By Kevin Harrison
Subaru as a brand means lots of things to lots of people. For some, it’s a brand that dares to be different. Quirky types appreciate the little things such as boxer engines, and love it or hate it styling.
Others see Subaru as the only brand that gets it when it comes to Canadian winters as all-wheel drive is standard on all models (the BRZ is excepted) and it isn’t the mild all-wheel drive system where the rear wheels will spring into action when slippage is detected. It’s the real deal; full-time all-wheel drive. Match it with now good fuel efficiency and decent pricing and you’ve got yourself a credible contender for most Canadians.
Subaru is also known as being among the most gay-friendly brands. In fact, homosexuals choose Subaru as their vehicle of choice consistently year after year according to gaywheels.com.
As a brand, Subaru has positioned itself quite smartly. Sure the brand doesn’t carry the same weight as a brand like BMW, but it is synonymous with everything mentioned above.
Thing is, Subarus aren’t exactly known as being safe. That isn’t to say that they are not safe (in fact, most are) but the brand isn’t synonymous with safety. And oddly enough most brands don’t tend to market the safety of their vehicles as much as they probable should – Volvo excepted.
So Subaru is hoping to add safety to the mix when you think of the brand and to prove they are serious about it, they sent down a Subaru Legacy to try. Yes, the Legacy is long in the tooth and the new ones are right around the corner, but my tester was equipped with Subaru’s new Eye Sight system.
But before I get into that, let’s take a look at the Legacy’s worth in general.
Firstly, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t notice it. The styling is far from inspiring and it even goes as far as being a bit polarizing. My girlfriend didn’t much care for its style, specifically the front end which she found too sharp and chunky. I, on the other hand, actually like this kind of styling as it is a bit quirky (yes, I’m one of those types) and I like how Subaru hasn’t jumped on the trendy swoopy four-door coupe styling that most of its competition is doing. My only issue is Subaru could be doing a lot more to differentiate trim levels. Only keen fans would be able to pick out my tester as being the Limited trim by the lack of fog lights and the addition of brushed aluminum wheels.
Inside the look is decidedly dated. The brushed centre stack looks like it came from 10 years ago. And all the mismatched colours leave a bit of a poorly thought out design. The fake wood isn’t very Subaru-ish after all and while I understand that Subaru would likely want higher trim levels to feel a bit more premium, this is not conveyed in the look.
Luckily functionality is still good as most buttons are big and thoughtfully placed. The gauges are clear to read and the infotainment system words decently, even if improvements could still be made to make it a bit more user friendly. Rear head and leg room is adequate – most would be able to get comfy back there, but there are other sedans in this price point that offer much more room. Trunk size is also adequate, but again, it is by no means class leading.
The 2.5 Limited gets is power by, you guessed it, a 2.5 litre boxer 4 cylinder which produces 173 horses and 174 pound foot torque. The end result is decent low end torque to get you off the line, but power fades once you get going thanks to the CVT which insists you take it easy for fuel consumption’s sake. You can’t call this the worst CVT around but you certainly can’t call it the best. It’s a bit unrefined and noisy. Using the paddle shifters doesn’t really make much difference since the gear shifts are simulated and –again, the transmission isn’t the best to start out with.
The Legacy’s saving grave for performance is indeed its handling capabilities, though. It’s quite grippy in most corners. The steering is also decently weighted and decently responsive allowing for peace of mind when cornering. The only downside is the Legacy does still feel a bit heavy when cornering aggressively, but overall it stays planted with minimal body roll. If you could get this car with a manual transmission – hell, even with a regular automatic –I’d imagine the Legacy would prove to be quite the nimble daily driver.
On the highway, the Legacy will merge without much fuss but holy moly is wind noise ever a problem. It isn’t often where I have to turn the music completely off to hear what my passengers are saying to me. Without passengers, I was able to drown the wind noise by the excellent sounding 9 speaker Harmon Kardon stereo.
Now onto the Eyesight which is the newest and presumably final upgrade to this edition Legacy before the next generation comes. What is does is essentially gives you an extra set of eyes on the road. It will scan the road and will keep you from crashing into the car in front of you in case you’re foolishly distracted by other things. It works decently well but like most systems of this nature, it tends to overreact a bit. There were a few times the system panicked thinking I would plow right into a car ahead of me turning left when really, I was good to stop on my own if need be. The system also offers lane departure warning which worked well, although there were a few instances where the system would go off while I was making a lane change with my turn signal on. But the best part of Eyesight is by far the ability to keep the Legacy’s distance from the car in front of you while using cruise control. Even better, you can pick the distance you’d like and the Legacy will brake or even speed up in order to make sure that set distance is met. My father seemed really intrigued by it and thought it was quite clever.
So is Eyesight enough to get the Legacy into Camry or Accord territory? No. Is it enough to get people to think of Subaru when they think of safety? Probably not. What this truly is is a good attempt to keep a model relevant until the newer one comes along. Because even though the Legacy has typical Subaru quirks and charm, it still remains quite uncompetitive in its current guise. Those looking to stand out (perhaps for the wrong reasons) will like the Legacy with its engaging ride, Eyesight and comfortable seats, but truthfully you’re likely better off just waiting for the new one. Until then, Subaru will have to keep its synonymy of quirkiness, ruggedness and performance. And let’s be honest, that is far from being a bad thing.
Price As Tested: $35,590
- Comfortable interior
- Interior quirks
- Good handling
- Real all-wheel drive system
- Eyesight generally works well
- CVT is unrefined
- Power is sucked by CVT
- Bland exterior
- Outdated looking interior
- Wind noise
- Acura ILX
- Buick Verano
- Chrysler 200
- Ford Fusion
- Honda Accord
- Hyundai Sonata
- Kia Optima
- Nissan Altima
- Toyota Camry
- Volkswagen Passat