It's no surprise to anyone that crossovers have become the new standard for family transportation in recent years. Sedans don't sell very well, although there is still a market for them. Automakers are doing what they can to boost sales of sedans, whether it's upgraded performance versions or simply increasing comfort and technology to meet higher standards. Subaru has chosen to take the latter approach with their Subaru Legacy Limited for 2020.
What is it?
The Subaru Legacy is one of the sedans that started the modern crossover movement. Subaru initially took the Legacy sedan, turned it into a station wagon and renamed itOld outback. In 2011, the Outback put on some heels and got a more traditional crossover ride height. Although Subarusold many more OutbacksLast year than Legacys (181,178 vs. 35,063), the Legacy remains the sedan platform companion of the more popular Outback sibling.
The 2020 Subaru Legacy rides on the all-new Subaru Global Platform, which Subaru claims leads to the stiffest and quietest Legacy ever made. Most Legacy models are powered by Subaru's 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder boxer engine, producing 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. The Legacy XT offers a much-needed turbocharged power boost up to 260 horsepower. All Legacy models route power through a continuously variable transmission and four-wheel drive.
My test car was a Legacy Limited, with the less powerful engine option but otherwise fully equipped, with an MSRP of about $32,700. While our traditional focus here is more on performance, the Legacy XT was not available in our local press fleet.
Driving the 2020 Subaru Legacy
Even if buyers opt for the Legacy XT's 260 horsepower, Subaru isn't claiming the 2020 Legacy is a sporty vehicle. They emphasize traffic behavior, safety and technology above all else. So I embraced the somewhat normcore life for a week and rode the Legacy largely as intended. The distance I covered in the 2020 Legacy included a 250-mile highway drive, plus plenty of time in the city.
In terms of power, the non-XT Legacy models are up there with this 182 horsepower engine. You can't get around the weight of the Legacy - 3,500 pounds, ish - and while Subaru claims a 0-60 time of 8.4 seconds, the car just feels sluggish. The CVT does its job well enough, but would rather emulate the shifting (as opposed to the whole point of a CVT!) than keep the engine at its peak power of 5,800rpm. Despite the sluggish acceleration, the Legacy cruised easily at 75 mph and achieved a respectable 30 miles per gallon, between highway and city traffic. This matches Subaru's ratings of 27 city, 35 highway. We recommend that most buyers ride both Legacy and Legacy XT to decide if 182 horsepower is really enough.
Engine choice aside, there's plenty to like about the Legacy, especially in the Limited trim. The seats were fantastic and provided plenty of support for longer rides. Both front seats are height adjustable and the driver's seat has a pull-out thigh support for those of us with longer legs. It would be nice to see this cushion, first found in BMWs decades ago, also offered on the passenger side. Both the front and outboard rear seats were heated, and my Legacy Limited had an optional heated steering wheel. The heated seats were great, but the heated wheel got no further than "barely lukewarm" in my testing.
Although the newGlobal platformleads to a stiffer chassis, the ride quality of the 2020 Legacy was excellent. The suspension is tuned for comfort, but feels controlled by bigger, smoother curves. Tighter corners with a higher entry speed are confidence-inspiring until the front tires break in predictable understeer. You won't confuse this Legacy with oneWRX STi, but... that's not the intention.
Technologie in de Subaru Legacy 2020
Subaru has partnered with Harman/Kardon on their sound systems for the past several years, and like H/K systems in other makes of vehicles, the system in the 2020 Legacy is outstanding. Subaru's new Starlink infotainment system powers the speakers and offers TomTom navigation, alongside Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. My Legacy Limited had the more common 11.6" vertical touchscreen, although the base Legacy models get a smaller 7" horizontal screen.
While I found Starlink's startup a bit slow, it was easy to use and intuitive enough once it was up and running. The TomTom navigation worked well, although the voice guidance can be softened but not turned off. So even if the voice volume is set to zero, the volume of your music will still decrease during the time it takes for the cues to be spit out through your voice. This gets old fast when navigating a city with multiple turns in quick succession.
Starlink also supports Apple CarPlay, which I tried after dealing with the TomTom voice guidance. My problem with CarPlay is not exclusive to Subaru, but affects all vehicles with vertical touchscreens (Ram trucks, Volvos, Subaru, some new Fords). CarPlay has no idea what to do with a tall screen, so it sits in a horizontal bottom section. The software can stretch horizontally for wider screens, so this omission is a shame. Subaru's aspect ratio of the Starlink 11.6" screen is such that CarPlay buttons and text were very small and difficult to use or read.
Each Legacy includes SubarusEyesightdriver assistance technology. EyeSight bundles adaptive cruise control, lane centering and pre-collision braking. Adaptive cruise control works very well, and I liked the ability to choose how aggressively the car accelerates back to the set speed after deceleration. Lane centering wasn't good anywhere except on the most perfectly paved road, and there were frequent attempts to pull the car to the right side of the lane, unnervingly close to more moving traffic. I (fortunately) didn't experience any pre-collision braking, but the car did brake several times in full ABS panic while I parallel parked at a typical, slow speed.
My test car also included the 'DriverFocus' distraction reduction system, which monitors the driver's eyes relative to the road to make sure the driver isn't texting or staring into space. DriverFocus can also be used to identify up to five drivers and set their seat and mirror positions when they sit down. Unfortunately, the system never recognized my face during the installation process, despite multiple (well-lit) attempts. On the road, DriverFocus worked, but it was quite sensitive, frequently flashing the "Keep your eyes on the road" message when I'd looked away to read an exit or street sign.
Does the 2020 Subaru Legacy live up to today's standards?
This is actually difficult to answer. The Legacy 2020 is fundamentally very good. It's great on fuel economy, the seats and sound system are excellent, the ride is comfortable and the technology is, on the face of it, competitive.
However, diving deeper, the 2020 Legacy is a bit let down by its lack of power and technological quirks. While the competitors don't make much more power – Toyota's Camry makes 203bhp and Honda's Accord starts at 192 – it's just a bit more, and both cars are slightly lighter. The software behind Starlink and EyeSight isn't bad, but in some cases feels like it was rushed to production. With driver assistance technology evolving rapidly, I'm curious to see if Subaru and others can apply software updates to improve the systems currently on the road.
The 2020 Legacy is a solid offering in a highly competitive family sedan market, and Subaru has achieved exactly what most buyers will focus on most. While the car has some quirks, they don't outweigh its significant benefits.