By Kevin Harrison
I took a look back at my review of the previous generation 2014 Subaru Legacy because I honestly couldn’t remember a thing about my thoughts on the car. I remember the e-brake was positioned to the left side of the steering wheel and the rather simple gear shift felt almost perfectly into my hand. That’s about it.
As it turns out, one of the only reasons Subaru made the Legacy available in its press fleet was to highlight its new EyeSight technology – basically Subie lingo for adaptive cruise control – and that’s about it. Last year, the Legacy was getting long in the tooth and it was all but forgotten; Legacy enthusiasts (all 18 of you) not withstanding.
You see, Subaru has a bit of a problem with their mid-size sedan offering. When you throw a vehicle into your press fleet, it’s usually because the product is all-new or there is a significant update. EyeSight, to me, doesn’t qualify as such a reason because it’s not game-changing technology. The problem is there is really nothing that makes the 2014 Legacy stick out in terms of, well, pretty much anything. Not style, not cargo capacity, not power, not fuel efficiency, not safety, not value – nothing. The 2010-2014 Legacy did everything a typical mid-size sedan does only it did much more quietly.
Yes, before you Subie fans get point out that the Legacy is the only one within the segment that gets full-time all-wheel drive, just take a sip of your coffee and relax. Because to me, that just goes with the territory now for Subaru. It’s not new for the brand and it certainly doesn’t catapult the old Legacy into being number 1 as a family sedan.
Sometimes an auto manufacturer will throw an older model into its press fleet so auto journos can refresh their memory before the new model bows. That way we’ll all react with shock and awe about how much more the product is improved over the old one and I have to assume that was Subaru’s thinking when they lent me the 2014 model year Legacy to review last year.
So, without further ado, here is the new one. Is it finally a game-changer or is it much ado about nothing?
Firstly, Subaru really needed to knock the Legacy’s new styling out of the park. With most of the mid-seize segment going four-door coupe style, the Legacy either needed to build on its traditional quirky styling or come up with a jaw droppingly gorgeous design. In my mind, the 2015 Legacy has done neither. I’m not suggesting for a second that the new Legacy is an ugly car – in fact the new front end is quite handsome – but there’s nothing about this car that really sticks out. The overall shape is rather conservative and the only thing that would stand out from a Subaru point of view is the rather good looking alloys and LED tail/brake lights – traits not typically found on a Subaru. At this point you’ll say “yeah but most people buy Subarus because they don’t have typical look-at-me styling”. That may be true, but the new Accord does not have swoopy styling and it still manages to make conservatism classy.
Inside is a very different story as Subaru as done a nice job with the interior. The new design is not only pleasing to the eye, but it is a bit more logically laid out than the outgoing model. Those who prefer typical e-brake-to-the-left-of-the-steering-wheel quirks, which admittedly this author does, will be disappointed to find very few. But that may be just what the Legacy needs in order to make headway in the segment.
The centre stack is less of a prominent piece than before (which is a good thing) and radio/interface controls are easily to use from the admittedly smallish touch screen. On top of that there is oodles of interior space – an advantage to not having a swoopy four-door coupe design. Trunk space, while shallow, is nice and deep and the opening is quite good. Fold the seats down and you’ll have a lot more room than you’d think. Overall this interior is much improved and there wasn’t a whole lot that I could find wrong with it.
Under the hood is Subaru’s old faithful, the 3.6 litre H-6 producing 256 horsepower and 245 pound foot torque. On paper, that seems like more than adequate and it is on par with the top trim level engine offering of the Legacy’s enemies. The issue is, in real world driving, it doesn’t really feel all that fast. In fact, the 2.5 litre engine I tried in the 2014 Legacy felt just as competent.
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s that damned CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) again!”. Normally I would agree, however the CVT matched with the 2.5 litre engine of the previous generation was actually quite good, even if it was a bit unrefined. In fact, it helped to propel the 4-cylinder engine making it feel faster than the numbers suggested. I expected a lot of the same in the 3.6R, but it felt as if the CVT was more of a hinder than it was on the 2.5.
On top of that, the 3.6R weighs in at nearly 3,700 pounds. The end result is a 6-cylinder engine that feels no more quicker than the 2.5 that it is supposed to eclipse in terms of power. It feels sluggish off the line and you expect at any RPM for it to slingshot its way forward as power finally comes in, but it never really does.
All that weight mostly negates any fuel efficiency advantage that the CVT delivers as the 3.6R is rated at a rather dismal 11.9 L/100 kms city and 8.2 L/100 kms highway. I averaged 12.5 L/100 kms in mostly city driving. That fuel consumption return is not very good. And don’t think you can do better by opting for a manual transmission and shifting the gears yourself because there isn’t one available (the 2.5 litre engine gets a manual transmission option though). Sure, you can row the gears yourself in the CVT but that just helps the Legacy get going a bit quicker and does very little to improve fuel consumption.
The Legacy’s heft makes for a sedan that doesn’t handle the way it used to. In last year’s 2.5 Legacy, I praised its handling abilities and even suggested it could be one of the things that helps the Legacy to stand out. But alas, the McDonald’s only diet of the new Legacy hinders that ability.
Happily, that weight gain makes for a rather solid feeling drive on the highway. Even more happily, the EyeSight technology works as good as it did last year. In fact, it has improved with better graphics. When using EyeSight, you essentially set the cruise control for your desired speed and let the system do the rest. The system will react to different traffic situations, for instance, if the vehicle in front of you slows down, you do not need to manually adjust your speed, EyeSight will take car of that for you. It will speed back up to your desired speed again once traffic gets moving. EyeSight will even bring the Legacy to a complete stop. The system is virtually flawless and for those of you that think the Legacy has completely lost its quirkiness, you’ll be glad to know that EyeSight provides at least one quirk. The graphic between the gauge clusters provides a graphic of the rear of the Legacy. When EyeSight needs to slow your roll, it starts to brake and the brake lights actually illuminate in the graphic when the real brake lights do. I don’t know why it would be beneficial for the driver to know when the brake lights illuminate, but I like it!
And overall, I liked the Legacy, I’m just a bit disappointed on the path it seems to be taking. Instead of revolutionizing or even evolving in the segment, the new Legacy seems to just be doing all in can to keep up. And in fairness, it has kept up, but in today’s car buying world that may not be good enough. But that’s not to say the Legacy is a bad car, far from it. In fact, I’d wager the 2.5 to be even better than the 3.6R is. If it’s like last year’s model, it will feel quicker than it is, will be better on gas and you still get the nice features available that the 3.6R has such as leather and Eye-Sight.
Price As Tested: $37,321
- Very nice interior, logical design, high quality feel
- Spacious, good cargo capacity
- EyeSight still works brilliantly
- All-wheel drive standard
- Styling is on the bland side
- Hello? Power? You there?
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