2017 Subaru Legacy Road Test Review

2017 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited Road Test Review


Intelligent upgrades make mid-size Subaru better than ever


Subaru isn't the type of brand that whimsically tweaks styling details every couple of years to woo fickle buyers, which is probably one reason its resale values stay so strong. Instead it understands such change for the sake of change costs money that inevitably needs to be passed onto consumers, leaving less investment for real value-added improvements.  

Truly useful enhancements made last year included more reactive steering with better feel, new wiper-linked auto on/off headlights, and rearview camera parking guide customization across the line, while Subaru's optional EyeSight active safety system, which comes as part of the Legacy's Technology package, was upgraded to include lane keeping assist. Additionally, the Limited model's larger seven-inch infotainment touchscreen was enhanced for Siri compatibility, plus SiriusXM advanced audio features, Traffic and Travel Link capability, while access to the Subaru map update program was added.  


The Japanese brand have kept upgrades coming for 2017 too, with enhanced driver assist technologies, additional comfort and convenience features, plus a new trim: the 2.5i Sport with Technology Package, which at $30,395 sits between three lesser trims including the $23,459 base model and $26,595 Touring, and the $31,395 Limited above.  

Specifically, all 2017 Legacy trims get a more powerful cranking battery to improve low temperature starts, while Touring models now incorporate a downgraded version of the Limited's seven-inch capacitive touchscreen, albeit still a notch above the base 6.2-inch display, thanks to dual USB ports and SMS text messaging. Both systems include Subaru's new Starlink smartphone integration along with its own dedicated apps, Aha radio, iPod control, and more, while all of the Legacy's infotainment systems now get HD radio, and support SiriusXM features just mentioned. Lastly, Limited models now come standard with a heatable steering wheel.  

The new Sport with Technology Package can only be had with the smaller 2.5i engine, capable of 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, whereas the 3.6R produces a much more substantive 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. Before you start thinking the bigger six is the only way to go, I've driven many Subarus with the 2.5i, even the larger and heavier Outback, and found it plenty responsive while also appreciating its excellent 7.7 L/100km city/highway combined fuel economy and ultra-clean available PZEV emissions, this even more impressive when factoring in its standard AWD. Still, considering its added performance, the 3.6R's 9.9 combined rating is very good, no doubt partly due to the thrifty continuously variable transmissions (CVT) conjoined to these engines.  

You can get the base and first-rung of Touring models with a six-speed manual, but the CVT is prerequisite with all other trims. Important to note, Subaru's CVT feels more similar to conventional automatics than most others in the class, with stepped "gear" changes and steering wheel-mounted paddles to maximize performance.  


Incidentally, the new Sport with Technology trim level adds dark titanium, satin-silver and gloss black where chrome normally goes, 18-inch wheels in a sportier five-spoke design, side sill extensions, and two-tone grey sport fabric upholstery with blue stitching inside, plus blue, black and silver thread elsewhere around the cabin.  

That model's now standard Technology Package is the same as offered with other trims, including proximity access, pushbutton ignition, a five-inch colour multi-info display, cornering fog lamps, and EyeSight, Subaru's advanced autonomous emergency avoidance system that utilizes a pair of cameras to detect potential problems ahead and reacts via pre-collision brake assist and throttle management. Additional EyeSight features include auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, and reverse auto braking, much of which qualifies the car for IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus status, while all trims received five stars in every NHTSA crash test category.  


Other than a "STARLINK" animated graphic that initiates the infotainment system when turned on, Legacy owners with 2015 or newer models should feel right at home as the upgraded system incorporates an identical design with the same map, audio, phone, apps, info, and settings functions. The apps section now includes unique internet-sourced Starlink features, however, including news, food, weather, music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other multimedia content, while there's also a free downloadable app for your iOS or Android smartphone. Even bigger news than Starlink, per se, is Subaru's choice of making the 6.2-inch display a standard feature on the base Legacy.  

As for the rest of the car, it seems built to a higher standard than most others in the class, especially noticeable when closing the doors, tapping its various surfaces, folding its 60/40-split seatbacks to expand its already sizeable 425-litre cargo hold, and closing its trunk lid. Likewise its interior trim is higher in grade than some rivals, the woodgrain, for instance, feeling denser and therefore more genuine, while the A-pillars are even wrapped in fabric. Subaru also surfaces the dash top, most of the instrument panel, and door uppers in pliable synthetic, while the door inserts and armrests are finished in padded leatherette, perforated for the former and contrast-stitched on the latter. The leather seats also feature perforated inserts, and they're comfortable and supportive in all positions, the rearmost offering a full eight inches of space ahead of my knees when the driver's seat was set for my five-foot-eight height, plus about three inches above my head, so taller folk should fit in just fine, while up front I found its ergonomics first-rate with ample seat and steering adjustability.  


On the road, I couldn't help but notice the Legacy's superb ride quality. It rolls along effortlessly, the Limited model's upgraded Stablex ride control dampers no doubt assisting the car's standard fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension setup over poor pavement, not to mention giving the Legacy excellent balance and control when pushed hard. Its 3.6-litre boxer certainly moved things along when prodded, and as noted the CVT's six gear increments worked nicely. The paddles held engine revs when downshifting, adding a nice element of driver engagement, while the larger engine delivers strong highway passing power and, thanks to its adept suspension and the brand's legendary symmetrical all-wheel drive, is a pleasure to snake through a canyon pass, no matter the weather. Truly, it holds its own respectably when compared to other mid-size family sedans.  

On that note, the Legacy's 2015 redesign ushered in a new standard AWD configuration that works in concert with brake-based active torque-vectoring, which slows the inside front wheel to sharpen turn-in and minimize understeer (or outward "push" at the front wheels). It's totally user-friendly, its electronics and mechanicals doing all the work on your behalf, while Vehicle Dynamics Control with lateral-g and yaw-rate sensors help maintain stability in nearly any situation.  

It's quiet too, Subaru obviously expending a lot of energy on sound deadening in this Limited model, which made its standard 576-watt 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system all the more enjoyable.  

Notable features grandfathered up to Limited trim from lesser varieties include fog lamps, a windshield de-icer, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, auto on/off headlights, an electromechanical parking brake, powered heatable auto-dimming side mirrors with integrated turn signals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a backup camera, dual-zone auto HVAC, heatable front seats, a powered moonroof, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more.  


Additional Limited features not yet mentioned include HID headlights, enhanced interior trim, electroluminescent gauges, navigation, a garage door opener, a 10-way powered driver's seat with memory, a four-way powered passenger seat, heatable rear seats, and rear vents, all for just $35,895 plus freight and fees, which I might add is only $500 more than the 2015 model despite the many upgrades since, not to mention our downgraded dollar.  

How times change, which makes it all the more comforting that some things don't. All-wheel drive and top-tier safety aside, Subaru quality is probably the brand's most salable asset. It was the top-rated volume brand in Consumer Reports' 2016 report card on reliability, while the Forester and Outback models (the latter basically the same car as the Legacy) swept AutoPacific's 2016 Ideal Vehicle Awards. Also notable, Consumer Reports gave last year's Legacy the second highest score amongst mid-size sedans.  

In summary, the Legacy is a very well built, luxuriously finished, comfortable driving, impressive performing mid-size sedan that's extremely well-featured in top-line Limited trim, while standard Symmetrical AWD and as-tested EyeSight technologies deliver a rare level of premium-like safety within its volume-branded class. As you probably can appreciate after reading this review, it's easy to recommend the Legacy over many of its less capable competitors.  


Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press  

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press  

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.
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