The Subaru Legacy has never been my favorite family car.
To be certain, I’m keenly aware of its benefits, including the dynamite all-wheel-drive system that’s standard equipment. But this four-door has always been a bit too agricultural for my taste, with below-average interior quality and coarse, “whole-grain” powertrains.
Of course, these squabbles haven’t deterred legions of other motorists from buying, Birkenstock-wearing kombucha brewers or folks that live in regions that receive winter 10 months of the year, you know, the core Subaru customer base.
Tongue-in-cheek social commentary aside, the latest seventh-generation Legacy sedan is totally new from the ground up. It promises greater refinement, technology and an interior that’s more competitive with its midsize-sedan rivals.
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The automaker had a tall order to fill with this car. Compared to the outgoing Legacy, Honda’s Accord has a definite edge in driver engagement. The Toyota Camry is the gold standard for dependability. Ford’s discontinued Fusion is far more stylish. And the Mazda6 offers a greatly more upscale interior.
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But giving the 2020 Legacy more than a fighting chance is a solid foundation, the Subaru Global Platform, which is shared with many other models. It’s far stiffer and stronger than the architecture it replaces, which helps make this latest Legacy quieter and far better to drive.
Ironing out bumps in the road is a totally redesigned suspension. It’s lighter and stronger, helping the car feel smoother and far more premium than before.
This latest-generation Legacy may not look all new, its design is conservative and familiar. If you want visual excitement shop elsewhere, however, don’t judge this book by its cover.
Inside, this new Legacy has been dramatically improved. Its cabin is far more upscale than before, with loads of squishy-soft plastics and stitched leather. It’s not quite as nice as what you get in a Honda Accord or Mazda6, but it’s still one of the better cockpits in this vehicle segment, topping what’s available in a Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima.
The front bucket seats are more comfortable than a recliner in your living room, both soft and supportive. The Legacy’s aft-accommodations offer miles of room both heads and legs.
When it comes to practicality, this Subaru’s trunk has grown by a small amount, topping out at 15.1 cubic feet (428 liters). But it’s not the modest growth that matters. Engineers changed the shape of this space so it’s more useful, which allows the new Legacy to carry up to four jumbo-sized suitcases
Two for the Road
Ahead of your kneecaps, two engines are available in the 2020 Subaru Legacy. The base offering is a heavily reworked 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. It’s something like 90 percent new, revised for greater refinement and efficiency. With direct injection delivering precise amounts of gasoline to each combustion chamber, it provides 182 horsepower with 176 pound-feet of peak torque. That’s enough meat and potatoes to get the Legacy to 60 miles an hour in as little as 8.4 seconds.
But XT models get a zesty 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer-four. It delivers a stout 260 ponies and 277 pounds of torque. Sixty miles an hour can be yours in as little as 6.1 seconds.
One and Done
But no matter the engine you choose, just one transmission is offered in the Legacy. And if you don’t like CVTs you’d better shop elsewhere because that’s all Subaru’s got. This “gearbox” has been reworked for less internal friction and has a wider ratio spread, things that translate into better performance and fuel economy.
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Regarding efficiency, the base engine is rated at 27 miles per gallon city (8.8 l/100 km), 35 highway (6.7 l/100 km) and 30 combined. The more muscular optional powerplant is, naturally, a bit less efficient, though it’s by no means irresponsible. Expect 24 mpg around town (9.9 l/100 km), 32 on the highway drives (7.4 l/100 km) and 27 combined.
Naturally, all-wheel drive with torque vectoring is standard, as is automatic engine stop/start, which bolsters around-town fuel economy.
The new Legacy’s stand standard-equipment list is longer than a cross-country drive. Amenities like LED headlamps with automatic high beams, an array of USB charging ports, automatic climate control, and EyeSight, Subaru’s suite of driver-assistance technology. This last item bundles a number of features like lane-departure prevention, pre-collision braking, vehicle distance warning and more. Adaptive cruise control is also included. This is not new but for 2020 lane centering is, which makes this feature even more useful by keeping the vehicle running straight and true down the road.
Upscale models can be fitted with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and keyless entry with push-button start and more.
Another available feature of note is the DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System. A dashboard-mounted camera tracks the motorist’s face, emitting an audible warning and flashing an indicator light when he or she takes their eyes off the road.
But unquestionably, the most visually arresting feature available in this car is the Starlink infotainment system with navigation and an 11.6-inch portrait display. This gigantic touchscreen dominates the dashboard. Audio, climate, telephony functions and more are handled here, with prods and swipes of the finger.
Fortunately, more basic models aren’t short changed when it comes to technology. They come standard with two 7-inch touch-screens. The upper one handles the audio system, the lower is for climate controls and other functions.
Acceleration with the base 2.5-liter powerplant is more than adequate, completely comparable to an entry-level Toyota Camry, for instance. This engine is also much quieter and smoother than past iterations of Subaru boxer-fours, a major win.
Naturally, the 2.4-turbo provides significantly greater oomph in every driving situation, however, off-the-line thrust is a little lacking. Nail the accelerator from a standstill and it takes a couple seconds to catch its breath, requiring at least 3,500 rpm on the clock before real thrust manifests. Perhaps this version should be called the Lagacy.
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The Legacy’s standard CVT maximizes performance and efficiency, though it’s hardly my favorite of this transmission configuration. It feels a bit indecisive. Sometimes under heavy acceleration it will simulate gearchanges but other times it won’t. Occasionally, it doesn’t respond as quickly as you’d like.
The 2020 Legacy’s new architecture and suspension tuning do indeed make it feel much more refined and premium than before, though there is one notable dynamic weakness. The steering is too light and rather disconnected. Nobody buys a family sedan to go racing, but a little more heft and feel would be appreciated.
The Verdict: 2020 Subaru Legacy Review
Smoother, quieter and better than ever before, the 2020 Subaru Legacy is a much more capable rival to the Camry, Accord and Mazda6. It’s still not my favorite midsize sedan available today, but there are no deal-breaking flaws to steer you toward a competitor’s dealership showroom.
The 2020 Legacy is offered in six trim levels: Base, Premium, Sport, Limited, Limited XT and Touring XT. The base model starts at $23,645 including $900 in destination fees. Look for examples at dealerships right about now.
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