2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R LimitedPosted on June 18th, 2014
All-new midsize sedan reaches new heights
By Nina Russin
Quantum leaps in the automotive industry are as rare as hens’ teeth. While we have come to expect new models to deliver linear improvement over the cars they replace, they are rarely the whole new world so often advertised.
Subaru, however, has delivered on its promise with the 2015 Legacy midsize sedan: a car so much better than the model it replaces it is almost unrecognizable.
While the Legacy is one of the most enduring nameplates in the Subaru lineup, most Americans continue to associate the brand more with its crossovers and all-wheel drive wagons. While the outgoing sedan was a solid product with good fuel economy and standard all-wheel drive, it failed to achieve the popularity of well-known competitors such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.
The 2015 Legacy has the chops to lead the pack in what is arguably the most competitive segment in the industry. It is powerful, quiet, stylish and solidly built. The 3.6R model tested has the performance and amenities to appeal to buyers who want a premium product but not necessarily a luxury nameplate.
Base price for the V-6 sedan is $29,596 excluding the $795 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a moonroof with keyless access, push-button start and navigation ($2195), bringing the final MSRP to $32,585.
Quiet and powerful
Engineers designed the six-cylinder block in the 3.6R model to operate in a stop-and-go world, with a flat torque curve that delivers ninety percent of peak torque as low as 2,000 rpm for optimal performance off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.
There is plenty on the high end as well, with 256 maximum horsepower. The continuously variable automatic transmission is smooth and responsive, with none of the rubber band feel that some competitive units suffer from.
Electric power steering eliminates internal pumping losses as compared to a traditional hydraulic setup, and in this case is nicely tuned, delivering solid on-center response. There is plenty of assist on the low end for maneuverability on slower thoroughfares.
While the powertrain in the former model delivered pretty well in terms of power and performance, it was noisy: especially at highway speeds. Engineers have solved that problem with the 2015 car, as well as eliminating wind and road noise. The improved NVH gives the newest Legacy a much more premium feel.
Safety a priority
Subaru has always stressed safety as a core attribute with all-wheel drive standard on almost all of its models and a proprietary reinforced body structure. The 2015 model builds on this strategy adding a standard rearview camera and blind spot detection on the 3.6R model. Other standard safety features include lane change assist, cross traffic alert and high intensity discharge headlamps.
Subaru’s all-wheel drive system gives the Legacy excellent wet weather performance: a boon for drivers living in four-season climates.
Test drive in Phoenix
This week I had the opportunity to put the Legacy through its paces in Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as rural roads on the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. At the height of the Arizona summer, the midsize sedan was a welcome respite from the heat and noise on highways around town.
It’s hard to believe than anyone who lives in this town would own a car without air conditioning, but some do. They are easy to recognize in the summer by their completely irrational behavior behind the wheel.
As a result, anyone sharing the roads needs to be extra diligent. I was grateful to have the blind spot monitoring feature to warn me of drivers dizzily weaving their way through traffic.
Average fuel economy for the test drive was about 25 miles-per-gallon: better than the EPA estimate of 23. This was probably due to the high number of highway miles I logged as opposed to stop-and-go traffic.
Subaru’s boxer engines utilize horizontally opposed cylinders. This creates a balance that makes the all-wheel drive systems work exceptionally well. While rain and snow are rarely a factor in this part of the country the extra traction all-wheel drive provides is noticeable on more challenging, winding roads.
New for 2015 is an active torque vectoring system that utilizes the sensors for the stability control to sense a hard cornering situation and apply brake pressure to the inside front wheel. The result is better grip and more confident performance.
Hill start assist prevents the sedan from sliding backwards when the driver accelerates from a stop on a steep grade.
Ventilated front and rear disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Although the newest Legacy rides on a similar wheelbase to the outgoing model, it is more spacious inside and has a bigger trunk. An improvement in fit and finish throughout the interior is the most noticeable difference. Knobs and buttons are more substantial, and soft touch surfaces replace hard ones on the former model.
Keyless entry and start on the test car enables the driver to unlock the car and fire the ignition without fishing for the key fob. The moonroof that comes with the same option package brings a welcome dose of ambient light inside the car.
Because of its tall center stack, two adults will be more comfortable in the second-row seats than three on longer trips. Standard dual zone climate controls keep front row passengers comfortable in temperature extremes.
Graphics on the center stack screen are bright and easy to read.
Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items. While it would be possible to put a road bike inside the car in a pinch, Subaru’s crossovers and wagons would be a better choice.
The Subaru Legacy comes with front, side, side curtain and front seat cushion airbags, all-wheel drive with hill start assist and torque vectoring, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and high intensity discharge headlamps.
The all-new Legacy is rolling into Subaru dealerships nationwide.
Like: A quantum improvement in Subaru’s midsize sedan, the newest Legacy combines great value, excellent performance and a high level of standard safety features with style and a premium feel.
Model: Legacy 3.6R Limited
Base price: $29,595
As tested: $32,585
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: 20/28 mpg city/highway
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