2020 Subaru Legacy

The car this auto reviewer recommends to friends.

The mid-size sedan market has historically been the industry’s most competitive segment, although the last decade has seen families swing to crossover SUVs as their more versatile hauler of people and/or cargo. If you need the tall wagon style of a crossover, Subaru’s sporty Outback, taller Forrester or three-row Ascent are all good choices. But if a sedan is still on the shopping list, the new Legacy gets my vote every time.

True to Its Roots

Successful automotive brands stand for something. Toyota has built a legendary reputation for product reliability. In fact that reputation is so imbedded that the automaker is doing its best to add some sex appeal to its Camry offering. Volvo owns the safety image even though most rivals have long been just as safe. And Porsche’s offerings always feel tightly tuned no matter what style is chosen.

Subaru’s uniqueness is its power delivery, beginning with its boxer engine, a flat layout with opposing cylinders like the legendary Volkswagens, current Porsche sportscars and most light aircraft use. The new direct-injected boxer engines connect to Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system to deliver just the right amount of power to each wheel through its center differential layout. The result is terrific traction for confidence in any weather. Subaru vehicles seem to be ubiquitous where snow is a frequent visitor, but the all-wheel-drive’s torque vectoring system is a welcome companion negotiating twisting roads in dry weather.

Keeping Straight and Awake

Adaptive cruise control, where technology does its best to follow the vehicle you’ve identified and maintain the preset distance at all speeds, is usually part of an option package on non-luxury cars. It’s standard equipment for all new Legacy trim levels and includes Subaru’s excellent lane centering technology. But if you get drowsy or stare at your phone, our test car, optioned with the Driver Distraction Mitigation System, employs a camera and facial recognition software to identify your lack of road awareness. If you’re caught, a warning on the big, new 11.6-inch display will alert you and perhaps rat you out to passengers. But it’s better to suffer a little embarrassment than a collision. 

The Legacy’s conservatively tailored exterior is instantly familiar and its clean style, uncluttered by excessive sculpturing, is a welcome attribute. Inside the cabin, the look and design and materials are upscale, especially in the Premium, Sport and Limited editions where the tablet-size multimedia display dominates the center stack. Subaru labeled the new touch screen Starlink and it’s quick, with easy to navigate menus for entertainment and vehicle settings. And designers were clever enough to include two rotary knobs for intuitive settings like volume and tuning.

Choices

Our Limited test car paired the willing 182 HP boxer engine with a constant variable transmission (CVT) that kept the Legacy competitive in performance with other mid-size rivals while delivering combined 30 MPG fuel economy. But the newly stiffened chassis and all-wheel-drive beg for more power to take full advantage of these attributes. That request is answered in earnest with the turbocharged XT trim level where 280 HP and 277-ft pounds of torque transform the Legacy into a proper sports sedan.

Whatever Legacy fits your needs, from the $22,745 Base to the $35,895 Touring XT edition, I’m confident that you won’t be disappointed. That’s because all the friends I’ve recommended Subaru models to, still return my calls.

THE FINE PRINT

2020 Subaru Legacy Limited

TYPE:  Front-engine, all-wheel-drive

ENGINE:  2.5-liter Boxer 4-cyl

HORSEPOWER:  182 @ 5,800 RPM

TORQUE:  176 lb.ft. @ 4,400 RPM

BASE PRICE: $29,745

AS TESTED:  $32,690

FUEL CONSUMPTION:  27-city, 35-highway, 30-combined