Known primarily as the wagon that spawned the Outback, the Legacy is the oldest nameplate in the Subaru lineup, dating back to 1990. In recent years, it has been living in the shadow of its armored-wagon offspring. Starved for power and features, the 2000-2004 Subaru Legacy wagon was what you bought if you couldn't afford one of VW's expensive Passat 4Motion wagons, and/or you wouldn't be caught dead in a Taurus. The sedan, meanwhile, offered a winter-friendly alternative to the Accord and Camry, but had little else to distinguish it in the cutthroat family sedan segment.
Happily, Subaru gave buyers more reasons to consider its midsize sedan and wagon for 2005: The redesigned Legacy slimmed down, powered up and slipped into some more stylish threads. Some of the biggest news is under the hood, as GT models feature a modified version of the WRX STi's 2.5-liter turbocharged engine rated for 250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. Although the continued absence of six-cylinder power in the Subaru Legacy might seem like a blow, rest assured that you won't miss it.
The turbo four responds with the heart and refinement of a much larger steed. Meanwhile, power delivery rivals V6 engines for smoothness, and the engine is quiet at cruising speeds. For buyers on a tighter budget, Subaru continues to offer a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Horsepower maxes out at 175. All Legacys lost roughly 100 pounds in the redesign, thanks to the increased use of lighter, stronger materials like aluminum. Additionally, engineers fiddled with the gearing to improve the shift response of the automatic transmission. It's still a little slow on the draw but much better than before. All-wheel drive remains a staple of the 2006 Legacy lineup, but this is no longer a vehicle that will appeal only to those living in cold climates.
Subaru's midsize car has always been known for its fine handling, but this time around the company wanted it behave to like a sporty entry-luxury car. Accordingly, both the sedan and wagon ride beautifully on the highway, while providing a high level of entertainment on twisty back roads. Style and luxury were never within the previous Legacy's grasp, but no apologies need be made for the new cockpits, which are some of the best-looking designs in this price range. They don't break any new ground in styling, but one can't help but like the symmetrical dash design, convincing faux aluminum trim, electroluminescent gauges and three-spoke Momo steering wheel in the GT Limited model. Materials quality is excellent -- you could buy a Legacy and feel like you got a VW. Everything about the way the 2006 Subaru Legacy looks, feels and drives is so much more cohesive and satisfying than before. Don't buy an Acura TSX or Mazda 6 without trying this Subaru first.
The Subaru Legacy is available as a sedan or wagon in one of the following trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Special Edition, 2.5i Limited Edition, 2.5 GT Limited and 2.5 GT Limited Spec B. The 2.5i comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, a six-speaker CD stereo, cruise control, a trip computer and keyless entry. The 2.5i Special Edition adds dual moonroofs (the sedan gets a single large moonroof) and a power driver seat. The 2.5i Limited Edition includes heated leather seats, automatic climate control and a CD changer. Upgrade to the 2.5 GT Limited and you get a turbocharged engine, a functional hood scoop, sport seats, a Momo steering wheel and electroluminescent gauges. The 2.5 GT Limited Spec B sedan features a sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, 18-inch alloys, a navigation system, ground effects and alloy pedal covers.
Inside the cabin of the Subaru Legacy, one can't help but like the clean dash design and the convincing faux aluminum trim, not to mention the red-and-white gauges and three-spoke Momo steering wheel in the GT Limited model. Build and materials quality is excellent. While the backseat is comfortable for two passengers, shoulder room and legroom are still pretty tight for this class. Legacy sedans have an 11.4-cubic-foot trunk with a ski pass-through. The wagon has folding seats and 66 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
The 2.5i models are powered by a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. It's been updated for 2006 with new valvetrain technology and now produces 175 hp and 169 lb-ft of torque. The Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited features a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine rated for 250 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. Either engine can be equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. The 2.5i is eligible for a four-speed automatic while the GT gets a five-speed auto; both come with an automanual mode. Note that the 2.5i Limited and 2.5 GT Limited wagon come with automatics only. All-wheel drive is standard across the board.
The 2006 Subaru Legacy offers a superb blend of ride comfort and handling acuity. The GT is easily as much fun as the TSX or Mazda 6, and with the confidence of all four wheels putting power to the pavement, this Subaru car is a satisfying substitute for the pricier Audi A4. The base engine provides adequate acceleration, but serious drivers will want to go for the turbo motor and its vast reserves of power -- trust us, you won't miss having a V6.
All Subaru Legacy models have four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Stability control is, unfortunately, not available. Front side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on all models. The front-seat head restraints feature dynamic whiplash protection. Both frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests by the IIHS returned a rating of "Good," its highest. The NHTSA gave the Legacy a perfect five-star score for frontal occupant protection in head-on crashes.
Subaru is building on last year's successful redesign of the Legacy by making a few additional improvements for 2006. For instance, Legacys with normally aspirated engines feature a new variable valve lift system that slightly improves horsepower and torque, while a new DVD-based navigation system has been made available on selected trim levels. The trim levels themselves have also changed slightly. The budget-performance 2.5 GT trim has been discontinued, leaving buyers to ante up for the pricier GT Limited. There's a new Spec B version of the GT Limited sedan with a firmer suspension and 18-inch wheels. Also note that GT wagons are no longer available with a manual gearbox. Base Legacy 2.5i sedans and wagons have bigger wheels, stronger brakes, an air filtration system and an engine immobilizer as standard equipment this year.