Review: This Subaru Legacy isn't sedate
Review: This Subaru Legacy isn't sedate
Think about a midsize sedan, and "driving excitement" isn't usually something that comes to mind. People- and cargo-carrying ability and an appreciable level of comfort, yes. An invigorating driving experience with an asphalt-hugging grip? Not so much, especially among non-luxury brands.
Then there's the Subaru Legacy, a midsize sedan that can please both passengers and the driver who seeks some gusto in a segment that emphasizes pragmatics over passion.
During my recent week behind the wheel of a Legacy 2.5GT Limited, I was pleasantly surprised at this car's ability to be powerful and poised while also roomy and fuel efficient.
A big reason for this particular car's sporting personality was its engine. Legacy sedans, which grew roomier in their fifth-generation incarnation in 2010, offer a choice of three motors: two different four-cylinder engines and a six cylinder.
Of the first, the base engine is a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter, which is less than the base engines in rivals like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion. The other four-cylinder option, like the one in my manufacturer-lent test-model, was a turbocharged 2.5-liter.
With the turbo attached, the engine makes a robust 265 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Interestingly, this is even more powerful than the larger 3.6-liter six cylinder, which makes 256 ponies and 247 lb.-ft. of torque (though the naturally aspirated engines can drink 87-octane gas, while the turbo one requires premium fuel).
Also rare is that in turbocharged four-cylinder form the Legacy is pricier than models equipped with the bigger six cylinder. One of these with a base engine has a reasonable MSRP of $20,745. Models with a six cylinder start at $25,845; those with the powerful turbo engine begin at $32,345. Once optioned up with a nav system, voice-activated controls and rear-view camera, my test model came in at $34,120.
That raised my eyebrows since this car "only" had a four-banger under the hood. But as mentioned, this smaller engine packs quite a punch. That trusty "boxer" engine got this larger sedan up to speed in a hurry, and provided plenty of power for passing once cruising. Turbo lag was minimal and, as with all Subaru models, this car is all-wheel drive. That means I didn't have an issue with torque steer, in which the steering wheel is difficult to keep steady under acceleration due to all power going to just the front wheels.
And here's another thing that sets this particular Legacy apart: In this 2.5GT form, it can only be had with a manual transmission. In this case it's a short-throw six speed that felt quite satisfying. Stick shifts are becoming rarer these days, and I can't even remember the last time I got to manually row through the gears in a midsize sedan.
If you want a potent Legacy that is automatic, you'll have to go with one with a six-cylinder under the hood.
For the driving pleasure this car gave, it also returned commendable fuel economy. This Legacy is EPA-rated at 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Over a week of mixed driving, I averaged 25.2 mpg, in one of the rare cases in which I obtained even better-than-cited mileage numbers.
As with other Subaru vehicles, the Legacy offered good visibility. The driver's seat was comfortable, and the rear seat was roomy enough to easily accommodate two adults, three in a pinch.
The car was nicely composed on the road, and the all-wheel-drive offered great grip. Unfortunately like other Subies I've tested, the brake pedal felt soft and didn't immediately grab when first pushed. Two other letdowns in this car remained a mystery to me. One was an inconvenience, the other a real aggravation.
The first had to do with the headlights, which did not automatically turn on despite being in the "auto" position. The second was the radio. When it was on, a high-pitched whine was emitted through the speakers. Apparently I'm still young enough to hear such high frequencies, and this became so bothersome that I just had to shut the thing off and motor along in silence.
Those issues aside, the Legacy 2.5GT proved itself a satisfying driver. It isn't exactly cheap, but if you're, say, a family man or woman who has to have a sedan yet wants a zippy car with a satisfying manual transmission – not to mention all-wheel-drive – the Legacy GT is hard to beat.
Your turn: Share your own opinion about this car in the comments area below.
This week’s ride: Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited
Type: Five-passenger, all-wheel-drive sedan
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Total power: 265 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft torque
Fuel economy rating: 18 mpg city/25 highway
Base price, with destination: $20,745
Price as equipped: $34,120
The good: Power, fuel economy, transmission, roominess, grip
The bad: A bit pricey, issues with radio whine and automatic headlights
Guess where: Do you know where in Orange County this photo of the Subaru Legacy was taken? Guess in the comments area below. The correct answer to last week’s photo of the Cadillac CTS was at the former site of Tia Juana’s Long Bar in Old Town Irvine.