Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 23, 2020
A perennial safe choice when it comes to mid-size sedans, the 2020 Subaru Legacy maintains the status quo with brand new looks, a shared platform with the Outback, and upgraded technology. Subaru knows the Legacy will be forever in the shadow of the more popular Forester and Outback, and it’s not like sedans are selling like hotcakes these days either, but that doesn’t stop them from keeping the fire going with this honest all-weather family sedan, and continuing the brawl against the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
Fully committed, the Legacy is offered with two engine choices. A naturally aspirated, horizontally-opposed, 2.5-litre four-cylinder sits on the bottom rung models (every trim except GT) and delivers a stout 182 hp through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Start stop comes standard, as does their symmetrical, full-time, all-wheel drive system, a staple of the Subaru stable. The Limited GT and Premier GT trims on the other hand offer a treat for enthusiasts pining for more power, as these GTs receive a more powerful turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder that produces a healthier 260 hp and 277 lb-ft instead, not enough to match the 301-hp Camry V6 but just a tick over the 250-hp output from the Accord 2.0t.
We’ve tested this turbo-four before in the three-row Ascent but no matter where you put it, straight line speed was never in this motor’s playbook. Rather, a quiet, comfortable, and unassuming ride is its mojo, if the somewhat bland looks already didn’t give it away. When even a Camry looks more striking and distinctive, you know you have a problem. You'll never spot a new Legacy and drop dead in your tracks, nor would you ever be able to distinguish this 2020 model from all its prior iterations. Its soft lines, gentle hood creases, and hexagonal grill scream Subaru but never scream attention. But I don’t think Subaru, or their customers, mind one bit. Subtlety is its charm.
The Legacy Premier GT that we tested will sprint from 0-100 km/h in just over six seconds, but we did experience some lag in the low-revs. We also noticed some hiccups and hesitation under hard acceleration. It feels more like a transmission software issue than anything else. And the start stop system is anything but smooth, violently shaking the car the moment the engine decides to wake up, like it’s also trying to wake you up too.
Otherwise, the GT offers a gentle build up to peak torque. The added thrust is nice but a part of me still prefers the more linear free-breathing 2.5-litre instead. It’s supposed to be the more economical power plant of the bunch, and comes in the more affordable trims as well. No matter the engine, the CVT still remains polished and operates much quieter than before. It used to burst your ears with a typical CVT sonic abrasion but here, even at wide open throttle, goes softer and more unnoticed. Still, the thin walls and exterior panels mean that a lot of unwanted noise ends up seeping into the cabin, most notably tire noise that constantly rumbles as you pass over pockmarked roads.
Out on the open road, our Legacy GT Premier delivered exactly as advertised: a smooth and compliant ride. The Legacy rides on a new and more rigid platform, allowing it to handle better but even with its standard brake-based torque vectoring feature and AWD grip, the Legacy lacks the sharpness of an Accord, but is undoubtedly harder edged than the Camry. It’s albeit reserved ride and soggy handling benefits the type of driver who doesn’t take driving too seriously. We also achieved some mighty fuel consumption numbers, with an equal mix of highway and city driving netting us an average of 8.9 L/100kms. Impressive for a turbocharged motor permanently driving all four wheels.
Subaru calls the Legacy the SUV of sedans. We aren’t really sure what that means, but we assume it has something to do with its spacious cabin and excellent outward visibility. My six-foot figure finds ample room in any one of the five available seats, and the rear exceptionally stands out with good headroom and legroom. It’s not mind-blowing but just about on par with rivaling mid-sizers. Signature of Subarus, A-pillars and B-pillars are thin and lead to minimal blind spots. Even with the small sunroof, a great deal of natural light pours into the cabin, amplifying the sense of spaciousness. Subaru has also installed their entire EyeSight safety suite that includes adaptive cruise control and lane centering assist, even on the base Legacy model.
There’s nothing exactly upscale with its clean and straightforward design, but the interior remains ergonomically sound and the two-tone brown and black design looks great. Soft plastic is still the name of the game but it’s cleverly dressed up, and our Premier model came with luxury garnish in the form of nappa leather wrapping most of the high-traffic surfaces. The steering wheel is bulky but feels sporty under grip, with all the buttons you need within a thumb’s reach. The dashboard is clean though the gear shifter slightly intrudes on the cubby behind it, and would highly benefit from a passthrough under the console like in Volvos. Still, we appreciate the little mail slot-like alcove on the passenger side dash, giving them room to store miscellaneous items like their phone or wallet. Trust me, this makes all the difference on lengthy road trips.
The massive 11.6-inch center touchscreen offers some visual flourish and is cleanly integrated into the center stack rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s vertically oriented in portrait mode as well, just like the Ford Explorer and RAM 1500, but no matter how often I try to get accustomed to it, I still prefer a horizontally arranged screen instead, which is available on the base Convenience model but is only 7.0-inches and quite dinky by comparison. No matter, the unit is friendly to use, doesn’t wash out easily under heavy sunlight, and comes with actual buttons flanking the sides and bottom for highly used functions, like the volume and temperature control. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the entire model lineup, and we really liked how it only takes up a section of the screen, much like it does on Volvos, rather than replacing the entire screen and rendering other in-car features moot and out of quick reach. Here, you can utilize your phone’s apps but still have the top and bottom sections of the screen for shortcuts to navigation and your miscellaneous settings.
The Legacy might not be a household name like the Accord or Camry, but it similarly offers a no-frills approach to driving with no drama or surprises, and that’s exactly what some people are looking for. The understated sheetmetal and attractive price tag go hand in hand with that outlook, and the new turbo motor offers some much-wanted straight line prowess. Fact of the matter is, the Legacy is not an emotionally stimulating automotive appliance, but it’s better to think of it as a well-done steak. The meat is uniformly brown, it’s clearly not as tender or as tasty as a medium rare sizzle, but it’s still a steak, with the same amount of protein, and you can trust that you won’t have an episode of viral gastroenteritis after. The Legacy doesn’t wow us, but we didn’t expect it to either. It’s not the tastiest dish on the menu, but it’s one of the safest. With that in mind, the Legacy continues to maintain its status quo as a dependable all-weather family sedan, now with more compliant road manners and subtle but positive tweaks to its interior design.
Model: 2020 Subaru Legacy Premier GT
Paint Type: Abyss Blue Pearl
Base Price: $39,095
Price as Tested: $39,095
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,840 / 1,897 / 1,500
Curb weight (kg): 1,719
Engine: 2.4-litre turbocharged flat-four
Horsepower: 260 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 277 lb-ft @ 2,000 - 4,800 rpm
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 9.9 / 7.3
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.9