A fantastic full-featured sedan that competes on every level.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2020 Subaru Legacy
Base price (Premier GT trim): $39,095
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $40,845
The 2020 Legacy is all-new, and let me preface my article by saying this review will come across as gushing. Well, it’s deserved here. The Legacy really surprised me in many ways, and I loved it.
If this Legacy has any shortcomings that are immediately obvious, it would be the styling. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a nice-looking sedan but there is nothing that sets it apart and nobody in the world will be doing a double-take when one drives by. It’s a bland design and blends in.
With that said, the LED headlights are very bright and effective and I liked the nifty LED tail light signature and the we-mean-business dual exhaust tips.
The materials in the Legacy are absolutely world-class. Everything is soft-touch, including beautifully stitched panels and the two-tone caramel interior is lovely.
The heated and ventilated front seats, upholstered in stunning perforated Nappa leather, are extraordinarily comfortable and well-bolstered.
Not only is the Legacy interior lovely to look at, it is a modern as can get in many aspects. It is laden with tech, and some of it is class-leading. One of the coolest parts was the driver recognition feature. There is a camera that instantly recognizes who sits in the driver’s seat, greets you by your name (that you can set to be whatever you want) and adjusts the interior to their preferences, including the seat position and other programmable factors. I haven’t been in another car that does this, and it worked flawlessly every time as we switched drivers. We even added a few people that weren’t driving just to throw it a curveball and it was accurate every time.
Speaking of technology, check out that huge 11.6-inch touchscreen! It handles everything from media, phone, navigation, apps and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to climate control and more. Subaru was kind enough to augment the screen with some hard buttons and knobs for temperature controls, volume and tuning. But there are some functions that remain screen-based, and these are occasionally buried under a couple of menus. For example, I’d prefer to see a hard button for the seat heating/ventilation. But considering I had to go through the touchscreen for these functions, they are easily accessible and I quickly got used to that. The 12-speaker harman/kardon sound system is outstanding.
Subaru dumps a crazy amount of driver assistance technology into the Legacy in this trim. You get the usual suspects – blind-spot monitoring, rear/side vehicle detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert with reverse automatic braking, rear and front view cameras and then all of the Eye-Sight goodies: pre-collision braking and throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane centering assist, lane sway/departure warning and lane keep assist. A cool addition is DriverFocus, which helps mitigate driver distraction and reminds you to keep your eyes on the road when you aren’t doing so, including if you look down at your phone, or off to the side, etc.
I did wish for a nice big panoramic roof – instead, there’s a standard-sized sunroof overhead.
The niceties from the front carry on in the rear seat, with all surfaces being soft-touch and padded – it felt like no corners were cut here. Even the backs of the front seats are nicely upholstered.
There is a lot of passenger space in the back, and the seats are very comfortable. I’m 5’10” and sitting behind my own driving position, I had a ton of leg room (over 5 inches!) including plenty of foot space under the driver’s seat as well as head room to spare. The middle seating position isn’t the greatest – there’s a floor tunnel and the seat is raised and a bit narrow.
The two outboard seats are heated, and rear passengers get two USB plugs at the back of the centre console.
I liked the little nooks and crannies around the cabin. There’s an open bin on the dash in front of passenger and another small open bin at the front of the console where you’ll also find an auxiliary and two USB plugs.
The trunk is huge and very usable. This might sound trivial, but this car is so good, I had to look for things to pick at. The trunk light is so weak, it’s almost of no use, and at night, we could not see what was in there.
Under the Hood
The GT is back, baby. That means performance, and here it comes from Subaru’s 2.4L boxer-4 putting out 260HP and 277 lb.ft of torque. Subaru sends the power through a CVT and to all four corners via its all-wheel drive system. The Legacy GT is rated at 9.9/7.3 L/100 km (city/highway) – we averaged 10.5 L/100 km during our time with it.
This being the GT trim, power is plentiful and available at all RPMs. The Legacy does a nice job shuttling between a laid-back commuter and keeping the revs low to being a barn-burner when you step on it – the power gets put down in a snap, and it can become a furiously quick car, everything considered. It has tons of get-up-and-go for any driving situation.
The continuously-variable transmission (CVT) acts more like a conventional transmission with programmed shift points, and I found it hard to find fault with it. It reacted quickly, smoothly and intelligently, and there is little of that annoying moo-ing moan that CVTs of old coughed up. You can also “shift” it with paddles if you want – there are no gears in reality, but it is quite convincing nevertheless and super-fast.
Strangely, there are no other drive modes like Sport, Economy, etc.
The refinement of the Legacy continues into the suspension department. It is very well sorted, providing a superb balance between a luxurious, quiet ride and fantastic handling. Numb and disconnected steering aside, the car provides quite a bit of fun on the road with quick turn-in, great roadholding ability and competent manners when you ask it to do anything other than go in a straight line.
Chalk up another win for Subaru’s all-wheel drive system. I have always placed it at the top of my personal favourite list along with Audi’s quattro. It provides staggering amounts of traction on every surface including fresh snow and rutted, icy roads, particularly when paired with winter rubber. That continues into curves, making driving even more fun while providing tremendous control and safety.
But what about the braking, you ask? Surprisingly powerful, to be honest. They grab with authority and took a couple of minutes to get used to – a light touch is required so as to not haul things down to a stop. The driver is treated to great visibility out of the car from all angles. And did I mention that it’s quiet? The sound dampening is very well done – it’s even quiet at very high speeds and that’s with winter rubber on the tires.
OK, so the automatic engine start/stop technology is definitely not Subaru’s strong suit. I’ve complained about it in another Subaru review, and found much of the same here. The issues are when it fires back up. It’s not bad when you are at a red light or whatever, and the car has shut down, and you let up on the brake. This expected refire of the engine is generally acceptably smooth. The problem is when the car decides it needs to run the engine when you are still on the brake. Then it roughly jerks the entire car around, and adds a forward lurch into the mix. That makes things quite uncomfortable when you’re at a red light with pedestrians crossing in front of you. The Legacy’s start-up drama and ensuing full car lurch definitely makes those pedestrians very uncomfortable, and it’s a strike against an otherwise exceptionally refined automobile.
Anything missing? Maybe a 360-degree camera? And for heaven’s sake, Subaru – when you build a car this great, why not add a 10-cent handle in the trunk? What a ridiculous omission. Every time I closed the trunk, I got my hands dirty. That drives me crazy and I never understand why manufacturers do this – particularly on such a wonderful loaded-up car like the Legacy.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high. She loved driving it and she loved the way it functioned inside, and she said it felt like a very high-end car in every way. On that note, all my kids loved it too and so did their friends and several family friends, with the general reaction upon getting into the car being “Whoa, this must be a very expensive car!” It really appealed to a lot of people across a lot of demographic groups.
The new Legacy feels high-end when you get in as well as when you drive it. The build quality is spectacular and it felt rock-solid in every way. Subaru has loaded this thing up with content, much of it at the bleeding edge of current in-car technology, and has priced it very competitively. Add to that the deluxe cabin and their all-wheel drive, and I can’t help but give the new Legacy GT my highest recommendation. I would absolutely consider this as a vehicle for my own garage.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Subaru Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.