In a group of well-mannered and homogeneous midsize family sedans, the Subaru Legacy has often stood out with its commitment to all-wheel drive and horizontally opposed "boxer" engines. For 2013, the Legacy is perhaps not as distinct as it once was, but it still stands as an attractive choice for the right kind of car shopper.
As with most Subarus, all-wheel drive is the big selling point, since the Legacy is the only car in its class to offer this as standard equipment. In the past, this also meant mediocre fuel economy due to internal friction that is the nature of all-wheel drive, but this year Subaru has introduced a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine. When paired with Subaru's second-generation CVT, the all-wheel-drive 2013 Subaru Legacy with a four-cylinder engine returns 27 mpg combined, a figure that's quite close to that of the front-wheel-drive versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry with four-cylinder engines.
Those seeking a Legacy with a little more punch in their daily commute can still opt for the 3.6-liter six-cylinder, which carries over unchanged. Unfortunately, mediocre fuel economy and acceleration also carry over. Compared to other six-cylinder competitors, the Legacy 3.6 makes less power and returns between 3 and 5 mpg less in both the EPA highway and combined ratings. The Legacy's turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine also used to add some sporting flair to the Legacy lineup, but Subaru has discontinued it for 2013.
Added to the 2013 Subaru Legacy, however, is a newly optional "EyeSight" system, which uses two windshield-mounted cameras to adjust the adaptive cruise control, alert the driver if the car wanders out of its lane or apply braking to avoid or minimize a collision. This is safety technology we're accustomed to seeing from premium automakers, so its presence in vehicles from a more mainstream brand is encouraging.
Overall, we like the 2013 Subaru Legacy. Besides the appeal of all-wheel drive for added wet-weather traction, it's roomy, pretty well equipped and respectable in terms of safety and four-cylinder fuel economy. But if all-wheel drive isn't a big draw for you, other midsize sedans could prove to be more appealing. The Kia Optima is more stylish inside and out, while the Volkswagen Passat is roomier and offers a fuel-efficient diesel engine. If refinement and sharp handling are what you're after, the redesigned Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima are better choices. Certainly you'll want to test-drive a few of these popular sedans before coming to a decision.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy is a five-passenger sedan offered in six trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Sport, 3.6R,and 3.6R Limited. The numbers refer to engine displacement. The turbocharged 2.5GT has been discontinued for 2013.
Base 2.5i models come with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB audio interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 2.5i Premium model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color outside mirrors, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system. An optional All-Weather package adds heated front seats, heated mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer. A sunroof and a premium nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system with HD radio and satellite radio can all be ordered &agrave; la carte.
The 2.5i Sport includes all the 2.5i Premium equipment and the All-Weather package as standard. It also comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sunroof, aluminum pedal covers, faux carbon-fiber trim and upgraded upholstery.
The 2.5i Limited reverts to 17-inch alloy wheels, but adds more cabin amenities, including dual-zone automatic climate control, rear seat air-conditioning, leather upholstery and wood trim, a four-way power passenger seat, an upgraded gauge cluster and the Harman Kardon sound system.
Options for the Limited include a sunroof, the EyeSight driver assist system and a navigation system that includes a touchscreen interface, voice controls, a rearview camera and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The 3.6R model is equipped like the base 2.5i model, except that it has standard 17-inch alloy wheels and a six-cylinder engine. Meanwhile, the 3.6R Limited has the same standard and optional equipment as the 2.5i Limited.
The Subaru Legacy's interior design is sleek and sophisticated, although some of the hard materials lack the premium feel found in competing models. Controls tend to be straightforward in lower trims, but become more complicated as more features get piled on.
The navigation system's touchscreen in particular isn't exactly the most intuitive or attractive electronics interface. Nevertheless, most buyers will find the 2.5i Premium trim level worth springing for, as it includes the optional Harman Kardon audio system. The base 2.5i model's standard four-speaker stereo sounds tinny and flat.
The seats are comfortable, with plenty of headroom and rear seat legroom, although this expansive feeling doesn't extend to the trunk. Its 14.7 cubic feet of space is merely average for this segment.
The all-wheel-drive Subaru Legacy is offered with two different engines. The base 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ("boxer") four-cylinder produces 173 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission (which includes a hill-holder feature) is standard on the base 2.5i and the CVT is optional, while Premium and Limited models get the CVT standard.
Subaru estimates that 2.5i models with the CVT will return 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined, a slight gain on the former engine's performance. Manual-shift models rate 21/28/24.
The 3.6R features a 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic with shift paddles is the only transmission offered. In Edmunds performance testing, the 3.6R accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, a below-average time for the class. EPA fuel economy estimates for this powertrain are 18/25/20, well below average for the class.
Last year's Legacy offered a smooth ride and respectable handling, but we expect additional agility from the 2013 Subaru Legacy. Increased stiffness at key points of the body should reduce vibrations into the cabin, while retuned steering and suspension promise less body roll and quicker reactions to driver input.
The base 2.5-liter engine is adequate, but in the past, outright acceleration has trailed that of other family sedans. We've yet to test the new engine along with the revised CVT, but we doubt there will be a significant difference from before. With the departure of the 2.5GT and its turbocharged engine, that leaves the 3.6-liter six-cylinder as the main draw for those wanting some punch. It's an adequate engine, but is outclassed by competing V6s with superior fuel economy and acceleration.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Subaru's optional EyeSight system for the Limited trim level bundles safety technologies, including adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning and sway warning. The EyeSight system uses two cameras mounted inside the upper edge of the windshield, which Subaru says reduces the potential for damage compared to conventional radar systems mounted in the front bumper. EyeSight can also detect pedestrians and is capable of braking the Legacy if the driver takes no evasive action.
In Edmunds testing, the Legacy 3.6R stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is average for the midsize sedan class.
The Legacy received the best possible five-star crash test ratings in frontal, side and rollover tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's testing, the Subaru received the highest Top Safety Pick+ accolade after earning a Good rating (the highest possible) in the moderate-overlap front-offset crash test, as well as the side-impact and roof strength tests. It also earned an Acceptable rating (second highest) in the new small-overlap frontal-offset crash test.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy features a variety of updates this year, including a restyled front end, a more powerful and efficient four-cylinder engine, an improved continuously variable transmission (CVT), revised suspension tuning and an available collision avoidance system. Base models now feature standard Bluetooth. The 2.5GT and 3.6R Premium trim levels have been discontinued.