Within the past year, I’ve spent a week with a 2014 Subaru Legacy Sport, a short-lived model with a slightly more aggressive appearance and nothing more than a set of bigger 18-inch wheels and tires to support the Sport moniker. I thoroughly enjoyed driving that car, though it really could have used a turbocharger, but I wasn’t crazy about its looks.
Understandably, then, once I laid eyes on the far more appealing 2015 Legacy, I couldn’t wait to grab a set of keys to the redesigned model and extoll its virtues. Now that I’ve had my chance, I’m perplexed. Rest assured, there are virtues to this car, and many of them, but something has also been lost in translation.
2015 Subaru Legacy Review and Quick Spin: About Our Test Car
Subaru sells the new 2015 Legacy in base, Premium, and Limited trim levels, with a choice between a 4-cylinder and a 6-cylinder engine. For this review, I drove the Legacy 2.5i Limited ($27,290 including a very reasonable $795 destination charge), painted a gorgeous Twilight Blue color with a 2-tone black and Warm Ivory interior. To this, my car added Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle equipment ($300), and an option package that brought the total price tag to $30,580, which is just about the average price that the average American spends on a new car.
Subaru offers two option packages for the 2015 Legacy, each equipped with ridiculously complex yet utterly incomplete titles. You can get the Moonroof Package + Keyless Access and Push-Button Start + Navigation option ($2,195), which also includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Subaru’s terrific new 7-inch Starlink infotainment system, and a premium Harmon/Kardon audio system. Or you can get the Moonroof Package + Keyless Access and Push-Button Start + Navigation + EyeSight option ($2,990), which adds adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, and steering responsive fog lights.
Hey, Subaru product planning, let’s just call the first one the Technology Package and the second one the EyeSight Package, whaddaya say?
2015 Subaru Legacy Review and Quick Spin: Styling and Design
As far as looks are concerned, this is a more stylish Legacy than the previous model, but lacks originality, making it generic in an inoffensive way. The 18-inch aluminum wheels look like 17s, likely because the Legacy is rather tall and slab-sided. It also might help if half the spokes weren’t painted gray.
Inside, a two-tone interior treatment looks upscale, and the matte-finish dark wood trim does a good job of faking the real thing. A soft, one-piece upper dashboard mimics a BMW in texture and finish, and dramatically cuts glare. Overall, the interior’s design is more utilitarian than stylish, but Subaru has done a good job of sprucing the place up.
2015 Subaru Legacy Review and Quick Spin: Comfort and Cargo
If you’re looking for a roomy family sedan, you’ve found it. The Subrau Legacy’s interior is positively huge. That means there’s lots of room for people on large, comfortable, and supportive seats. In fact, I’d call this car a genuine 5-passenger automobile.
The Legacy Limited’s driver’s seat provides outstanding range of adjustment, falling a ventilation function short of perfection. The front passenger’s seat is equally comfortable, and though it lacks a height adjuster, it doesn’t need one.
Rear seat occupants sit up tall with lots of leg room and generous thigh support, and my test car provided air vents to keep my kids cool during a hot August testing week during which we did not assess the heated rear seats. Given how appealing a big, roomy sedan is to parents with younger kids, manual side window shades sure would be swell.
Subaru has improved the Legacy’s trunk space, and it is easily able to accommodate luggage for a family of four on a family road trip. Struts and hinges support the trunk lid, a more complex design that saves space, but Subaru overlooked one simple but important thing. There’s no grip to use to shut the trunk in order to keep from getting your hands dirty on the outside of the lid.
2015 Subaru Legacy Review and Quick Spin: Features and Controls
Subaru’s new 7-inch Starlink infotainment technology gets an “A+” rating from me. The navigation map shows excellent levels of detail, the touch-sensitive buttons are responsive and don’t require constant stabbing at the screen, the menus make sense, and everything is intuitive and easy to use. Better yet, knobs control the stereo’s power, volume, and tuning functions. Best of all, this new screen is amazingly resistant to fingerprints. I literally needed to press down hard and swipe my fingertip across the screen in order to see any evidence of bodily secretions.
Subaru locates the buttons used to shut off the various safety features down low on the left side of the dashboard. On the one hand, this makes sense, as it discourages the driver with regard to turning them off. On the other hand, a determined driver will be quite distracted while trying to figure out where the right button is located and, in some cases, whether it is actually turned off.
Aside from this, the Legacy’s switchgear is logically laid out and looks and feels to be of high quality. The glove box and center console storage box are positively huge, lined with felt to quell vibrations. A covered bin forward of the shifter has a rubber lining to hold smartphones in place, and includes dual USB ports. The cup holders are big enough to handle oversized drinks, too. Well done, Subaru.
