The Subaru Legacy occupies an interesting niche in the mid-size sedan market. Features such as standard all-wheel drive give it somewhat of a premium position, but its pricing and its range of drivetrains allow it to appeal to cost-conscious shoppers as well. This unique identity has helped the Legacy forge a strong bond with its current ownership base, as well as attract curious shoppers willing to part with the more anonymous personalities of their Camrys and Accords.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited represents the top-of-the-line edition of Subaru's sedan flagship, and it also incorporates some new safety technologies and revised styling for the current model year.
Ostensibly, the 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited goes up against high-spec editions of its mid-size sedan competitors from Japan, Korea, and the United States. The presence of all-wheel drive across the board narrows things down, however, to those automobiles that also provide this feature - especially for new car buyers living in the snow belt where extra traction is always at a premium. This means that the Legacy 3.6R Limited is cross-shopped with the Ford Fusion, the more expensive Volvo S60, and to those who are actually aware of its existence, the Suzuki Kizashi. Of course the sheer power of the Toyota and Honda hegemony will mean at least one trip to either or both of these rival showrooms, but so much of the Legacy's appeal is locked up in its all-wheel drive capability.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited is the most expensive edition of the Legacy sedan, which starts at an MSRP of $20,295. The Legacy 3.6R Limited checks in at an MSRP of $28,895. We drove a Canadian-spec version of the vehicle, and although trim levels differ slightly between the two countries adding the respective options to make a U.S. model the equivalent would boost the car's MSRP to $33,605.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited, like all models in the Legacy lineup, has been given an updated look compared to the previous edition of the car. Up front, the Subaru sedan now offers a slightly more hawkish visage that includes fresh headlights, a revised bumper, and a grille that frames the Subaru logo between two bars of chrome. There's no significant departure from the somewhat blocky angles and flared fenders that have defined this generation of the mid-size automobile, but the overall effect of the change is to give the Legacy a sportier look, which is an important move in an area of the market that tends towards blandness.
From the rear the 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited is somewhat more in keeping with what one would expect from a family sedan. Dual exhaust tips peek out from under the back bumper, the recessed trunk lid offers a continuation of the wrap-around brake lights, and the rear glass slopes to the point where the short cargo area adopts an almost hatchback-like appearance.
The changes made to the 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited are even more subtle on the inside. The backlighting for the vehicle's instrument cluster has been changed and new wood trim is also available, but those are essentially the only real difference diehard fans of the brand will notice when slipping behind the wheel of the sedan. Our Legacy tester was equipped with the new Eyesight system, which introduces two bulging camera housings located on either side of the rearview mirror - an impossible-to-ignore feature that we will discuss in detail in the Driving Impressions section of this review.
For the most part, the Legacy's passenger compartment is a model of friendly ergonomics and function-first design. The steering wheel-mounted buttons for the stereo system and cruise control are simple and effective, the dashboard gauges are easy to read, and the center stack's accumulation of stereo, navigation, and HVAC controls are arranged in a logical fashion.
Where we took issue with the Subaru Legacy's trim had to do with a certain low-spec feel of the materials used as accents on the dash and the center console. Perhaps we are splitting hairs, but the polished-metal look didn't translate as upscale and felt less solid to the touch than we would have liked. This is a minor complaint, but in the top-tier trim level we expected more from the Legacy.
From a comfort perspective we were pleased with the 3.6R Limited's heated leather seats up front, as they offered excellent support and good adjustability. Riders in the rear of the sedan were afforded copious amounts of legroom, which was a pleasant surprise from a sedan that honestly doesn't appear all that large from the outside. The vehicle's trunk was likewise also generous in its dimensions and eagerly swallowed as many bags of groceries as we could throw its way.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy comes with two engine choices. The entry-level mill is a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder unit that is good for 173 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but achieving the vehicle's maximum fuel economy figures of 24-mpg city and 32-mpg highway requires its optional continuously-variable automatic.
Our Legacy 3.6R Limited was outfitted with the sedan's 3.6-liter six-cylinder which develops 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic gearbox handles the gear shifting duties for this motor, and fuel mileage checks in at 18-mpg city and 25-mpg highway. All-wheel drive is included free of charge with every version of the Legacy.
