“Confidence in Motion” is Subaru’s marketing catchphrase, and their strong sales year over year suggests that consumers agree with that sentiment. With the exception of the sporty BRZ, every vehicle in the Subaru lineup features all-wheel drive. The ever-practical Japanese car company is also known for achieving stellar safety performance, as they demonstrated when they gave DoubleClutch.ca a tour of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s crash test facility in 2015. More recently, Subaru Canada sent over a 2016 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Touring Package, finished in a smart looking Venetian Red Pearl. The Legacy is the midsize staple in the Subaru lineup, and represents one of the few ways that a family sedan can be had with all-wheel drive under $30,000.
The Touring trim level is in the middle of the Legacy range, and the test vehicle also came equipped with the optional Technology package, which adds the EyeSight safety system (reviewed in-depth here). The as-tested price rang in at $28,995, which compares well against a similarly equipped Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, which come only in front-wheel drive. At this level, the Legacy gets 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, automatic headlights, proximity key with pushbutton start, power sunroof, power driver’s seat, as well as dual-zone climate control.
Inside, the seating surfaces are of the cloth variety, but are reasonably comfortable. Space for people and cargo is generous, and is about right for any midsize sedan. The multimedia system on Touring models is a 6.2-inch touch screen “StarLink” system, that’s a bit long in the tooth and has a clunky interface. While many owners will get used to it, other automakers have been doing a much better job at user interfaces and responsiveness. With Toyota having an ownership stake in Subaru, it might be a good idea to draw from the parts bin and use technology similar to that of the no-nonsense setup seen in vehicles like the Camry, Sienna or Tacoma (reviewed here).
As I mentioned, on this trim level the Legacy comes with Subaru’s excellent EyeSight system. Using two cameras peering through the windshield and mounted on either side of the rear view mirror, EyeSight keeps tabs on functions such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation (automatic braking), as well as lane departure warnings. There’s even pre-collision throttle management, which prevents you from accidentally ramming into the vehicle in front of you, should you apply the throttle in close proximity to an obstacle seen by the cameras. EyeSight can also sound a courteous chime to let you know that the vehicle in front of you has departed, if you’re stopped at a red light and aren’t keeping up with the flow of traffic light after it turns green.
Powering the Legacy Touring is a 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed (“flat” or “boxer”) four cylinder engine making 175 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, and 175 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. This base engine is backed by a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that includes a lock-up torque converter. While this power level certainly isn’t astronomical, the CVT and low-end response from the flat four make for more than adequate performance when accelerating, merging, and passing. The transmission makes the most of the available power with a wide spread of gear ratios, and Subaru has programmed the CVT’s operation to feel a bit more like a conventional transmission with stepped gear ratios. This mitigates the odd slipping or rubber band feel that’s been the source of great criticism since the CVT became more mainstream. Those who prefer to row their own gears must forego the Technology package in order to get a six-speed manual.
Although there’s a bit of a weight and powertrain friction penalty associated with lugging around and spinning an all-wheel drive system, having the 2.5-litre four and CVT are generally favourable traits when it comes to fuel economy. This configuration is rated for 9.0L/100km in the city and 6.5L/100km on the highway. In reality, it was a bit difficult to maintain the Legacy below 8.0L/100km highway unless speeds were kept below 100 km/h. Overall observed economy for the week was 9.2L/100km, which included quite a few short trips and cold weather driving. Competitors such as the four-cylinder Honda Accord (reviewed here) and Toyota Camry would likely perform similarly under the same driving conditions.
In terms of driving dynamics, the Legacy is solidly in the middle of the pack. The handling and steering response isn’t as sharp as the Honda Accord or Mazda6, yet the ride quality isn’t particularly better. The suspension felt a little underdamped over larger undulations, leaving secondary body motions to be observable from the cabin. This appears to be a trait common to non-sporty Subarus, including the Impreza and Crosstrek (first drive here). Stiffly tuned WRX and WRX STi models don’t suffer from this problem. Additionally, throttle tip-in from a stop is very aggressive, and drivers will have to get used to taking it easy on the gas pedal in order to launch smoothly. Interestingly enough, when launching from about 5 km/h, the drive by wire throttle has a different tip-in setup, which is not nearly as aggressive. While both these behaviours aren’t particularly deal breakers, they’re definite curiosities in the way throttle response is calibrated.
Overall, the 2016 Subaru Legacy Touring is a pretty decent value for buyers looking for all-wheel drive traction in a midsize sedan, but without breaking the bank. The Honda Accord and Mazda6 will offer much better handling and driver engagement, as well as better multimedia systems, but come in front-wheel drive only. The Subaru EyeSight safety suite is a well-executed competitive advantage, performing well and is mostly seamless to the driver. In all other areas, the Legacy Touring does reasonably well, but doesn’t particularly shine brighter than the rest of the pack – it’s a safe buy when sportiness doesn’t matter.