Mistaken identity is a definite problem. In its most extreme circumstances it’s sent men to the electric chair, but the usual result is little more than embarrassment. During my recent road test with the new Subaru Legacy sedan I was asked twice if I was driving a Nissan Maxima and once if it was the Toyota Aurion. Is this compliment or insult for the fifth generation Legacy? Either way, it shows the Legacy has a new maturity in styling that has aligned it with its competitors by trading some individuality for generic appeal.
The powers at Fuji Heavy Industries have pumped up the Legacy in every direction, growing it in length, height, width and wheelbase. While there are passenger benefits to the larger dimensions the growth spurt has removed the Legacy further from its leery sports sedan roots. That said, the new aesthetic may be familiar but it’s modern and smart. The bulging wheel arches, plus-sized light clusters and tasteful use of contrasting silver trim make for a handsome if conservative machine.
The Legacy has never drawn its true identity from it’s mere sheet metal. What makes it unique is it’s blend of boxer engine and an all-wheel-drive set up. Our test vehicle had Subaru’s 3.6-litre horizontally opposed 6-cylinder boxer engine. This petrol-powered unit is the largest ever fitted to a Legacy and churns out 191kW of power and 350Nm of torque. The 3.6-litre engine only falls short of Subaru’s turbocharged 2.5-litre GT motor by 4kW and matches it exactly for torque. The result is a lively 0-100kph-sprint time of 7.3 seconds and some stiff mid-range punch. Positive at any pace the motor delivers smooth consistent power and had a quiet refined demeanor that provides a valid alternative to Subaru fans who don’t want the rawer turbocharged four-banger. The six-cylinder can be run on 91 RON fuel and will return 10.3l/100km economy combined.
The boxer engine is teamed up exclusively with a five-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters. The auto box is generally relaxed with no problems finding the right gear and is capable of firing off rapid downshifts when required. The paddles functioned well but had a slight lag on up shifts, this wasn’t a major issue particularly in a car that’s happiest cruising with the transmission kept in D. In Premium spec the auto box is given further character with Subaru’s SI-Drive system. This allows selection of three different driving styles ranging from an economy focus to a sharp sports mode.
While the Legacy’s power train is impressive the vehicles true strength now, as always, lays in it’s handling capabilities. The 2010 Legacy makes use of a special planetary centre differential and a limited slip rear differential that together transitions power to any wheel that needs it. The results are near staggering, with an epic level of grip regardless of conditions. During the road test the NZ weather turned on some seriously heavy rain and the Legacy refused to break traction even when provoked. These driving characteristics hold true even on gravel or in snowy conditions. When the rains subsided the Legacy was awesome on the twisty tarmac and showed a neutral stable feel that stayed flat and honest when thrown into corners. The speed sensitive steering is a fine match for the balanced chassis offering firm feedback and precise turn-in.
Ride quality is very good and the high handling capabilities don’t directly result in an over firmness, with the Legacy absorbing most bumps and dips even on rougher roads. Effort has also been put into sound deadening with minimal road and wind noise entering the cabin.
The inside of the Legacy is where the increased dimensions pay off nicely. It’s a spacious and pleasant atmosphere with quality dark plastics mixing into brushed metal and walnut trim. The Premium specification gives a genuine feeling of entry-level luxury and includes leather upholstery, power front seats, keyless entry and auto headlights and wipers. The instruments are large and easily read, and the switchgear is well laid out but a little basic and the main display screen is small and looks slightly dated. Rear seat room has been improved markedly and can accommodate three adults comfortably. The back seat also has a pass through opening for skis or longer items. Overall, the interior has a solid fit and finish is spacious and well appointed.
Safety features include seven airbags with a driver’s knee airbag, ABS brakes with EBD, electronic stability and traction control.
The Legacy 3.6R Premium is a strong all round performer and is underestimated within its segment. The Legacy has survived its raucous youth and is now looking to be a responsible vehicle complete with safety, class and levels of grip that would embarrass superglue. It may match Toyota and Nissan in wearing a business suit instead of a Hawaiian shirt but open the throttle on a twisted road and it will show it still knows how to party. If you’re looking for a grown up four-door family sedan that can be safely driven on a variety of road surfaces and offers useful grunt then check out the new Legacy.
What we like:
- Spectacular handling
- Quality interior
- Powerful engine
What we don’t like:
- Uninspired styling
- Dated switchgear
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Subaru Legacy 3.6R Premium – Specifications
Engine type: Horizontally opposed Boxer 6 cylinder, petrol engine
Valve mechanism DOHC with Dual AVCS
Bore x stroke mm 92 x 91
Capacity cc 3630
Compression ratio 10.5
Fuel tank capacity litres 65
Fuel system Multi point sequential injection
Fuel requirement RON 91
Maximum power output (DIN) kW/rpm 191kW@5600rpm
Maximum torque (DIN) Nm/rpm 350Nm@4400rpm
Accelaration 0-100 Km/h secs 7.3
Electronic Throttle Control system (ETC) Drive-by-wire
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 combined 10.3
Emission standards Euro4
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 urban 14.7
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 extra urban 7.6 C02 emissions (ADR81/02) combined (g/km) 242
Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
Variable Torque Distribution Yes
Steering Engine speed sensitive power assisted rack and pinion
Minimum turning circle (curb to curb) m 11
Front suspension McPherson strut type, independent suspension
Rear suspension Double wishbone type, independent suspension
Front brakes Ventilated disc brake
Rear breaks Ventilated disc brake
Brake booster type mm Tandem
ABS 4-channel, 4-sensor ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution
Wheels and Tyres
Tyre manufacturer Bridgestone
Tyres (width, profile, size, load index and speed) 225/50 R17 94W
Rim size (inches) 17×7.5JJ
Spare wheel 205/50 R17 89V
Overall length (mm) 4745
Overall width (mm) 1780
Overall height (mm) 1505
Wheel base (mm) 2750
Front track (mm) 1530
Rear track (mm) 1535
Minimum ground clearance (mm)3 150
Cargo volume – rear seat up/down (litres) 476 / -
Seating capacity 5
With trailer brakes (kg) 1800
Without trailer brakes (kg) 750 Maximum towball down load (kg) 180