Strengths and weaknesses:
- power when needed
- interior comfort
- driving position won’t suit some
- driveshaft intrusive for centre rear passenger
Unique Legacy offers all-round comfort
The Subaru Legacy has improved generation by generation to become perhaps the most unique offering in the mid-size family car segment.
Whereas others long ago embraced the V6 engine as a necessity to be competitive, Legacy has consistently massaged its four-cylinder powerplant to deliver more power in a more efficient manner.
It has also refined that engine (unique in that it’s the only horizontally opposed engine in the segment) to improve economy and attract buyers who want to hold on to the larger car without putting more cash into the gas pumps, whereas the front runners have developed hybrids to attract those buyers.
The Legacy’s Boxer “four” is about equal in displacement to the four-cylinder engines used by its competitors (they’re all 2.4 or 2.5 litres in displacement) and although it doesn’t quite make the horsepower of the others’, it more than makes up for it in torque. And torque is what helps you get off the line more smartly, get up to highway speeds more quickly and pass that tandem transport on a two lane road more confidently.
Legacy’s four-cylinder engine makes as much as 19% more lb.-ft. of torque than some of its rivals, and those that are closer to the Legacy’s 170 lb.-ft., can’t match the Boxer’s horsepower. Mazda6 is about the closest you can get, and Malibu almost matches Legacy in torque and puts out 20 more horsepower.
And then, you have the added benefit of smoothness – the opposing forces of the four Subaru pistons are a natural balancer, whereas the others have to add a balancer shaft to make the engine steadier. And in the case of our test PZEV model, it returns better fuel economy than the others’ four-cylinder models.
The idea of the Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle is to better burn up fuel to lower emissions, but it also has an impact on economy – nowhere near the hybrid electric versions of its rivals but on a par with, or even better than, their inline-four-cylinder engines - something with which the horizontally-opposed-four had trouble dealing in the past.
And the final part of the “unique” equation for Legacy is Subaru’s legendary symmetrical all-wheel drive. More important for all weather driving in some parts of the country than in others, it none the less makes for sure-footed motoring over pretty well all terrains in all kinds of climate conditions.
There are only a couple others who have embraced all-wheel drive in the segment – Ford Fusion and Volkswagen Passat (and now the smaller Suzuki Kizashi) – though the Subaru’s traditionally higher price tag has also placed it head-to-head against sport sedans like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.
On that topic, Subaru has done some cost cutting for the consumer (without lightening the features list) in order to keep Legacy competitive with the segment leaders. It’s also competitive in the room and comfort department, particularly in the rear seat department where the Legacy’s high seating position and larger cushion makes for comfortable leg positions for two. The third position will find a driveshaft tunnel naturally more intrusive than those in the segment leaders (which are striving to make the floor as flat as possible).
The Legacy trunk is large and flat floored, and the cargo space has the ability to expand into the cabin through 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks.
Up front, drivers find an easy to use cockpit presented in a hi-fi metallic look. It’s simple and uncluttered in our PZEV model, but will undoubtedly get more cluttered as you step up to the navigation and premium sound systems of the upper trim levels.
The steering wheel continues to sit a bit farther away from the torso (more of a European driving position) but some drivers will undoubtedly find it more comfortable than others.
And comfort, I believe, is the selling point of the Legacy PZEV – comfortable to sit in; comfortable to drive year-round; comfortable on the wallet at the pump.