2010 Subaru LegacyPosted on November 17th, 2009
Sport sedan takes a ‘go anywhere’ attitude
By Nina Russin
Subaru was one of the few automakers to turn a profit last year. While the company has never been a volume leader, Subaru has maintained a loyal following by staying true to its mission and listening to its customers. Subaru was one of the first car companies to pursue buyers with active lifestyles: sponsoring the US Ski team in the 1970s.
The Legacy is Subaru’s flagship sedan: geared towards upscale buyers. Having said that, Subaru approaches the luxury audience with its own, unique strategy. The base Legacy comes with a cloth interior: easier to clean after a day on the trails. All-wheel drive is standard, giving the Legacy moderate off-road capability.
The six-speed manual transmission, standard on the base model, comes with a reverse lockout ring. While not all of its owners will drive the Legacy for sport, the lockout ring gives the gearbox extra durability.
Durability always has been a key Subaru attribute. Here’s an example:
In the mid-1970s, a friend of mine in Ketchum, Idaho bought a Subaru wagon that he named Buddha. Subaru had established a reputation for good high-altitude performance, thanks to a unique aneroid bellows carburetor design that compensated for the thinner air.
It wasn’t unusual a group of us to pile into Buddha on a nice summer evening, and explore dirt trails that the Forest Service had long since abandoned. Buddha went about each mission with renewed vigor, traversing the area for fifteen years and several hundred thousand miles.
When Buddha retired, my friend took the seats out and used them as benches in his glass blowing studio. He couldn’t accept the idea of parting company with his old buddy.
Test drive in the high desert
It’s a crime against humanity to test drive a Subaru without leaving the city. At least that was my excuse for taking a few hours to explore trails off the Bush Highway east of Phoenix. The highway starts northeast of town and winds through the rolling hills past Saguaro Lake, meeting up with the Apache trail’s east end. It’s not a high-speed road, but the scenery makes the leisurely pace enjoyable.
The test car is the 2.5i model, that comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual gearbox. Subaru uses two types of all-wheel drive, depending on the type of gearbox. Cars with a manual transmission get a continuous all-wheel drive system with a viscous-coupling locking center differential.
Under normal conditions, the system maintains a fifty-fifty front-to-rear power balance. If slippage occurs at either set off wheels, the all-wheel drive system automatically sends more power to the other wheels.
While it can’t negotiate extreme terrain, the all-wheel drive system provides excellent traction on moderate off-road trails and in snow.
The six-speed manual transmission enables the driver to make the most of the engine’s 170-horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. I was able to out-accelerate more powerful cars on uphill sections of road, thanks to the six-speed gearbox. At the same time, the small engine is fuel thrifty. My average gas mileage was well above the 22 mile-per-gallon EPA estimate.
Visibility is quite good all the around the car. I commend the designers for not following the current trend of narrow greenhouses and thick pillars. The cowl is low enough to provide good forward visibility, and a narrow B pillar makes for excellent visibility out the sides. There are no noticeable blind spots to the rear.
Standard 17-inch rims provide an ample footprint for the car. I noticed more road noise than with some competitive products, but no wind noise around the windshield or outside mirrors. Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking enhance the car’s wet weather performance.
Steering response is good at all speeds. While it isn’t as crisp as a German sport sedan, I had no problems maintaining control when I simulated an emergency lane change. A 36.8-foot turning radius gives the Legacy good maneuverability on narrow city streets.
The MacPherson front and double wishbone rear suspension absorbs bumps in the road without feeling mushy. A front stabilizer bar keeps the chassis flat in the corners.
The biggest difference between the new Legacy and the model it replaces is inside the car. Engineers made the new model longer and slightly wider than the sedan it replaces. As a result, there’s considerably more leg and hip room in the second row.
Designers provided both rows of passengers with ample cup and bottle holders, storage bins and open shelves. Redundant audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.
The tilt-and-telescoping steering column enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view. I found the manual seats easy to adjust, and was comfortable driving the car for several hours.
The gauge cluster is easy to read in bright sunlight. A digital display in the cluster includes the odometer and trip meter. It also indicates gear shifts. The second digital display on top of the center stack is more difficult to read while driving.
A twelve-volt power outlet at the base of the center stack recharges portable electronic devices. A locking glovebox has enough room for a wallet or small purse. The deep center console bin can easily hold a stack of compact discs or a small pack.
Overhead reading lamps up front and a dome light illuminate the passenger cabin at night. Access and egress to the rear seats is excellent. Even tall adults should be quite comfortable in the outboard seats. The floor tunnel and center console take up most of the legroom in the center position. A fold-down armrest includes two large cupholders.
A pass-through extends the Legacy’s spacious trunk for larger cargo. Designers thoughtfully placed the seatback releases close to the trunk opening, making it easier to load up the back. While sedans don’t meet our bicycle-friendly standards, it would be possible to put a road bike in the car with the front wheel removed.
The Legacy comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, antilock braking and daytime running lamps. Subaru’s standard factory warranty includes free roadside assistance for the first three years or 36,000 miles.
An ALV best value
The Legacy is a lot of car for the money. MSRP on the test car is $20,990 including delivery. Subaru builds the Legacy at its Lafayette, Indiana assembly plant.
Likes: An affordable, well-equipped sport sedan with excellent performance and fuel economy. Standard all-wheel drive makes the Legacy a good choice for buyers in areas with severe winters.
Dislikes: Digital display at the top of the center stack is hard to read in bright sunlight. Lack of legroom in the center second-row seat.
Model: Legacy 2.5i
Base price: $20,295
As tested: $20,990
Horsepower: 170 Hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 170 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 19/27 mpg
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