DRIVEN: First Drive: 2010 Subaru Legacy

June 29, 2009
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0906 05 Z+2010 Subaru Legacy+front Three Quarters View
Bigger, faster, more fuel efficient
These words aren't paired together very often, but they perfectly summarize the 2010 Subaru Legacy sedan. The Legacy has grown longer, taller, and wider with a modest weight gain of 49-65 pounds, depending on the trim and equipment level. The engines are more powerful and more fuel-efficient than last year's. If you opt for the 2.5GT, the 0-to-60-mph sprint is estimated to be 5.9 seconds -- two full seconds faster than a year before. Is the Legacy finally ready for the mainstream midsize-sedan segment?
The Legacy grows up
For 2010, the Legacy grows 1.4 inches longer and 3.3 inches taller, and its track is 2.7 inches wider in the front and 3.3 inches wider in the rear. Those changes give passengers in the rear seat an additional 3.9 inches of legroom and make for a much larger door opening. Interior volume is now 103 cubic feet, just larger than the Toyota Camry's 101.4 cubic feet, but still a bit behind the Honda Accord's 106 cubic feet. Golfers can now consider the Legacy, as the 14.7 cubic feet of storage in the trunk will accommodate four golf bags.
Graceful and mature
Outside, the Legacy might not be the most exciting midsize sedan, but it looks tasteful and modern. The grille is a reverse trapezoidal shape that works especially well with the hood scoop on the turbocharged 2.5 GT models. It's easy to identify the Legacy as a Subaru, but the design is generic enough to appeal to most midsize sedan shoppers. We appreciate the subtle bulge at the wheel flares, which gives the profile some character and a hint of muscle. It also showcases the standard all-wheel-drive.
The features get more mature, too
Subaru may be associated with earthy, frugal owners, but the Legacy offers many luxurious technologies and features inside the cabin. Starting with full-frame doors that bring noise, vibration, and harshness levels down considerably, the Legacy also includes an auto-up driver's window. (Sometimes, Subaru is strangely behind the curve on commonplace features.) You'll also find larger, more comfortable seats, better materials, including some very supple leather on the high-end cars, and nicer looking gauges than on other Subaru products. Options are limited but include an upgraded Harman-Kardon stereo, Bluetooth phone and iPod connectivity, a backup camera, a moonroof, and a voice-activated navigation system.
0906 02 Z+2010 Subaru Legacy+front Three Quarters View
0906 01 Z+2010 Subaru Legacy+rear View
2.5i
The entry-level Legacy is powered by a 2.5-liter Boxer four that produces 170 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. A new-for-the-U.S. six-speed manual is paired with a viscous center differential that splits power equally between the front and rear wheels. Those opting for the CVT will get a slightly more sophisticated AWD system that uses a slip-clutch and fancy electronics to determine which end of the car needs more torque. Subaru informs us this is the first application of a CVT with a Boxer engine. A mere 170 hp does not do much to raise the enthusiast's pulse, but it provides enough thrust for getting around town and feels particularly refined when paired with the CVT. Those considering the 2.5i will likely be most interested in the standard AWD at its $20,690 base price. Equally impressive is the 31-mpg highway rating for cars equipped with the CVT.
2.5GT
Enthusiasts will be most interested in the 2.5GT trim level. The turbo four produces 265 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque solely through a six-speed manual. Subaru uses the same AWD system here as on the 2.5i with a six-speed manual. A functional hood scoop, 18-inch wheels, and an all-weather package separate the 2.5GT from the 2.5i, but the options and equipment otherwise match a 2.5i Limited or Premium trim level. Think of the 2.5GT as a WRX for your growing family.
3.6R
Those buyers who are looking for more performance than the 2.5i offers but who are not willing to deal with a manual transmission will appreciate the Legacy 3.6R. As the name implies, power comes from a 3.6-liter, normally aspirated Boxer six engine. Power is rated at 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.6 runs on regular gas while the 2.5GT requires premium fuel. We found the 3.6-liter engine to be much more enjoyable than the 3.0-liter six it replaces, but the turbo-four cars were more fun on challenging roads. However, the six feels more refined and the automatic transmission adds smoothness to the package.
