2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R LimitedPosted on September 28th, 2010
Premium midsize sedan
By Nina Russin
Despite being one of the most enduring models in Subaru’s line-up, the new Legacy sedan seems somewhat un-Subaru-like. On the surface, the midsize sedan has no affinity with Subaru’s sport-utility wagons, the Forester and Outback, nor does it share the extreme sport image of the Impreza WRX: a favorite among World Rally Cup fans.
The Legacy is not suitable for off-road trails due to its scant ground clearance, nor is it particularly practical for hauling large cargo. It doesn’t have a gnarly wing like the WRX STI, or a giant hood scoop.
Twenty years after the first models rolled off the assembly line, the Legacy remains true to its original mission. It is Subaru’s offering in the most competitive passenger car segment, going head-to-head against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.
The Legacy is an important draw into the showroom. It keeps Subaru in the automotive mainstream, allowing the automaker to produce the specialized vehicles geared towards active lifestyles.
And while the Legacy might not be the ideal car for hauling a bicycle, the sedan has more in common with its active-lifestyle siblings than meets the eye.
It begins with the horizontally-opposed 3.6-liter engine, which replaces the three-liter six-cylinder on pre-2010 models. The horizontally-opposed engine is not only inherently balanced: it is also ideal for all-wheel drive applications. Engineers were able to give the larger-displacement engine identical dimensions to the block it replaced by shortening the connecting rods.
Subaru’s commitment to safety extends to the Legacy as well, with standard dynamic stability control, antilock braking, front, side and side curtain airbags, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring. The Legacy shares Subaru’s ring shaped reinforcement structure with other models. A new engine cradle enhances safety in frontal collisions.
And like its siblings, the Legacy is a driver’s car. The all-wheel drive system sends more power to the rear axle under normal conditions to mimic competitive sport sedans. A quick ratio steering system gives the sedan nimble handling on challenging roads.
Formula-style shift paddles on the steering wheel allow the driver to manually select gears, for more aggressive performance. And standard 17-inch wheels with low-profile tires give the Legacy a large footprint for maximum traction.
Fifth-generation models add rear seat legroom
Subaru introduced the fifth-generation Legacy last year, with three available engines, a six-speed manual gearbox and five-or-six-speed automatic transmissions. The wheelbase is 3.2 inches longer, giving second-row passengers more legroom.
Engineers dressed up the exterior with a coupe-like profile, large wheel arches and fender skirts. Dual exhaust pipes come standard on all models.
The new six-cylinder engine produces 11 more horsepower and 32 more foot-pounds of torque than the three-liter block it replaces. The big increase in torque translates to better acceleration off the line and in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range, for merging onto the highway.
While Subaru offers a six-speed continuously variable transmission with its four-cylinder models, the six-cylinder comes with a five-speed transmission only. As a result, fuel economy for the 3.6R lags behind the base 2.5i.
The base model with the automatic transmission gets up to 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway: the six-cylinder model averages 25. Granted, the bigger engine produces forty percent more horsepower. But a difference of six miles-per-gallon on the highway shortens the driving range on a 12.5-gallon tank of gas by 75 miles.
New exterior color and simplified model line-up for 2011
This year, Subaru adds one new exterior color: caramel bronze pearl. Folding outside mirrors come standard on all models. The model line-up is smaller: the 2.5 GT is the only turbocharged offering. The harman/kardon audio package standard on the upscale Limited grade includes XM satellite radio with a three-month trial subscription.
Base price on the 3.6R Limited is $28,295, not including a $725 delivery charge. Subaru delivers a lot of content for the money. Leather trim, heated seats, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant controls are standard equipment. The only option on the test car is a power moonroof, costing $995.
Test drive in Arizona
I had the opportunity to test drive the 2011 Legacy in Phoenix this week, on a combination of surface streets, highways and rural roads outside of town.
While I rarely comment about a car’s appearance, the Legacy is worth talking about. It’s a very pretty car, and the new color drew admiring remarks from passers-by. Designers did a good job of making the exterior sporty yet sophisticated, appealing to a wide range of buyers.
The new engine is quiet and strong. Aside from its unexceptional gas mileage, the five-speed automatic transmission does an excellent job, providing strong acceleration with no noticeable shift shock. I shifted into manual mode on a rural two-lane road outside town, and was impressed by how smoothly the system works.
The quick ratio power steering produces plenty of assist at low speeds while maintaining positive on-center response on the highway. A 36.8-foot turning radius isn’t good enough for a U-turn on a two-lane road, but wider suburban streets aren’t a problem.
The four-wheel independent suspension consists of a MacPherson setup in the front and double wishbone in the rear: a compact design that offers the compliance and roll control the car requires. The Legacy doesn’t beat up its passengers on uneven road surfaces. At the same time, the chassis stays flat in the corners, including decreasing radius turns.
Large disc brakes on all four wheels stop the sedan in a firm, linear fashion. Double piston front calipers give the Legacy extra stopping power on wet or snowy roads.
Aside from some blind spots in the rear corners, visibility is quite good around the car. Over-the-shoulder visibility is quite good in both directions. I had no problems monitoring several lanes of traffic to the left when merging onto the highway.
Engineers did an excellent job of isolating passengers from noise, vibration and harshness. Passengers in back will have no problems conversing with those in front.
The Legacy’s interior is clean and uncluttered. I found the 10-way power driver’s seat easy to adjust: it provides ample lower lumbar support for longer drives. A standard dead pedal reduces leg fatigue.
A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view, and a safe distance from the front airbag. Redundant audio, Bluetooth and cruise control functions minimize driver distraction.
Both the gauge cluster and digital center stack display are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. Audio control knobs are on the small side: too small for somebody with larger hands or wearing gloves. A 12-volt outlet at the base of the center stack recharges portable electronic devices.
Despite its tall floor tunnel, the Legacy can hold up to three adults in back, though legroom in the middle position is limited. Access and egress to the second-row seats is excellent. Headroom is good in all positions.
Dual-zone climate controls and heated front seats keep the driver and passenger comfortable in temperature extremes. Unfortunately, there are no air vents in the back of the sedan.
The rear seats fold flat to extend the sedan’s cargo floor. Release knobs are close to the lip of the trunk where they are easy to reach. Using the pass-through allows owners to load skis or other long items into the car. Cyclists would be better served by the Forester or Outback.
Subaru’s standard three-year/36,000 mile warranty includes complimentary roadside assistance. Subaru builds the Legacy is its Lafayette, Indiana assembly plant.
Likes: A stylish midsize sedan with a spacious interior that seats up to five passengers. The sedan meets our best value criteria for all grades, offering standard all-wheel drive, as well as a high level of standard safety, comfort and convenience features.
Dislikes: Six-cylinder model is not available with a six-speed automatic transmission; the five-speed automatic hurts overall gas mileage. Control knobs on the center stack are too small.
Model: Legacy 3.6R Limited
Base price: $28,295
As tested: $30,015
Horsepower: 256 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 247 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway
24 responses to “2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited”
Michael Bohannon November 15th, 2010 at 13:47
Great review. I have owned many performance vehicles over the years and looking for a new vehicle I picked the 2011 Legacy. Three months ownership and I know I made the right choice. I definitly was not a typical Subaru profile but the styling caught my eye. Once I drove the 3.6 I knew that was the car.
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