Forgettable design, an underwhelming engine, and a relatively undersized cabin have caused the outgoing version of the Subaru Legacy, tested here in MY2014 form, to be roundly ignored in North America’s midsize car market.
Unfortunately, the Legacy’s focus on the kind of chassis setup that appeals to an auto enthusiast reviewer left little time for Subaru to concentrate on the traits desired by the practical midsize car consumer.
Enjoyable on a twisty road
Real deal all-wheel-drive
Harks back to non-vast midsizers
Everybody’s (not) doing it
They forgot to style it
Dreadful wind noise
Lacks overall refinement
Big rear seat floor hump
Not enough forward motivation
Yet, historically-speaking, bland design hasn’t hurt many top-selling midsize cars. (Beige Camry, any takers? 450,000? Great!) On the other hand, Canada’s favourite midsize car in 2013 and through the first two months of 2014 is the head-turning Ford Fusion. The Fusion is available with a range of powerplants, front or all-wheel-drive, and enough tech to make a “social media entrepreneur” uncomfortably unaware.
No wonder, as a lack of overall refinement is the sharpest thorn in the 2014 Legacy’s side. Wind noise around the A-pillars was more than a little disruptive. The almost siren-like whine and wail of the 2.5L/CVT tandem under acceleration was, to be frank, laughable.
At least in Limited trim, the Legacy’s interior looks really nice, but it’s important that the interior feels as nice as it looks. The Legacy’s interior does not. The infotainment unit was not designed by Apple, nor by any other company that wants its technology to do a lot of stuff while still being simple to use and nice to look at.
Subaru’s EyeSight system watches out for the rear end of cars with which you’re about to collide and also takes note of your proximity to lane lines. Because you have better things to do. EyeSight mistook the bright blue sky for the rear end of a car on one occasion as we headed up a steep slope into Lawrencetown. Its beeping was always too high-pitched and too constant. EyeSight, in its current iteration, is hypersensitive.
|All Photo Credits: Timothy Cain ©www.GoodCarBadCar.net
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Brake feel is akin to stepping in an inch or two of muck before settling in mud. Subaru has made the throttle pedal very heavy, a great tactic for causing drivers to accelerate gently enough to find greater fuel efficiency. Even when you push through the weight, there simply isn’t a substantial amount of power to be found. 173 ponies? Seriously? If there are 173, they must not be well cared for. They huff and they puff but forward motivation is never plentiful, and the 2.5L’s inadequacy had me thinking that the extra weight of the all-wheel-drive system wasn’t worth it.
2014 SUBARU LEGACY LIMITED
Base Price * (CDN): $34,090
As-Tested Price * (CDN): $35,590
Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-valve H-4
Transmission: continuously variable
Horsepower: 173 @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 174 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
Curb Weight: 3427 pounds
Drive Type: all-wheel-drive
Length: 187.2 inches
Width: 71.7 inches
Height: 59.3 inches
Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
Passenger Volume: 2917 litres
Cargo Volume: 416 litres
Centre Console: 14 tennis balls
Glove Compartment: 31 tennis balls
EPA City: 24 mpg = 9.8 L/100km
EPA Highway: 32 mpg = 7.4 L/100km
Observed: 26.7 mpg
Observed: 8.8 L/100km
* includes destination/delivery.
Base price refers to MSRP of Legacy
Limited. Base Legacy price is $25,090.
Then the roads improved, and the bends of Nova Scotia’s Route 207 were more closely acquainted with one another, and the pavement’s smoothness limited the impact of the Legacy’s slightly busy ride. Suddenly the Legacy didn’t feel too heavy at all. The steering is a speck lifeless on either side of centre, but turn in is still quite quick as the low-slung boxer engine brings the Legacy’s centre of gravity way down. Unforeseen changes of direction are thus welcomed by the Legacy. Had the weather caused traction issues for its front-wheel-drive rivals, the Legacy’s expert all-wheel-drive system would have been a big help.
Easily charmed though I was by the Subaru’s knack for successfully attacking the rural roads I know best, it’s similarly easy for me, an obsessive tracker of automotive sales data, to remember that the midsize category’s best corner carvers are not among the segment’s top sellers. Canadian sales of the Mazda 6 have been plunging. In fact, they’re falling to ridiculous lows. And the 6 is highly regarded.
In the U.S. the Legacy is less popular than the Altima, Camry, Accord, Fusion, Malibu, 200, Optima, Sonata, Passat, Avenger, and that Mazda. The same group of cars easily outsold the Legacy in Canada last year, as well. Nissan positioned the first of its big Altimas as a sporty midsizer, but the current comfort-oriented Altima is the best-selling car in America right now.
It is fun to drive a midsize alternative that doesn’t feel as big as a barge, but inside, the Legacy doesn’t feel as vast as its contemporaries. The 2014 Legacy also feels wildly overpriced, as this 2.5i Limited with EyeSight comes within $1800 of Honda’s top-trim Accord Hybrid, a car which shames the Legacy in most aspects and can also be something of a joy to toss down a twisty road.
|GCBC Instituted ISTBTP, AKA Interior Storage Tennis Ball Test Protocol, In Early 2014.
The Subaru Legacy’s ISTBTP Results Are In The Spec Chart Above.
Subaru knows how to do better. They haven’t become one of America’s fastest growing auto brands by dishing out underdeveloped crossovers. Yet in their quest to make the 2015 Subaru Legacy more palatable to prototypical midsize purchasers, let’s hope Subaru hasn’t cast aside the qualities that make the fifth-gen car unique.