Balance is a relative skill and while it’s easy for most of us to stroll down a flat road walking a tightrope is something we leave to the professionals. Creating a successful modern four-door family sedan is another balancing act with pitfalls on either side. Styling should be distinctive but not ostentatious, handling should be dynamic but the ride comfortable and the engine needs strength but to still offer decent fuel economy. Like most carmakers Subaru has at times struggled to perform the balancing act required to appeal to the masses and has instead been viewed as a niche automaker. Now for 2010 Subaru has a new model Legacy that is attempting to appease badge fans while attracting new buyers. Car and SUV spent some time with the Legacy Sedan Sport to take in the show.
What’s immediately noticeable with the 2010 Legacy is the increase in size over its predecessor. Length, height, width and wheelbase have all seen varying increases resulting in a completely new profile. A raked character-lined bonnet pushes into the arched roofline, ending out back in a short, high boot lid. A strip of chrome trim accents the roofline and matched up well with 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels on our tested base-model Sport. Pumped out wheel arches, a chrome grille and XL-sized light clusters finish an exterior look that’s stylishly modern but still rather generic. in fact, it shares little resemblance to the Legacys of old and is closer aligned to the Nissan Maxima. That said, it’s a handsome machine especially considering it’s the base-model and has features often reserved for higher-spec versions like front fog lamps, colour-coded side mirrors and tinted rear security glass.
The Legacy cabin is where the increased exterior dimensions pay off nicely. It’s a spacious area with low-mounted seats that maximise headroom and generous legroom for backseat passengers. The dashboard and controls are made up of a tasteful mix of dark plastics, brushed metal and silver trim. It’s elegantly styled and well put together but some of the hard plastics don’t have a quality feel. The silver-ringed instruments are large and easily read, and the switchgear is fairly well laid out but the main display screen is thin with a dated digital look. The cloth trim on the wide seats is soft and has a durable while the steering wheel is leather wrapped and well-endowed with stereo and cruise control toggles.
Other cabin appointments on the Legacy Sport include a 6-Disc Kenwood CD stereo with aux input, electronic park brake, trip computer, dual zone climate air con, reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, smart key entry and a total of eight cup holders. Bluetooth is only included in higher-spec models. Overall the Legacy cabin uses materials of mixed quality but has a solid fit, good practicality, plenty of space and an impressive equipment list.
Under the bulging bonnet lays Subaru’s tried and tested 2.5-litre boxer engine that has received lighter pistons and an improved cooling system. Power output is a healthy 123kW with 229Nm of torque from the unique mill. It’s a refined, flexible unit and although it can’t keep pace with Subaru’s more performance orientated motors it never feels underpowered. Motorway cruising, stop-start traffic, and open road overtaking are all easy tasks for the 2.5-litre engine. However, the big news for this car isn’t the capable engine but the CVT transmission, which Subaru has executed beautifully.
Only available mated to the 2.5-litre engine, the CVT is a slick unit that has no issue finding the right ratio and avoids the tedious droning type of acceleration often criticised in similar systems. Deliberately programmed to behave like a standard auto gearbox, Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT is a high-tech piece of kit and provides ideal gearing for both economy and acceleration when needed. If manual changes are required, steering wheel mounted paddles allow access to six gear ratios for full control over the engine. The CVT box combined with engine refinements has lowered fuel consumption to 8.4 l/100km on the combined cycle, an impressive figure considering the car’s AWD system and 1432 kg kerb weight. The Legacy power train is a real strength for the vehicle and makes for a tempting formula of usable performance, relaxed attitude and frugal economy.
When it comes to handling capabilities Subaru prides itself on being an over-achiever and the latest models represent no departure. The 2010 Legacy’s all-wheel-drive system makes use of a special planetary centre differential and a limited slip rear differential that together, transition power to any wheel that needs it. The results are progressive and remarkable, with an epic level of grip regardless of weather conditions. The Legacy has a stubborn refusal to break traction even when provoked, holding true even on gravel. Twisted tarmac roads are where the Legacy really excels showing a neutral stable feel that remains flat and honest when thrown into corners. The speed sensitive steering provides a fine match for the balanced chassis offering firm feedback and precise turn-in. Even with the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engine the AWD system allows the Legacy Sport to be an engaging and quick point-to-point vehicle.
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.
Safety features include seven airbags with a driver’s knee airbag, ABS brakes with EBD, electronic stability and traction control systems.
So what’s the verdict on the Subaru Legacy Sport?
It’s a consummate all-rounder, which has a maturity and practicality that’s sure to appeal. The balance that it offers extends further than just its handling credentials and includes a comfortable ride, spacious cabin and elegant styling. However, from a buyer’s opinion, it might be the slick new CVT transmission and the fuel economy it brings that really tips the scales in the Legacy’s favour. Priced at $43,490 the Sport model never feels low spec and is superbly appointed inside and out. If purchasing in the mid-size sedan segment the Subaru Legacy demands consideration.
Price: $43,490 ($41,490 with manual transmission)
What we like:
- Brilliant AWD system
- Smooth CVT transmission
- Well-equipped for the price
What we don’t like:
- Styling won’t suit all tastes
- Mixed quality interior plastics
- CVT carries $2K price premium
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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Subaru Legacy Sport CVT (2010) – Specifications
Engine type Horizontally opposed Boxer 4 cylinder, petrol engine
Valve mechanism SOHC with i-AVLS
Bore x stroke mm 99.5 x 79.0
Capacity cc 2457
Compression ratio 10
Fuel tank capacity litres 65
Fuel system Multi point sequential injection
Fuel requirement RON 91
Maximum power output (DIN) kW/rpm 123kW@5600rpm
Maximum torque (DIN) Nm/rpm 229Nm@4000
Accelaration 0-100 Km/h secs 10.1
Electronic Throttle Control system (ETC) Drive-by-wire
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 combined 8.4
Emission standards Euro4
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 urban 11.5
Fuel consumption (ADR81/02)2 extra urban 6.6
C02 emissions (ADR81/02) combined (g/km) 198
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 brakes Solid disc brake
Brake booster type mm Tandem
ABS 4-channel, 4-sensor ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution
Wheels and Tyres
Tyre manufacturer Yokohama
Tyres (width, profile, size, load index and speed) 215/50 R17 91V
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) 150
Cargo volume – rear seat up/down (litres) 476
Kerb weight (kg) 1432
Seating capacity 5
With trailer brakes (kg) 1500
Without trailer brakes (kg) 750
Maximum towball down load (kg) 150