The new, fully redesigned 2010 Subaru Legacy is a stylistic departure from its predecessors, to put it mildly. Its steroidal fender flares are equal parts Mercedes-Benz S-Class and J.C. Whitney, and its large headlights and slablike front end wouldn't look out of place on a crossover SUV. While previous Legacy shapes ranged from inoffensive to downright sleek, this one is a bit more controversial. We hope consumers will warm to the Legacy's new skin, though, because underneath, there's a lot to like about Subaru's heavily updated midsize sedan.
As expected, every 2010 Legacy comes standard with all-wheel drive, a feature that has helped to make Subaru a fixture in America's snowbelt. Also expected are the Legacy's significantly expanded dimensions, as the previous model was hampered by its relatively tight cabin. Following in the footsteps of the Honda Accord and Mazda 6, both of which plumped out with their latest redesigns, the new Legacy gains 3.3 inches in height, 3.5 inches in width and 3.2 inches of wheelbase compared to the 2009 Legacy. On the inside, this yields substantial gains in head-, shoulder-, hip- and legroom. Nonetheless, the car only grows by just 1.4 inches in overall length and gains about 50 more pounds in curb weight, so the Legacy's historically above-average maneuverability hasn't been overly compromised.
Another Legacy hallmark in recent years has been its diverse array of powertrain choices, and the 2010 Legacy carries on this tradition as well. The base 2.5-liter "boxer" (horizontally opposed) four-cylinder engine will be adequate for many buyers, but those with a greater need for speed will be heartened to find two optional engines -- a revised turbocharged version of the boxer-4 that promises to be the sporty pick of the bunch, and a new, smooth-running 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that packs a lot more punch than last year's 3.0-liter flat-6. With either of the upgraded power plants, the Legacy can be seen as a budget-priced alternative to premium all-wheel-drive sport sedans from Germany and Japan.
In addition to its larger cabin, distinctive powertrains and standard all-wheel drive, the 2010 Subaru Legacy features a modern interior that can be outfitted with a full range of electronic gadgetry for buyers so inclined. In the crowded midsize sedan segment, these traits should help set the Legacy apart. We'd still advise you to test-drive the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen's CC and Passat, paying particular attention to interior design and feature availability. But as long as the Legacy's edgy new look doesn't rub you the wrong way, it should definitely be on your short list of family-oriented four-doors.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Subaru Legacy is a five-passenger midsize sedan offered in base 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5GT Premium, 2.5GT Limited, 3.6R, 3.6R Premium and 3.6R Limited trim levels.
The base 2.5i comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel with integrated audio controls, a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, an electronic parking brake and a four-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The 2.5i Premium trim steps up to 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat and an auto up/down driver window. The 2.5i Limited adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a four-way power passenger seat, an All Weather package (includes a windshield wiper de-icer, heated side mirrors and heated front seats), dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
The 2.5GT Premium starts with the 2.5i Premium's equipment and adds the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, performance tires, larger brakes a hood scoop and the All Weather package. The 2.5GT Limited tacks on the power passenger seat, automatic climate control and leather upholstery.
The 3.6R starts with the base 2.5i's equipment and adds the 3.6-liter flat-6 engine and 17-inch alloy wheels. The 3.6R Premium adds the 2.5i Premium's extra features except for the wheels, which remain 17-inch alloys, and it also gets the All Weather package. The 3.6R Limited has the same extras as the 2.5GT Limited.
Many standard features on higher trim levels can be specified as options on lower trims. Exclusive to Limited models is an optional voice-activated navigation system that's bundled with an iPod/USB input, Bluetooth and streaming Bluetooth audio, and a back-up camera. A sunroof is a stand-alone option on all but the base 2.5i.
Powertrains and Performance:
The all-wheel-drive 2010 Subaru Legacy offers no fewer than three engines and three transmissions. The base 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (a.k.a. "boxer") four-cylinder engine makes 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base 2.5i and 2.5i Premium models, while a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with manual shift control is optional on those models and standard on the 2.5i Limited. Legacy 2.5i models are also available with top-tier PZEV tailpipe emission certification.
The 2.5GT models boast a turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter four that cranks out 265 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque on premium fuel. Notably, the 2.5GT is available only with a six-speed manual. The 3.6R models are powered by a 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that generates 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque on regular fuel. A five-speed automatic is the only available transmission. EPA fuel economy estimates are at their best with the CVT-equipped 2.5i; you can expect 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with this combo. Opting for the six-speed manual drops those numbers to 19/27 mpg. The Legacy 2.5GT and 3.6R both have a less impressive 18/25 mpg rating.
Standard safety equipment on the Legacy includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Legacy earned a top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in both frontal-offset and side-impact collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features:
The Legacy's interior design is sleek and sophisticated, but you better like silver paint, because the V-shaped center stack is covered with it. Though the interior plastics look upscale, most of them are hard to the touch and lack the more upscale feel found in models like the Ford Fusion and VW Passat.
A sporty three-spoke steering wheel hints at this Subaru's above-average athleticism. The seats are comfortable and the Legacy's newly enlarged dimensions pay dividends in passenger space, particularly in back where legroom increases by nearly 4 inches. Technophiles will appreciate the optional navigation system, which is part of a gadget suite that includes an iPod jack and streaming Bluetooth audio. Unfortunately, you have to ante up for the top-of-the-line Limited trim in order to activate this option. Trunk space is an average 14.7 cubic feet.
Despite its pumped-up size, the 2010 Subaru Legacy is still one of the better-handling family sedans on the market, thanks to a willing chassis and tenacious all-wheel-drive traction. The ride is laudably smooth thanks in part to a new double-wishbone rear suspension. Drivers expecting the 2.5GT model to be a sleeper sport sedan will be disappointed, though, as it has the same soft suspension tuning as all other Legacys.
The base 2.5-liter engine won't elicit any grins, but its power is certainly adequate for most folks. Subaru's new CVT works notably well and is actually the recommended transmission here, as it provides ideal gearing for both fuel economy and acceleration when needed. The 2.5GT's turbocharged engine is much more of a thrill, though the mandatory manual transmission will limit its appeal. That leaves the new 3.6-liter flat-6 as the main draw for those wanting some punch. Thankfully, it's a big upgrade over last year's 3.0-liter engine, delivering snappy acceleration along with an enjoyable engine note that's vaguely similar to that of the Porsche 911.