There are a lot of Subarus in the Pacific Northwest. There is a lot of rain in the Pacific Northwest. Coincidence? I think not. All Subarus come with the company's famous all-wheel drive—great for the area's rain-slicked roads and snow-covered mountain passes.
The newly redesigned 2010 Legacy offers more interior room, more MPGs, and more features and options. The Legacy can be had with your choice of three engine, three trim levels, and three transmissions, and you can mix and match most of the features to get the car that you want. Choice is good, right?
My review subject was the 2.5i Limited. AKA, the 170 hp engine (the least powerful, highest mileage option) with the top-of-the line trim level. A good combination for someone looking for optimal MPGs, all the gadgets, and even a touch of luxury. Think of the 2.5i Limited as “frugality plus.” This isn't the model for those looking for ultra-rapid transit; these people will want the turbocharged 2.5GT or 3.6R models. Rather, this is the version for those more concerned with thrift than thrust. The Legacy 2.5i Limited starts at $24,995; my test vehicle was about $29,000. I consider this to be a reasonable price for a sedan with so many tech features, a bit of luxury, and AWD.
The Legacy 2.5i's non-turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four engine crates 170 hp and 170 ft./lbs. of torque. In my case, the engine was mated to Subaru's Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). This combination returns a very respectable EPA MPG rating of 23 city/31 highway—quite an achievement for an AWD vehicle weighing 3,451 lbs. The CVT also includes steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters if the driver cares to manually select six speeds instead of putting the car in “D.”
I found this combination to yield adequate acceleration; speed demons will want to opt for the turbocharged 2.5GT instead. However, my 2.5i did return 25 MPG in mixed driving.
One thing the Legacy—and all other Subarus have—is tenacious grip. The all-wheel-drive system coupled with 17-inch alloy wheels and Bridgestone Turanza tires made the car stick to the road, wet or dry. Traction was not an issue.
A DEFINING EXTERIOR DESIGN
The Legacy's new shape maintains Subaru's nonconformity. Although perhaps not revolutionary, the Legacy does not look like every other sedan on the streets. Its rounded off corners, accentuated wheel arches, and low-slung side skirts are defining, as are the upturning headlights.
The styling does seem polarizing: Some people I talked to thought it looked very upscale, almost Lexus like, while others thought it looked a bit bulbous. Unique? Yes. For everyone? Nope. Then again, Subaru's styling has never been for everyone.
LOTS OF INTERIOR FEATURES
The Limited trim level makes for a very well-appointed Legacy. The heated front leather seats are very comfortable, and were great on my 200 mile road trip to and from The Dalles, Oregon. The back seat is also comfy, and offers good leg room. The trunk is huge, easily gulping my bulky paper towel and toilet paper purchase at Costco.
There are tech gadgets aplenty: Navigation, Bluetooth, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, electric parking brake, rear vision camera, and USB port with iPod integration. The Limited trim level also includes an outstanding nine speaker 440-watt harmon/kardon stereo. Plus, the system's USB port offered one of the better iPod integrations I've used. (There's also an auxiliary input.) Another great feature? The USB and auxiliary inputs are located in the center armrest, hidden away from potential thieves. Nice touch!
The stereo and navigation are combined into one touch screen, which does have a learning curve. There were a couple of very frustrating times where I could not get the GPS to shut it's digital mouth. Frankly, it isn't completely intuitive to use, so buyers will want to familiarize themselves with the unit before heading down the road. In addition, the automatic climate control requires a bit of time to become familiar with. However, both worked well once you got the hang of them.
One thing I didn't get the hang of was the car's Bluetooth system. No matter what I did, I couldn't seem to get it to do what I wanted. Voice commands, calling features, you name it. Probably a bit steeper learning curve on this feature.
Two of my favorite features on this car were the rear vision camera, which was great for parking; and the electric parking brake. Simply press a rectangular to set the brake, and pull it from behind to disengage. Plus, the Legacy had a hill-holder mode. When you press the button to activate the feature (which can can leave on all the time), the car automatically puts the parking brake on when on an incline of more than 5% grade. When you press the accelerator, it disengages.
The Legacy 2.5i offers adequate acceleration, and passing was never a problem. The car rides nicely on both city streets and highways; it always felt solid and surefooted. The steering is taught and precise, with suspension towards the upper end of the soft spectrum—what you'd expect from the non-GT model, though. This makes Interstate cruising a comfortable endeavor, and lessens the blows from potholes around town. If I had to describe the ride in one word, I'd say: comfortable, yet firm, but not too firm, and not too soft. OK, so that's 11 words.