The Subaru Legacy is a large estate with all-wheel drive that can achieve 47.9mpg – and it’s so unique that it has virtually no direct competitors.
The Subaru Legacy estate has been around for a while, since 1989 in fact. In 1996 a version with a raised ride height was introduced, called the Outback.
The Outback was one of the original crossovers, ie. a combination of a normal car and an off-roader, well before it became fashionable and all the other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon.
However the Legacy estate, now in its fifth generation, still has its market pretty much to itself – how many other large estates can you think of that have all-wheel drive without a tall body and extra ground clearance? There’s the Audi A6 Avant but the cheapest quattro version, the 3.0 TDI, costs £41,305, or £10,000 more than the Legacy. The A6 matches the Legacy’s fuel economy but has 242bhp and much more performance. The Legacy used to be available in the UK as a saloon, but now it’s only available as an estate.
The Subaru Legacy shares the same engineering base as the majority of Subaru products – symmetrical all-wheel drive linked to a Boxer engine. In the Subaru Impreza, this combination proved highly successful in rallies worldwide. The Boxer engine means that the cylinders are horizontally-opposed rather than vertical as in the majority of engines. This results in a lower centre of gravity for the car , meaning that Subarus should go round corners more securely than most rivals .
The Boxer diesel engine was introduced in 2008 and when it appeared in the Subaru Outback it meant that this car became the most economical 4×4 in its class by a considerable margin, and it remained that way for a long time. However very few people – motorists and seemingly motoring journalists – were aware of this. The Legacy was slightly more economical than the Outback yet it suffered from being even more overlooked because of being in a class of its own with no direct competitors.
The fifth-generation Legacy has got heavier than the previous generation model, at 1584kg compared to 1505kg of the fourth-generation Outback, and in our eyes it’s debatable whether the latest model is an improvement in terms of its styling.
The interior of the Legacy has always been more upmarket than other models in the Subaru range, however, like the exterior, we’re not convinced that the new model displays sufficient progress over the previous-generation model.
The interior has a few quirky features . There’s a control to scroll through read-outs such as fuel consumption, yet it has a completely separate trip button elsewhere on the dash to reset the read-out. It has a handbrake that pulls out from the dash to the right of the steering wheel, and it seems to push in/pull out in the opposite way to that which feels intuitive. Certain features on the satnav are also less intuitive than those in other systems. Rather than having a USB connection it has sockets to accept three different coloured leads, and the CD player has a light blue plastic surround which we can’t imagine fits in with the interior design of any car.
The Legacy is spacious – in the front, in the rear where there is lots of legroom, and in the boot, which is huge, and which can become even bigger thanks to rear seats that fold flat at the touch of a button. It’s easy to get a comfortable seating position thanks to the electric adjustment of the driver’s seat.
The Legacy’s Boxer diesel has 150PS and 350 Nm torque, and it’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It has good performance and a key difference between this and the previous generation model is an improvement in refinement. If conditions are wet, then the Legacy becomes highly capable, because the all-wheel drive system features rally-proven all-wheel drive technology which provides excellent levels of traction. However unlike its Outback brother, the Legacy has on-road tyres, so its ultimate performance in conditions such as snow won’t match that of its taller stablemate.
The Legacy is comfortable (more than agile) and it feels stable and secure at motorway speeds and around corners. However its steering is nothing special and there’s a fair bit of road noise from its tyres.
The Subaru Legacy has an official fuel consumption figure of 47.9mpg and emissions of 156g/km CO2. This may or may not be impressive for its class – it’s impossible to say because there are no other direct rivals in its class. However compared to similar-sized crossovers it is relatively efficient. But there is one big issue that we have with the economy and emissions of this car
– they are worse than the previous generation model, which emitted 151g/km CO2. Even the previous generation Outback was better than this Legacy, at 153g/km CO2. All other manufacturers make a big deal about new models having lower emissions than the previous model, yet Subaru has given us a new model with higher emissions
. A key reason for this is likely to be the weight gain, which is probably the result of satisfying the needs of the American market for greater refinement and higher levels of equipment and safety kit.
An easy way for Subaru to get the emissions down would be to fit a stop-start system – which it hasn’t done. However, probably because the Legacy doesn’t have a raft of technology to help it score highly on the NEDC test, its real-life fuel economy, of 42mpg, was relatively close to its official figure.
With the BMW 520d Touring returning 57.6mpg, emitting 130g/km CO2 and having a Benefit in Kind rating of 20% (and not costing much more at £32,305), the Legacy really needs lower Benefit in Kind to appeal as a company car.
You can still buy a 2.5-litre petrol Legacy, which now comes with Subaru’s continuously variable transmission (CVT), but the diesel will be the more popular choice, with a choice of S, SE and SE NavPlus specifications starting at £26,900 and increasing up to £31,370.
Entry-level S trim includes dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, electric driver’s seat adjustment, Bluetooth and an electric sunroof. SE trim gives you larger alloys, sportier trim and suspension, and leather. SE NavPlus adds a keyless entry/starter system, rear-view camera and satellite-navigation.
Even with decent equipment and safety kit the Legacy is relatively expensive compared to rivals. However you should be able to expect good levels of reliability, and all Subarus come with a three-year aftercare package.
The Subaru Legacy is a large estate with all-wheel drive, and for such a car it is relatively efficient. It’s also comfortable and secure to drive, with the driving experience feeling more upmarket and refined than the previous-generation model. It’s difficult to compare it against direct rivals because it really doesn’t have any – which makes you wonder why no other manufacturers have direct rivals on sale. Is there not a sufficient market for this concept? Or is Subaru ahead of the game like it was with the Outback crossover?
Anyway, it’s all generally positive news about the Legacy except for the fact that this car is less economical and higher emitting than the previous generation model, and we find it amazing that any manufacturer could launch such a car in the current obsessive climate focused on lowering emissions. We’re also not convinced the exterior and interior design is a sufficient step forward over the last model. All-in-all the Subaru Legacy remains a competent if slightly expensive car for people who aren’t afraid to buy something with a bit of individuality. It gets a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.