2010 Subaru Legacy — Review
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Subaru was one of the few automakers to show growth this year, and actually captured market share in the U.S. If the all-new 2010 Legacy is any indication, the company will continue its winning ways well into next year.
Subaru ushers in the fifth generation of its midsize sedan with some truly transformational improvements.
The Legacy is bigger inside and out, has more power and can be outfitted with an impressive continuously variable transmission. It also offers prospective buyers a relaxed, calming interior, lots of useful standard features and a significant improvement in fuel efficiency.
Subaru has always been on its own wavelength from a styling standpoint, but having said that the Legacy is a tame pussycat compared to the likes of the Tribeca. In some ways it's too sedate. We are not overly enamored with the wheel arches, which Subaru says project the car's all-wheel-drive status. Their proportion tends to make the wheels look small, even 17-inch alloys struggle for recognition.
The Legacy is offered in three trim levels (2.5i, 3.6R, 2.5GT) that produce distinctly different driving experiences. The Legacy 2.5i, which is powered by a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four banger, starts at $19,995. Not a stripped-down model in any way, shape or form, the 2.5i includes a 6-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, 4-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch rolling stock, power windows and locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a number of other tasty features.
The 2.5i Premium adds $1,000 to the bottom line and delivers a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel, auto up/down driver's window and dual chrome exhaust tips. It also opens the door to options such as an upgraded Harman Kardon audio system with Bluetooth connectivity ($995), a power moonroof ($995) and an all-weather package ($500).
The 2.5i Limited bumps the bottom line to $24,995 and adds a power-adjustable passenger seat, 17-inch alloys, the all-weather package, Subaru's Lineartronic continuously variable transmission, climate control, the Harman Kardon stereo and a leather-trimmed interior.
The Legacy 3.6R is motivated by a 6-cylinder engine and is priced at $24,995. It has the same standard equipment as the 2.5i but adds 17-inch alloys, auto up/down driver's window and dual chrome exhaust tips. Opting for the Premium version of the 3.6R at a cost of $25,995 adds a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and an all-weather package.
At $27,995 the 3.6R Limited adds climate control, the Harman Kardon stereo and a leather-trimmed interior, and allows access to an optional power moonroof and a voice-activated GPS navigation system with backup camera.
Those who walk on the wild side will appreciate the sporty nature of the Legacy 2.5GT and its turbocharged WRX engine. The Premium version sports 18-inch alloys, dual chrome exhaust tips and an all-weather package for $27,995. The Limited adds climate control, the Harman Kardon system and a leather-trimmed interior and pushes the price to $29,995.
Under the Hood
Traditionally, all-wheel-drive systems compromise fuel efficiency because turning all four wheels requires more effort from under the hood, thereby using more fuel. But the 2010 Legacy bucks that trend and combines the security and confidence of all-wheel drive with more than 30 mpg. Subaru's clever Lineartronic CVT is the secret to its success. Where a conventional automatic transmission selects from fixed gear ratios, a CVT can select any ratio between its highest and lowest available ratios at any time. This allows the transmission to take any opportunity to provide high-mileage performance but still be ready to lay down acceleration when asked. As a result, the CVT-equipped Legacy 2.5i delivers 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway, which bests segment kingpins Honda Accord and Toyota Camry around town and equals the Accord on the highway. The six-speed manual 2.5i posts 19/27 mileage.
In the 3.6R, a 3.6-liter boxer six runs the show, replacing the outgoing 245-horse 3.0-liter six. The new plant bumps output to 256 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 247 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. The 3.6R offers only a 5-speed automatic.
The Legacy 2.5GT is more enthusiastic in its power delivery, with a turbocharged and intercooled WRX boxer four providing the thrills. While the '09 Legacy also received WRX-inspired power, it was the older 243-horse version. The 2010 Legacy 2.5GT gets the current 265-horsepower engine, which also produces a hearty 258 lb-ft of torque. Gear selection is limited to a 6-speed manual. Both the 3.6R and 2.5GT check in with fuel efficiency of 18/25 mpg.
On the Road
The 2.5GT, easy to spot with its functional hood scoop, was more buttoned-down and, with its turbocharged engine and low-profile 18-inch tires, more eager to find that next twisty canyon road. Thanks to the engine's wide, addictive 2000 to 5200 rpm torque band, we had no problem getting the GT up to speed, and the 6-speed, though a bit notchy in its throws, kept the turbo engine in its sweet spot.
The 3.6R was the cruiser of the bunch. While we found its roll-on-the-throttle torque useful, we thought the 2.5i CVT was just as capable and asked ourselves, "If you are cruising, why not take the 31 mpg along for the ride?"
Pushing the Legacy, the first thing to strike us was its crisp steering response. Subaru upgraded the ratio in its speed-sensing power-assist system from 16.5:1 to 14.5:1, and the results are added agility and better feeling at initial turn-in. All Legacys run the same suspension, so the key to each version's handling characteristics is the tires. The Base 2.5i rolls 60-series tires, the 3.6R sports 50-series and the GT features 45-series; the lower the number (known as the aspect ratio), the thinner the sidewall and the more responsive the handling. A thinner sidewall can also affect ride quality. That said, we preferred the GT by far as it delivered superior road feel, but the entire Legacy lineup is nimble yet composed, and its ride quality is definitely on par with the competition.
Right for You?
Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compacttuning. Today Griffey freelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.