Cars

2015 Subaru Legacy a WRX Wrapped in a Coupe-Style Sedan’s Skin

TAKE A SPIN: The 2015 Subaru Legacy aims for coupe like styling in the midsize sedan that is roomy inside.
TAKE A SPIN: The 2015 Subaru Legacy aims for coupe like styling in the midsize sedan that is roomy inside.KEITH GRIFFIN

In sports, two great sibling rivalries were Joe DiMaggio and his brother Dom in baseball and John McEnroe and Patrick McEnroe in tennis. Both Patrick and Dom were stars in their own rights but were vastly outshone by their superstar brothers.

Such is the case with the Subaru Legacy. The Subaru Outback is the superstar in this family and it greatly outshines the Legacy. The Legacy is a strong midsize sedan made even better for 2015, yet nobody thinks sedans when they think Subaru.

Jeff Walters, Subaru’s U.S. sales chief, says a lot is riding on this car for the Japanese automaker, which has long done well in cold weather states like New England, where all-wheel drive is an important consideration. “Our next big opportunity is being able to do better with four-door sedans,” he says. The Subaru Legacy is going to be a major part of the company’s drive to hit 500,000 in sales. Subaru predicts Legacy sales could jump from 32,000 to 56,000 by next March.

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Is it a realistic goal? Based on a couple of days behind the wheel in Northern California, the answer would be yes. With the right marketing, the Legacy could finally become the car that buyers will associate with Subaru.

The 2015 Legacy 2.5i is powered by a double-overhead-cam 2.5-liter Boxer engine that debuted in 2013 and has received numerous enhancements for lighter weight, improved efficiency, and quieter operation. It was never a noisy car but it now seems significantly quieter. It is rated at 175 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque.

The model we drove was the 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R. This is the model where the WRX snarls underneath the refined exterior. The 3.6-liter Boxer engine produces 256 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of peak torque. Notably, the 3.6 sustains at least 225 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,000 to 6,000 rpm. There is no lack of zip to this engine.

The best feature of the new Legacy would be its continuously variable transmission. Subaru’s version now equals the best of what Nissan has to offer. It has stepped programming that allows the driver to feel shift points when accelerating and a less linear feel. It’s a smart move on Subaru’s part because it negates the CVT naysayers who like the clunk that automatic transmissions provide.

The CVT is also more efficient for 2015. The four-cylinder Legacy is rated at 26-mpg city/36-mpg highway for a combined 30-mpg. Those are high numbers for an all-wheel drive vehicle. The six-cylinder engine is rated at 20-mpg city/29-mpg highway for a combined rating of 23-mpg.

Handling is superb. I approached curves aggressively enough to appreciate the Legacy’s active torque vectoring, an enhancement of the vehicle dynamics control stability and traction control system. As Subaru points out—and my experience proves— it fosters more neutral cornering by applying brake pressure to the inside front wheel.

What makes this such a strong midsize sedan? One factor is an increase in interior space. It is two inches wider and that is a huge amount of space in the automotive world when it comes to passenger comfort. It helps make the Legacy a serious contender in the midsize sedan market—a competitive segment that includes some outstanding cars.

Further interior enhancements reinforcing the appeal include things like a 6.2-inch high-resolution display standard and an all-new user interface with touch screen. Premium models get 7-inch screens like a tablet on your dash. It is a multi-touch screen with swipe, scroll, and pinch. The top-end units get navigation and voice command that controls audio and the HVAC system. Standard in the Limited trim level is a 576-watt equivalent Harman Kardon amplifier and premium speakers.

The exterior, to be frank, might be the car’s weakest point. Subaru has recently neutered its designs to make them more mainstream and it’s been a huge factor in its success. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. Subaru is playing follow-the-leader by promoting the Legacy’s coupe-like styling, which seems so much like a cliché. At least the design isn’t hampered with huge pillars that you find on a standard coupe. The Legacy does enjoy great visibility at all corners and that’s not something most designers seem to embrace.

Safety continues to be a strong selling point. The Legacy will still have pre-collision braking; the vehicle can come to complete stop with adaptive cruise control; lane departure and lane sway warning; pre-collision throttle management; and lead vehicle alert.

The Legacy also has blind spot detection with lane change assist up to 76 yards and rear cross traffic alert with visual indicators and beeps. It’s unsightly with its “big eyes” mounted in the front windshield but the available EyeSight driver assistance system, the highest-rated front crash prevention system by IIHS, includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and vehicle lane departure warning.

Cross traffic alert is a silently impressive piece of technology that is going to do lots to prevent parking lot accidents. Is it a lifesaver? No, but it will prevent major damage to you and your vehicle. Plus, in parking lot accidents, it’s rear-seat passengers (your kids) who are more likely to get the brunt of the collision. There are also new front seat cushion airbags that help prevent submarining in frontal crashes (where you slide out below your seatbelt) as part of a total of eight air bags, including two chamber side seat airbags.

The 2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i has a starting price of $21,695. The 2015 Legacy 2.5i Premium has an MSRP of $23,495 and adds All-Weather Package, Dual Zone Automatic Climate Control System, 10-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift handle, and an illuminated overhead console and front door pull handles. The base 3.6-liter model starts at $26,495. The flagship of the sedan line-up, the Legacy 3.6R Limited, has a starting MSRP of $29,595 and includes a new, High-Torque Continuously Variable Transmission.

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

THE BASICS

Price, base (with destination): $29,595 top of the line Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited with CVT and navigation. Fuel economy: 20-mpg city/29-mpg highway with CVT. Drivetrain: 3.6-liter, six-cylinder Boxer engine. Body: Four-door sedan

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 256 hp @ 6,000 rpm. Torque: 247 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Overall length: 188.8 inches. Wheelbase: 108.3 inches. Height: 59.0 inches

Width: 72.4 inches. Curb weight: 3662 lbs.

THE GOOD

All-wheel drive and superb handling combined with a strong powertrain and a fairly sumptuous interior for a Subaru.

THE BAD

Exterior styling is not its strong point. Subaru says the Legacy has coupe-like styling, which is just a cliché in automotive design used way too much for sedans.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The 2015 Subaru Legacy could become the sedan that makes the car-buying public finally realize that the company makes more than just great crossovers.

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