2015 Subaru Legacy Review and Quick Spin: Safety Matters
Built using what Subaru calls its ring-shaped reinforcement frame design, the new Legacy is almost certain to continue a long-standing tradition of providing superior crash protection to its occupants. Unfortunately, as this review is written, the new Legacy hasn’t been crash-tested, so I can’t confirm this prediction.
My test car’s EyeSight system included adaptive cruise control with pre-collision braking and a lane departure warning system. The latter proved generally adept at identifying lane drift, but sometimes didn’t. I was able to let the Legacy wander over a broken yellow center stripe while traveling 60 mph on a country farm road, and I put the car over a solid white bike lane marker while doing 45 mph on a suburban boulevard. I’ll admit that the system worked more often than not, but it’s no substitute for actually driving the car.
Subaru’s adaptive cruise control system is impressively refined, braking smoothly without tossing occupants against the seat belts and accelerating smoothly without lunging forward. What’s irritating is that the system sounds a beep when it acquires a vehicle ahead, and also when it loses acquisition of that vehicle. That’s fine on a straight highway, but on a curving coastal route the system beeps non-stop as the vehicle ahead keeps disappearing and re-appearing in EyeSight’s detection zone.
2015 Subaru Legacy Review and Quick Spin: Driving Impressions
Buy a Legacy 2.5i, and it’s got a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 175 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque. Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard, offering a 6-speed manual mode and paddle shifters, and every Legacy is equipped with an Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system including Active Torque Vectoring technology.
The EPA says this setup should produce 26 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg in combined driving. I got 23.4 mpg. Granted, I sat in nearly motionless traffic for 90 minutes one evening, but still, at no time during my weeklong test drive did I find this car getting what the EPA says it should, except maybe when coasting down a mountain grade.
Thankfully, the engine still emits its characteristic Subaru grumble, but now it is muffled to satisfy the masses. Subie purists might wish for a more visceral experience, but the average American isn’t all that interested in hearing and feeling powertrain vibration.
The Legacy’s engine is powerful enough – I passed slower moving traffic on a 2-lane road and suffered only minor heart palpitations – and I had no trouble maintaining speed while climbing mountains, but ultimately this motor lacks verve. It really needs a turbocharger in order to put a smile on the driver’s face.
Calibrated to feel like an automatic transmission to the greatest degree possible, the CVT doesn’t exhibit the slushy “gear changes” that some automakers program into such transmissions in order to make them feel more natural to the driver. In fact, on occasion, the “shifts” are too sharp, and sometimes the transmission demonstrates confusion about what it ought to be doing, just like a regular automatic. Choose the manual shift mode and use the paddle shifters if you want greater control over this behavior.
Quick-ratio, variable-effort steering feels heavy but accurate, with no dead, disconnected spots or weird oscillations in assist levels. It’s not as lively in the driver’s hands as what Ford installs in the Fusion, but doesn’t draw negative attention to itself no matter the driving situation. Also, though I thought they lacked bite early in pedal travel until I had put a few miles on the car, the Legacy’s 4-wheel, ventilated-disc brakes are excellent, performing exactly as expected.
Suspension tuning is firm and connected in city driving, perhaps too much so, yet allows excessive vertical body motion when taking pavement dips and rumples at higher speeds. Lateral roll is well controlled, though, the Legacy adopting a flat cornering stance and encouraging more speed than my test car’s squealing P225/50R18 Goodyear Eagle LS2 tires could handle.
The Legacy’s highway ride is secure and communicative, meaning you can pile on miles as long as you don’t mind the wind and road noise. Plus, outward visibility is truly extraordinary. Thin windshield pillars, a nice and tall driving position, big mirrors, and lots of glass contribute to an excellent view out.
Normally, I really enjoy driving Subarus, but something is missing here, a level of engagement and fun that the previous Legacy offered, especially in the now-discontinued Sport trim level. I genuinely enjoyed the Legacy Sport, and it effortlessly averaged 26.4 mpg, right in the neighborhood of its 27-mpg combined rating. Compared to that model, the new Legacy appears to be a dynamic step backward.
2015 Subaru Legacy Review and Quick Spin: Final Thoughts
Honestly, I’m not all that excited about the new 2015 Legacy, and so my usual yellow Subaru smiley face is wearing a cocked eyebrow and a perplexed expression after spending a week with a 2.5i Limited.
I’ll admit that this is a better car for the masses, even if it’s not as rewarding to drive or, apparently, as efficient with fuel. Certainly it is going to prove itself to be one of the safest models in its class, and it sure is roomy, comfortable, affordable, and ready to do battle with just about anything Mother Nature can muster. Plus, it’s genuinely attractive inside and out, something that was tough to say about last year’s Legacy, even the Sport model.
Still think I’d rather have that one, though. It was more fun, and had more personality.
Subaru provided the 2015 Legacy 2.5i Limited for this review
2015 Subaru Legacy Limited photos by Christian Wardlaw