I can remember the days when the Subaru Legacy was actually something of an interesting car, a rally-infused sedan or wagon with a manual option and turbocharged power—a kind of WRX STI for adults, especially in GT Spec.B guise. The Legacy sold the last few years has... well, it hasn’t been that car. But with a more powerful turbo boxer four option and better tech, the all-new 2020 Subaru Legacy seems to want at least some of its former glory back.
There is still one big downside, and it includes perhaps the three most dreaded letters in all of car-dom: “Every 2020 Legacy features a Lineartronic® Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT),” according to Subaru.
Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.
The newest Legacy was unveiled today at the Chicago Auto Show, perhaps a fitting venue for a sedan made to handle rough weather better than most. Though not visually radically different from the outgoing car—it’s swoopier but still rather bland—it does ride on Subaru’s all-new global architecture. Among the highlights are a bevy of tech features like the EyeSight camera-based safety system and an optional 11.6-inch tablet-style touchscreen.
But the biggest draw for enthusiasts is the new motor. The top Legacy XT models finally get the new 2.4-liter turbo boxer four, here rated at 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Those aren’t bad numbers at all for a family sedan, and they trump the 256 HP and 247 lb-ft you got in the old Legacy’s top engine, the 3.6-liter flat-six.
The six is gone on the new car. Unique as that motor was, it wasn’t all that great, and certainly not ideal for fuel economy. With this new turbo engine the Legacy will do zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and get an estimated 32 mpg on the highway, Subaru claims.
The base engine on the new Legacy is a 2.5-liter non-turbo boxer four rated at 182 HP and 176 lb-ft. It’s slightly better on gas at 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.
The new platform is stiffer than the old car as well, with Subaru boasting it’s “70-percent stiffer in both torsional and front-suspension rigidity and 100-percent stiffer in both front lateral flexural and rear subframe rigidity”, which as we all know is exactly what family sedan buyers are after. The car also now features Subaru’s DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System, which is a camera-based apparatus that monitors your face to warn of fatigue or distraction. This car is watching you, so stay awake!
Finally there’s that giant optional tablet, which is something I’ve come to appreciate on the Rams, Volvos and Teslas I’ve driven (though the latter has been somewhat buggy in my experience.) It looks nice here, and the center panel thankfully keeps at least some buttons. Is it better than the tacked-on screen that dominated the car landscape for more than a decade? Maybe so.
Pricing hasn’t been announced yet. But the Legacy comes out at an especially difficult time for sedans, and even at Subaru the Outback, Forester and Ascent are what really pay the bills. The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and even Mazda 6 are better than ever, and even the new Nissan Altima offers all-wheel drive. We’ll see if the Legacy can hold its own against any of them.