We didn't get the chance to spend that much time behind the wheel of the 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited, but the miles that were able to clock had us suitably impressed. The 3.6R Limited's six-cylinder engine adds a certain quickness to the somewhat heavy sedan that makes it easy to maneuver through traffic, and while not exactly a sporty ride the traction provided by the standard all-wheel drive keeps the Legacy surefooted without introducing too much understeer in the corners. We also enjoyed the solidity that all-wheel drive introduces to the Legacy's steering feel, which has become somewhat of a Subaru trademark. Yes, the five-speed automatic transmission could use an additional cog in order to improve fuel mileage, but it turns in a more than adequate performance whether cruising through traffic or being asked to rapidly downshift to shoot forward with a burst of acceleration.
One feature that we did make sure to test out to its fullest regardless of how brief our encounter was with the Legacy was the new Subaru Eyesight system. As we mentioned earlier, Subaru Eyesight makes use of a pair of stereoscopic cameras that are mounted at the very top of the windshield on either side of the vehicle's rearview mirror. Eyesight is so far only available on the Limited trim levels of the Legacy and the Subaru Outback, but it should eventually spread throughout the rest of the automaker's lineup.
How does it work? Subaru Eyesight is essentially a less expensive replacement for sonar and radar-based safety and adaptive cruise control systems. Instead of using these more exotic technologies, the Legacy's Eyesight feature relies on interpreting the stereoscopic video image fed to it by its pair of cameras and using that to develop a complete picture of the road ahead.
What is Eyesight used for? Essentially, Subaru Eyesight is integrated into almost every aspect of the Legacy's driving experience. At low speeds of roughly 20 miles per hour or less Eyesight acts as a pedestrian detection and collision avoidance system, alerting the driver via a warning on the LCD information screen located directly behind the steering wheel as well as sounding an audible chime if an impending impact is detected. The Eyesight system is also capable of automatically applying the brakes in addition to reducing throttle inputs, in some cases bringing the car to a complete halt to prevent an accident.
Eyesight also offers a number of other useful safety and convenience functions. On the highway Subaru Eyesight works like a conventional adaptive cruise control system, maintaining a specified gap between the Legacy and the vehicle ahead of it by adjusting the automobile's speed according to traffic flow. Lane departure warning is also in the system's repertoire, as is a feature that can automatically detect whether the vehicle ahead of you at a stoplight has moved through the intersection after the light has turned green - providing drivers with a chime to indicate that they, too, need to get a move on. Think of it as a quieter version of the car-stuck-behind-you's horn.
In each of the above-described scenarios, Eyesight worked exactly as advertised. We were particularly enamored of the 'get going' prompt when we were caught day-dreaming at a traffic signal, and although we found the lane departure warning system somewhat intrusive around town, we were told that eventually Eyesight can learn an individual driver's style and cease its warnings for driving too close to the center or outside lines (without crossing them, of course). The system was also quite effective at letting us know when we were accelerating towards an automobile that was in the process of braking, although we never quite got up the nerve to push it to the limit and find out exactly when it would cut off the Legacy's throttle.
There's no question that the bulging CCD cameras mounted inside the Legacy's cabin were somewhat ungainly and definitely unusual. However, Subaru states that keeping the cameras behind the windshield reduces the chances of them becoming damaged during normal driving, unlike a bumper-mounted system. Future implementations will undoubtedly shrink in size, but for now, it's hard to argue with the results - and the cost savings - associated with the Eyesight feature.
In addition to the Subaru Eyesight system, the 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited also comes with a number of other safety features designed to keep occupants safe in the event of a collision - as well as prevent that accident from ever occurring. Like most sedans the Legacy provides electronic stability control and traction control, but it also offers dual forward airbags, side-impact airbags for those riding up front, and side curtain airbags that extend along either side of the vehicle's passenger compartment. Standard all-wheel drive gives the Legacy an additional traction advantage in inclement weather.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited is a very competent mid-size automobile that leverages all-wheel drive, unique styling, and good interior room to appeal to the subset of buyers who simply aren’t interested in joining the herd of buyers flocking to the usual Japanese family sedan suspects. The Eyesight system is a welcome feature that is seldom seen outside of a premium automobile, and one that should further enhance Subaru's reputation for building safe cars.
We were happy with the six-cylinder engine's power, but we also understand that the sub-par fuel mileage offered by the 3.6R Limited trim is going to keep some customers away and instead drive them to the four-cylinder model - or out the door. With several mid-size competitors moving to an all-four-cylinder lineup, and with Subaru eliminating its turbocharged four-banger from the 2013 options list, the 3.6R Limited comes across as somewhat of an anachronism - one that is pleasant to drive, but one which could benefit from an engineering effort to improve fuel mileage to the point where it is at least competitive.