You can read just about any review, from any writer, of any recent Subaru, and they’ll pretty much all make some reference to modern Subarus losing the eccentric charm that made them appealing. They’ve been trying their damndest to refine a lot of the quirks out of their cars to make them more palatable to more people, with mixed results; sales are up but the enthusiasts that put them on the map feel left out in the cold. A lot of us around here like Subarus, and seeing them pursue this seemingly intentional blandness has us worried about the direction they’re headed in. The 2023 Subaru Legacy GT shows us they’ve found their stride, successfully marrying their pursuit of refinement with the driving dynamics we admired so much.
The Legacy has pretty much always been the mature Subaru, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Subaru’s newfound maturity suits this application impeccably. Among the enthusiast crowd, the spicier specs of Legacy have always been something of a stealth WRX, packing most of the performance of the WRX in a less boy-racer package. This GT model is no different, packing the same 2.4L turbocharged boxer engine from the WRX, tuned to make 260 horsepower under the Legacy, which is optimized for 87 octane.
Said engine is an impressive little thing, offering excellent low-end punch and a linear powerband that used to be unheard of in a car wearing the Pleiades cluster on its snout. The traditional boxer-engine noise has been largely tuned out, replaced with a thoroughly hushed growl that goes a long way towards hiding its performance envelope. This one of those cars where you wouldn’t be able to guess how fast you’re going until you look down.
The boxer mill pairs brilliantly with the CVT transmission, which I’m surprised and delighted to say is comfortably one of the best ones on the market. It does an excellent job letting the excellent engine be excellent, very neatly riding the line between obviously fake gears and obvious efficiency seeking motorboating that plagues so many CVT units; we observed an average fuel use of 9.6L/100km in our largely urban testing. It makes great use of the engine’s powerband, and responds swiftly to manual inputs if you’re feeling frisky.
The Legacy GT’s chassis calibration is similarly receptive to frisky business, featuring firmer springs and shocks. The stiffer suspenders offer an excellent blend of ride comfort and body control, to such an extent that we have to wonder why this isn’t the standard spec; the wallowing that comes with some of the more milquetoast models is eliminated with seemingly zero compromise. In typical Subaru fashion, hard cornering still sees the front end give way to understeer, but chances are the target demographic of this car will never notice it, and it’s not unbearable like we’ve seen on other Subarus.
Also unlike other Subarus, the steering is actually pretty good, finding a balance between the artificial over-eagerness of the WRX and lifelessness of something like the Outback. It’s not the most touchy-feely thing in the world, but it’s gauged well enough to feel natural and easily allows its pilot to confidently place it, and feel when the front tires are starting to scrub. The brake pedal is well judged and firm too, and the torque vectoring differentials do a great job putting power down when exiting a corner. It’s satisfying, quick, and actually pretty fun, a very pleasant surprise for a family car like this.
The cabin of the Legacy offers excellent accommodation for the whole family, with commodious seating space in all regards, and a massive trunk. The wonderfully supportive seats are trimmed in leather, with powered adjustment and ventilation in the front, and heating all around. The low beltline makes for excellent visibility, and the whole cabin is well appointed with quality materials. Infotainment comes courtesy of a portrait style 11.6-inch touchscreen powered by Subaru’s new Starlink infotainment, which isn’t perfect, but it’s snappy and intuitive enough to make up for its few ergonomic shortcomings.
Best all of is the Tomtom powered navigation, which is wonderful in an era where more and more automakers are just leaving that to your phone (although it does have wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay if you’d rather leave it to your phone), with the terrific 12-speaker Harman-Kardon sound system coming in a close second. Subaru’s EyeSight suite of safety systems and driver assist all work incredibly well, such that the Legacy will pretty much drive itself – but it will dutifully keep an eye on you to make sure you’re paying attention.
We tried to keep our eyes off the styling, which has been updated for 2023 to be more in line with Subaru’s distinct new design direction. Suffice it to say we’re not fans, and we’re not in love with the red grille stripe or the plain looking wheels on our GT model. We like the dark Cosmic blue paint, but not against the dark grey wheels. It’s easy to see what Subaru was trying to achieve, it just doesn’t work for us.
In summation, it’s this author’s opinion that this is one handily the best product Subaru makes right now, and I came away very impressed with how well it drives. While the WRX tries a little too hard to impress, and everything else in the lineup seemingly doesn’t try at all, our $41,995 2023 Subaru Legacy GT is a refreshing and reassuring assertion that Subaru does in fact, still know what they’re doing. It’s a car that nails the duality of being a fantastic family car and a compelling driver’s car all at once, just like Subaru used to be.