The Subaru Legacy and its wagon counterpart, the Outback, share a lot of mechanicals, yet these two vehicles are quite different in how they drive. The Legacy sedan handles and steers much better, with noticeably less float. The continuously variable transmission is a bit of a drag, however. If you peg the throttle from a stop, it’s painful to watch how slowly the tachometer needle climbs to its redline. In most situations, you run out of road before the needle reaches 5000 rpm. And yet peak power isn’t made until 5600 rpm. The manual shift mode actually works quite well and makes the CVT more tolerable. The transmission also helps the Legacy return an EPA-estimated 31 mpg on the highway.
The cockpit is comfortable but not particularly stylish or modern. There are few quality complaints too, like the uneven, gaping fits where the steering wheel hub meets the two horizontal spokes. The simple radio interface, however, is attractive and easy to use, which is much more than can be said for the optional Subaru touch-screen navigation systems that we’ve experience elsewhere.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Optioned up to Limited trim, the Legacy doesn’t feel like as good of a deal as it should be with the base four-banger and CVT. With zero options, the Legacy starts at $20,720 and returns 19/27 mpg if you can shift for yourself. The CVT’s 31 mpg rating costs $1000 more and probably isn’t a worthwhile investment if you can handle driving a manual. I don’t think I’d bother adding any options to a Legacy unless I moved up to a 2.5GT. Subaru does basic cars very well, but it hasn’t yet put together an interior that justifies the premium price that our test car’s sticker commands.
If you need AWD, a spacious back seat, and generically handsome looks, then the Legacy is right up your alley. This car will offend nobody, tackle any weather or road conditions you might find, and be very reliable. That’s all I really need in a car.
– Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The Legacy is very nice, attractive, but basic transportation with the added bonuses of all-wheel drive, a large back seat, and a big trunk. I agree with Phil, though, that the Limited trim level that we tested added a lot of extra features that push it into dangerous waters prowled by nicer, more powerful cars.
And as Eric suggested, the Legacy 2.5i with the optional CVT isn’t going to inspire anyone to join the Sports Car Club of America. It feels as slow off the line as our Four Seasons Nissan Cube (which also, coincidentally, happens to have a CVT). This Legacy does ride and handle a bit better than our Four Seasons Outback 3.6R, but the six-cylinder Outback seems twice as fast as this Legacy.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
My colleagues are right; this Legacy isn’t an STI. Subaru’s boxer four-cylinder is an admirable engine, but it’s a little wanting for power, especially in a mid-size car like the Legacy. Personally, I think the flat six, which eschews the CVT in favor of a five-speed automatic, is better suited for a sedan of this size.
The $26,320 base price of this Limited model may strike some as a little steep, but considering the long list of standard equipment, including heated seats, leather, a Harmon/Kardon sound system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, and all-wheel drive, it doesn’t quite strike me as egregious. That said, a Legacy 3.6R Premium is a couple hundred dollars more; forgoing the leather seats, surround sound, and the Bluetooth system is a fair trade for a car that’s much more pleasant to drive.
– Evan McCausland, Web Producer
2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited
Base price (with destination): $26,320
Price as tested: $27,315
2.5-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine
Vehicle dynamics control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Carpeted floor mats
440-watt Harman Kardon audio system
Heated seats, mirrors, wiper de-icer
60/40 split fold rear seat
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
XM satellite radio
Options on this vehicle:
Power moonroof — $995
Key options not on vehicle:
Power moonroof and navigation system — $2995
Auto-dimming mirror with compass — $165
Fuel economy: 23/31/26 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 2.5L flat-4
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Curb weight: 3451 lb
17 x 7-inch aluminum wheels
215/50R17 all-season tires