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Review of the 2016 Subaru Legacy: Trying to live up to its name

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On: Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 3:34PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2016 Subaru Legacy: Trying to live up to its name

The world of midsize sedans is a brutal market to compete in. The big champs of the segment are the Camry and the Accord, who trade blows year after year battling for supremacy of the heavyweight sales division. But, aside from those perennial all-stars, there are some other competitors that have been trying to make their mark against those bruisers for some time. Known mostly for their all-wheel drive systems, and their rally-inspired WRX models, Subaru has been trying to establish itself as more than just a boy-racer brand in recent years. The model in center stage of those attempts is their midsize model, the Legacy.

With promises of love and safety, Subaru has tried to leverage emotion and family as their angle to grasp a foothold in the eyes and wallets of consumers. The 2016 Legacy has plenty to offer to be competitive with the big boys. There are four model types to choose from, but, when it comes down to it, there are really only two: The 2.5i and the 3.6R; the other models are simply variations on the 2.5i.

The base model is the 2.5i that starts at $21,745; it offers very simple options, basic standard features like power door locks, power windows, Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive, vehicle dynamics control, and even Bluetooth. For 2015 Subaru made not only its all-wheel drive standard, it also has its brake-based active torque-vectoring which reduces understeer by automaticallybraking the inside front wheel on tight turns. The next model up the ladder is the 2.5i Premium, which for $23,495 adds in 10-way power seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The top of the line 2.5i is the Limited, which at $26,495 comes standard with leather-trimmed upholstery, heated driver and passenger seats, a 440-watt Harman Kardon stereo system, and, for about another $1,200, offers an optional driver assist package called EyeSight. This feature uses twin windshield-mounted cameras to make safety features like blind-spot detection, pre-collision warning, lane-change assist, and adaptive cruise control work effectively. All 2.5i models come with the same (you guessed it) 2.5-liter DOHC flat-4-cylinder engine that produces a modest 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. The top-of-the-line Legacy is the 3.6R Limited. This is the model to have if you can afford it, not because it comes with all the features of the 2.5i Limited plus dual-zone automatic cruise-control, but because of the upgraded 3.6-liter DOHC flat-6 that produces a much healthier 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque, which gives the Legacy some teeth to fight with.

In terms of performance, the Legacy, unfortunately, is anything but legendary. It seems the two versions of the car trade performance categories to excel at. The 2.5i models are simply pitiful when it comes to acceleration. 0–60 mph takes a abysmal 9.2 seconds while the quarter mile crawls by in a Prius-like 17.0 seconds flat @ 84.9 mph. By contrast the 3.6R runs to 60 mph in a passable 7.0 seconds and through the quarter in 15.3 seconds @ 96.5 mph. The 2.5i brakes from 60–0 mph in 120 feet while the 3.6R takes three feet longer. Lateral acceleration in the 2.5i comes in at 0.83g versus a lesser 0.76g for the 3.6R. It seems the 3.6R, while it does sport and additional two cylinders and 81 horsepower, all that power comes at the cost of an additional two hundred pounds—3,508 pounds versus 3,720 pounds for the 2.5i and 3.6R respectively. Both cars have the same weight distribution at 59/41% front/rear bias. Fuel mileage also favors the smaller-engined 2.5i, posting a 26/36/30 city/highway/combined mpg while the 3.6R comes in at 20/29/23.

In terms of styling, the Legacy's interior feels sporty, but very budget-minded. The plastic bits cheapen the experience that the supportive seats and colorful gauge-cluster seem to promise. The infotainment system is easy enough to operate, as is the HVAC system, even though all of the dash pieces don't necessarily looks as if they were meant to fit together. The exterior of the Legacy looks as if its main goal was to simply not offend anyone. In previous generations, the Legacy stood out at least as having a distinguished character, even if it was polarizing. Now, you would have to concentrate for a few seconds to tell which car was which in an Accord-Camry-Legacy lineup. This could be considered a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your stance on stylistic integrity. If the leaders are having success, then mimicking them probably isn't a bad idea; on the other hand, if you mimic them, then what reason does anyone have to buy your car and not just go for the original? The biggest drawback to the Legacy in terms of its driving experience is, by far, the transmission. The CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) is the only choice for the Legacy, and does not perform, it merely shifts at reasonably appropriate times. Its performance, or lack thereof, can be exhibited by its frustrating acceleration numbers. There used to be a manual transmission option for the 2.5i, but that is no more. If we had one bit of advice, it would be to change up the transmission options for future models.

The 2016 Legacy is not without it faults. It has plenty of them, but aside from the bland styling, this car does everything fairly well. It is a middle of the pack runner that doesn't stand out, but we aren't completely sure that wasn't the goal Subaru had in mind for this car. The biggest draw the Legacy has is what it came to the table with in the first place—all-wheel drive. That is something that sets the Subbie outside of the norm, and perhaps that, combined with a bit more risque styling, and a better transmission, may give future Legacy models enough to take over from the two tyrannical midsize monsters from Japan, and may just create a (wait for it…) Legacy worth telling the world about.

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