Don’t judge this mid-size Subaru by its cover.
The Subaru Legacy isn't quite the quirky outlier it used to be. There's no more wagon option, no more flat-six, and it doesn't look anywhere near as interesting as some of its predecessors, what with their wild wings and hood scoops. But in an ultra-competitive segment dominated by heavyweight sedans like the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and many more, the new Legacy brings a number of unique features to the already crowded table.
Having the largest infotainment screen in the class is a good start; the massive 11.6-inch vertical screen beats everything else. But the Legacy's bevy of standard active safety equipment, standard all-wheel drive, and impressive turbocharged engine only sweeten the pot – not to mention Subaru's mid-size sedan has the lowest starting price of the bunch.
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The base Subaru Legacy looks bland, and our “sporty” XT tester doesn't do the boring design any favors. The angular, smoked light fixtures; black trim pieces; and 18-inch directional wheels (exclusive to the XT) make the otherwise innocuous styling look too busy. Even with the optional XT trim, we think the Legacy is one of the least interesting designs in the class.
At least its cabin is much nicer. Our fully loaded Legacy Limited wears a high-quality Warm Ivory leather finish on the seats and sections of the dash, and nicer soft black plastic elsewhere. The overall fit and finish is sublime – the only thing detracting from the general styling is the piano black plastic surround atop the 11.6-inch central touchscreen. It looks cheap and attracts tons of fingerprints. But that's not uncommon for the segment.
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The Subaru Legacy has one of the most comfortable cabins in the class, if you go with the Limited trim. This trim level’s 10-way electronic driver's seat is soft, well-bolstered, and even offers adjustable lumbar support, while the front passenger gets an eight-way electronically adjustable seat that's nearly as comfortable (but lacks lumbar support). Driver ergonomics are fantastic, wind and tire noise is virtually non-existent, and both front buckets come heated with a standard leather finish – and it’s the high-quality stuff. The base Legacy and Legacy Premium, meanwhile, only get cloth.
With a capacious 37.3 inches of front headroom, 42.8 inches of front legroom, and 58.1 inches of front shoulder room, the Legacy ranks near the top of the class in overall front passenger space. It offers more than enough room for your six-foot author to sit comfortably over long stretches. The Legacy's rear bench, meanwhile, is soft and heated too, and also offers plenty of headroom and legroom. But it ranks below the Toyota Camry in most rear dimension figures. Also, the 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space is average for the class.
The Subaru Legacy has the largest infotainment screen among its competitors. The 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen on our tester (standard on all but the base model) has a clear, concise home menu with color-coordinated buttons. It also responds quickly to inputs and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity at no extra cost. Subaru’s new system is a fantastic setup with tons of configurable options, and not just for the class. It’s rivaled only by Ram’s 12.0-inch Uconnect or the 15.0-inch screen in the Tesla Model 3 across all segments.
But like many infotainment systems that move most of their controls onscreen (including the ones mentioned), Subaru's setup can be difficult to use while driving. Simple functions like adjusting fan speed or turning on the heated seats are hard to locate without looking. Hint: both are at the bottom of the screen, buried beneath the main settings up top. At least there are still volume and tuning knobs. Other features include a premium Harman Kardon audio system, which is standard only on the Limited model, and an optional wireless charger ($245).
The Legacy comes with a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, good for 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. But our Limited XT tester sports the optional turbocharged 2.4-liter engine, which produces 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. More power and enhanced XT visuals, though, don't make the Legacy a sports sedan. Not even close.
The Legacy has a sponge-like suspension, overboosted steering, and a continuously variable transmission that’s inoffensive, at best. While you certainly won't be carving up corners in this car, those characteristics do make for a supremely comfortable driving experience. And like all Subaru models (outside of the BRZ), symmetrical all-wheel drive comes standard. The Legacy is the only car in its class with standard all-wheel-drive (both the Altima and Camry offer this as a paid extra), and it gives the Subaru a leg-up in that respect.
Every Legacy comes standard with Subaru's EyeSight safety technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist. And it all works pretty flawlessly on-road. Most competitors though, like the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry, offer the same or similar equipment standard. In terms of crash ratings, Legacy is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus, joined only by the Mazda6 and Toyota Camry in the segment.
Our tester also gets the optional DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation system, which uses an infrared camera to monitor driver alertness; the system alerts you with a sound if it senses the driver becoming drowsy or not looking at the road. It's a useful option, but if anything, it’s overly sensitive.
The Legacy XT with the optional turbocharged 2.4-liter engine achieves just 24 miles per gallon city, 32 highway, and 27 combined. It isn't the most efficient car in the class, but remember: all-wheel-drive cars generally consume more than their two-wheel-drive counterparts. The non-hybrid, front-wheel-drive Hyundai Sonata with the optional turbocharged 1.5-liter engine gets 31 mpg combined, the same Nissan Altima with its optional turbocharged 2.0-liter gets 29 mpg combined, and the Honda Accord with the optional 2.0-liter engine matches the Legacy with 27 mpg combined. But, the Legacy does best the V6 Camry (26 mpg).
Of its all-wheel-drive alternatives, even, the Legacy's optional 2.4-liter engine is the least efficient of the group. The all-wheel-drive Altima achieves 29 mpg combined, and the Camry with the same setup earns as much as 28 mpg combined.
The story is quite the opposite, though, with the Legacy's less-powerful 2.5-liter engine, which actually returns the best fuel economy for an all-wheel-drive car in this class: 27 mpg city, 35 highway, and 30 combined.
At $22,745 to start, the base Subaru Legacy is the most affordable car in its class, which is incredible considering that all-wheel drive comes standard. Also, it’s one of the only mid-size sedans to include a full suite of active safety equipment at no extra cost. Things do start to get pricey, though, once you start moving up the range – the Legacy has six different trims to choose from.
Our tester, a Legacy Limited XT with no options, costs $35,095 (including $995 destination and delivery fees). It’s the second priciest Legacy to start, surpassed only by the Touring XT ($35,895 to start). By comparison, the Accord EX-L with the optional engine starts at $32,420, the Altima Platinum with the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter costs $35,180, and the Camry XSE with the V6 costs $35,130.
Gallery: 2020 Subaru Legacy XT: Review
2020 Subaru Legacy Limited XT