Mountain Wheels: Subaru Legacy heads into the mainstream
Special to the Daily
2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6RLimited
MSRP: $29,595; as tested, $32,585
Powertrain: 256-HP 3.6-liter six-cylinder Boxer engine, CVT transmission
EPA mpg figures: 23 combined; 20 city, 29 highway
You want a piece of that middle-American pie, the midsize sedan market? But your iconoclastic, AWD machines always seemed too Boulder for the yawning masses of flatlanders?
Good news, Subaru: Your extremely morphed and mutated 2015 Legacy is a totally plausible contender for the folks dead set on all of that high-volume Accord/Altima/Malibu nonsense. And it’s still a little weird around the edges, good enough for the Subaru faithful who don’t have Outback size requirements.
You’ll just have to look harder to find anything particularly peculiar in this attractive, if somewhat homogenized, offering. Standard symmetrical all-wheel drive and a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine of the Boxer variety might make the Legacy a tad curious. And it’s either a good or a bad thing that even those stuck-out, bumper-car-style rocker panels of the old days are gone and that the Legacy now sports lines as clean and angular as a Ford Fusion.
Inside, it’s got the qualities the midsize pack is seeking, including leather, tasteful woodgrain-style highlights and a completely reinvented and improved navigation system.
And even with the standard AWD system, and the larger 256-horsepower engine option — itself a holdover from the past model — the Legacy is able to roll along and achieve nearly 30 mpg on the highway.
It looks great, so how does it drive? That’s another piece of good news. Despite a continuously variable transmission now being the sole choice (with slightly different CVT setups matched to the 3.6-liter version and the optional, 36-mpg 2.5-liter engine), the 3.6-liter’s high-torque CVT is so smooth and accelerates in such a linear fashion that it’s virtually unnoticeable.
And the ride itself? Alarmingly smooth as well, with just a tad of heaviness in the wheel, but responsive and even pleasantly sporty when it needs to be.
Design takes the machine in a charming but certainly more mainstream direction. Yes, it’s equipped with what look like the blown-out pipes off of a WRX racer, but that’s the most audacious touch — the flanks otherwise having been tastefully smoothed and subdued in all of their gracious angularity.
LED-outlined headlamps, a broad and bold three-bar grille and the lower lip aero splitter (and an aerodynamic lip on the trunk) also give it a bold, contemporary look and further links to the larger Subaru family.
You fit nicely into Legacy’s sculpted seats and the general cabin atmosphere is pleasant and subtle, though there’s some theatrical purple lighting hidden inside the armrests.
The wheel is large and leathery, that strip of wood fascia on the knee-level dash trim is a nice touch and the gloriously redone, larger navigation and radio system brings the car up to (or beyond) the standards of Subaru’s many competitors. In the Limited version, the standard setup includes a 12-speaker harmon/kardon system rated for 576 watts.
The sleek, woody plastic-covered center console cubby is tasteful, and there are some new (and classic) touches floated into the mix — an electronic parking and emergency brake switch, plus the old-school hill-hold function switch.
You also get nice perforated leather throughout and a design heavy on shaped and sculpted forms — get a load of the bottle holders and speakers in the doors.
Nearly pedestal-style seating in the back (and even rear-seat heaters in the Limited model I drove) will offer those all-important rear passengers broad space, plus loads of knee and foot room, assisted by curved seatbacks.
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