Behind the wheel
One of the biggest changes for the 2010 Subaru Legacy's ride is thanks to the double-wishbone rear suspension and front Macpherson-strut setup. If this combination sounds familiar, it's because all Subarus now use this suspension design. Body motions are well controlled, and the Legacy is stable going down the road thanks largely to its wider track and longer wheelbase. Sadly, the steering is overboosted but we found it offers good road feel as well as a quicker ratio. Braking performance has improved noticeably -- Subaru claims a 20% improvement in response from the new brake booster. Though the midsize sedan segment is hardly about superior driving dynamics, the Legacy is certainly fun to drive if you opt for the GT. Should fuel prices shoot up overnight, the normally aspirated four-cylinder model, particularly with a CVT, could be in demand. There's a smart mix of power, fun, and frugality available in the line, and all models, of course, have standard all-wheel drive.
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Who will buy it?
Subaru acknowledges it has a small following. According to Subaru's own research, less than 40% of midsize sedan shoppers know the Legacy exists. Those who are aware of the Legacy tend to be well educated, worldly, and environmentally conscious, as well as stylish and successful. Most of these people live in northern, coastal parts of the U.S. The marketing team thinks that Volkswagen Passat, Nissan Altima, and Mazda 6 owners are most likely to cross-shop the Legacy, which compares quite favorably with each of those cars.
What does it cost?
A basic 2.5i Legacy with the six-speed manual transmission will cost $20,690 with destination; the CVT transmission is $1000 extra, but there are no other options. Stepping up to the Premium trim level runs another $1000 and gets you an eight-way power driver's seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, a chrome exhaust tip, auto up/down driver's window, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The 2.5i Limited runs $25,690 and adds a power passenger seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, mirrors, and wiper de-icers, dual-zone climate control, leather seats, and a premium audio system; the CVT is the only available transmission. PZEV models of any 2.5i CVT trim level are available in all 50 states for an extra $300.
The 3.6R begins at $25,690 and follows the same pricing strategy as the 2.5i family. Look to spend $1000 extra for a Premium and $3000 more for a Limited car. Aside from the engine and automatic transmission, the only difference between the 2.5i and 3.6R is standard 17-inch alloy wheels. All options and equipment are otherwise equal on comparable trim levels.
Enthusiasts will want the $28,690 2.5GT Premium and its turbo four powerplant, revealed by the functional hood scoop and standard 18-inch alloy wheels. A 2.5GT Limited runs $30,690 and matches the equipment found on other Limited models.
When can I buy it?
The 2010 Subaru Legacy should start showing up at dealers in early August. Wagon fans will want to wait for the 2010 Outback that arrives shortly after the Legacy sedan.
With configurations ranging from frugal and capable to fast and refined, the Legacy has broad appeal. There's also enough Subaru quirkiness to keep the early adopters happy with this generation--all engine choices are Boxers, AWD comes with every car, and there's a good array of safety features. If the 2009 Forester's success is representative of the demand for a more mainstream Subaru, the 2010 Legacy sedan will be quite well received by the market.
2010 {{{Subaru Legacy}}}
  2.5i 2.5GT 3.6R
Powertrain
Engine SOHC H-4 Turbocharged/intercooled DOHC H-4 DOHC H-6
Displacement 2.5 liters (150.0 cu in) 2.5 liters (150.0 cu in) 3.6 liters (221.5 cu in)
Horsepower 170 hp @ 5600 rpm 265 hp @ 5600 rpm 256 hp @ {{{6000}}} rpm
Torque 170 lb-ft @ {{{4000}}} rpm 258 lb-ft @ 2000-5200 rpm 247 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission type 6-speed manual or CVT 6-speed manual 5-speed automatic
       
Chassis
Steering Rack-and-pinion with variable power assist
Suspension, Front MacPherson-type struts
Suspension, Rear Double-whishbone
Brakes Vented discs front, solid discs rear, ABS
Tires Size 205/60R16 (std), 215/50R17 (opt) 225/45R18 225/50R17
       
Measurements
L x W x H 186.4 x 71.7 x 59.3 in
Wheelbase 108.3 in
Track F/R 61.6/61.8 in
Weight 3270 lbs (6-sp), 3379 lbs (CVT) 3440 lbs 3481 lbs
Fuel Mileage 19/27 mpg (6-sp), 23/31 mpg (CVT) 18/25 mpg 18/25 mpg
0906 06 Z+2010 Subaru Legacy+rear Three Quarters View

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