class, but it surely won’t offend anyone either.
Comfort was clearly made a priority by the Legacy’s interior design team. Even in base-model trim, the seats may not look elaborate, but they’re simple and comfortable – with just the right amount of suppleness and support to prove comfortable for long trips. After a full day of driving, I polled several of my peers of varying sizes and shapes for their opinions on the seats and all agreed that they are well executed.
Interior volume is increased by 45L and trunk space by 8L (to 425L) thanks to 50 mm greater width and 40 mm greater length (wheelbase remains unchanged).
Other details – like comfortable armrests, available rear heated seats and even a premium-feeling key fob – speak to a more luxurious Legacy than before. The cars available to us with beige leather looked particularly fetching to my eye.
2015 Subaru Legacy seating & trunk. Click image to enlarge
Best of all, Subaru has finally figured out how to do an infotainment system suitable for the times. The basic system includes a 6.2-inch LCD screen with back-up camera, satellite radio, media hub and Bluetooth. Limited trim cars get a 7-inch touchscreen display with navigation and Harman/Kardon sound. This system features crisp graphics, responsive GPS and excellent sound – none of which has been found on any previous Subaru infotainment system. Plus, it integrates smoothly into the dash and does not replace traditional controls for the climate system, just the way common sense dictates it should be.
Despite both the 2.5L horizontally opposed four-cylinder and 3.6L H-6 engines being largely carryover from last year’s Legacy, the big change comes in the six-cylinder now being mounted to a CVT instead of a five-speed automatic. It’s no secret that the primary motivator for this switch is greater efficiency and here again Subaru has delivered. Under the new five-cycle measurement, Subaru claims the four-cylinder Legacy will achieve a 9.0 L/100 km city and 6.5 L/100 km highway rating (7.9 combined). The six cylinder consumes at 11.9 city and 8.2 highway (10.2 combined). These figures are all highly competitive within the class and best of class for all-wheel-drive mid-size sedans.
(Update: Article revised with corrected five-cycle testing results. Previous figures were for two-cycle testing: 2.5L H4 7.7/5.4/6.7, 3.5L H6 10.5/6.9/8.9.)