July 31, 2014

Subaru Legacy: Comfortable ride and crisp handling

auto-Legacy-Front-Side

auto-Legacy-Front-Side2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited

Roomy. Refined. Loaded with safety features. Subaru.

Really?

Subaru has been shaving the rough edges off its signature Legacy, Impreza and Forester models for years — so much so that some of its fans may actually miss the cars’ quirks.

This is a smooth, highly competent sedan with an uncommonly roomy back seat, spacious trunk and crisp handling, aided by Subaru’s acclaimed all-wheel-drive system and the low center of gravity of its “boxer” engine. Gone are the frameless side windows, which contributed to high levels of wind noise; the boxer’s rhythmic rumble; and the claustrophobia-inducing passenger compartments that once were hallmarks of Subarus.

We drove a mid-level 2013 Legacy 2.5i Limited sedan, built in Lafayette, Ind. The base price for this model is $26,195; our Twilight Blue Metallic sedan had a sticker price of about $31,000.

Prices range from $20,295 for a base Legacy with a 6-speed manual transmission, to $28,895 for the top-of-the-line Limited model with 5-speed automatic transmission and 3.6-liter V-6 engine.

The Legacy competes with many fine midsize, medium-priced sedans, including the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Chrysler 200 and Nissan Altima. For larger money, many European sedans, as well as U.S. and Japanese premium nameplates, also fit the midsize template. The Legacy’s major selling point is its standard all-wheel drive system, available as an option or not at all on the competition.

Powering the Legacy is a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder horizontally opposed 173-horsepower engine linked to a continuously variable automatic transmission. It delivers ample power and is rated at 32 miles per gallon on the highway, 24 in the city — excellent numbers for a comparatively heavy sedan (3,427 pounds) with all-wheel drive.

The passenger compartment is exceptionally well designed. Tall adults fit easily into the back seat even with the front seats at the back of their tracks. We also were impressed with the trunk. Picking up relatives at JFK Airport in New York, we easily slipped two large suitcases and two smaller bags into the trunk, and had room for more.

The car’s major weaknesses are its somewhat bland exterior styling and one-size-fits-all option packages. The EyeSight system is a case in point. A bulwark against driver inattention, it sounds a warning when the car leaves its lane without signaling, and throttles down when the car approaches a slower vehicle from behind while on cruise control. It also has pre-collision braking and throttle management. Unfortunately, it’s only available as part of a $3,940 package with a power moonroof, navigation system, premium audio, satellite radio, hands-free phone, streaming audio connectivity, and other features some drivers may not need or want.

The premium audio system offers good sound, but the graphic-equalizer display was a mystery to us. We prefer simplicity here — bass, treble, midrange and balance.

The Legacy has been designated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and it’s more reliable than average, according to owner surveys by Consumer Reports magazine.

Steven Macoy (smacoy3070@cs.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

Price: $30,977

Engine: 2.5-liter horizontally opposed Four, 173 horsepower, 173 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Weight: 3,427 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear

Wheels: 17×7 inch alloy

Tires: 215/50R17 90V all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 14.7 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons

Fuel economy: 24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded