2020 Subaru Legacy Review

2020 Subaru Legacy - Completely redesigned for 2020 and loaded with safety and tech, Legacy demands to be noticed.


A Chicago Auto Show world introduction, the Subaru Legacy is completely redesigned for 2020. Legacy is Subaru's largest car. It comes only as an and all-wheel-drive 4-door sedan, though the Subaru Outback wagon is mechanically similar. Competitors include the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat. Of those, only the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry are available with all-wheel drive.

Dimensionally, the '20 Legacy isn't much different than the model it replaces. However, Subaru made substantial changes under the hood and gave the vehicle completely new styling inside and out. Key changes include more powerful engines, an available 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment interface and a segment-exclusive DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System.

The model lineup includes Base, Premium, Sport, Limited, Limited XT and Touring XT. Standard on all but XT models is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower (up from 175 last year) and 176 pounds-feet of torque. It mates to a continuously variable automatic transmission. XT models get a turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that effectively replaces a 3.6-liter V6 from last year. This new engine makes 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, substantial upgrades from last year's 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. All Legacy models come standard with Subaru's all-wheel drive system.

The Base model lists for $22,746 and comes standard with forward collision warning and mitigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support and LED headlights. The $24,995 Premium adds 17-inch wheels, 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 10-way power driver seat, heated front seats and dual-zone climate control. The Sport lists for $26,945 and adds 18-inch wheels, keyless access and push-button start, two-tone interior and LED fog lights. The $29,745 Limited brings leather-trimmed upholstery, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert and steering responsive headlights.

The Limited XT and Touring XT get the more powerful 260-hosrepower engine. The Limited XT lists for $34,195 and also adds dual exhaust, power moonroof, heated steering wheel and DriverFocus distraction mitigation system. The $35,895 Touring XT adds Nappa leather-trimmed interior, heated and ventilated front seats, 180-degree front-view monitor, chrome-finished side-view mirrors, chrome-accented door handles and CD player.

The base 2.5-liter four is a bit out of its element in the 3,500-pound Legacy. Even with just a driver aboard, the engine strains to keep pace with traffic and struggles in passing situations. Thanks, in part, to a slow-responding continuously variable automatic transmission that seems to blunt power delivery in all but full acceleration. That said, the engine cruises quietly and provides enough pep in most around-town situations -- 0-60 MPH in about 8.3 seconds. Those wanting more acceleration will need to open their checkbooks for the XT models. They will be rewarded with lusty acceleration, 0-60 MPH in about 6.2 seconds, and a much crisper-acting continuously variable transmission.

Either way, both engines are stuck with an obtrusive start/stop feature that's designed to save full and shut the engine at stoplights. Many vehicles offer this feature and, in most cases, it goes unnoticed. However, in the Legacy, the entire vehicle shutters at the engine restarts.

Subaru's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for extreme off-road use. However, it does have active torque vectoring, which is boon for handling on any road surface.

When equipped with the base engine, Legacy nets EPA ratings of 27 MPG with and 35 MPG highway. In turbo guise, Legacy's numbers are 24 MPG city and 32 MPG highway. Both engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline. In routine suburban commuting, it's fairly easy to match the EPA numbers, but don't expect to hit the city number if you do a lot of rush-hour commuting. Regardless of engine, Legacy has an 18.5-gallon fuel tank, which gives it tremendous highway range.

While others in the class portend to be sport sedans, that is something the Legacy most certainly is not. Legacy's suspension is designed to provide optimum road comfort and maximum isolation from impacts. In addition, the over-boosted steering is devoid of any road feel and the tires lack the dry-road grip offered by most competitors. Don't be mad that the Sube doesn't compromise ride comfort for handling prowess, because a smooth and comfortable ride is something that most family-minded shoppers prefer.

Still, sometimes a soft suspension can leave you feeling a bit queasy. Thankfully, the Legacy's ride is nicely controlled and body lean is modest. Toss the Legacy into a quick turn or take an expressway on ramp too quickly and the tires complain loudly. Eventually, the Legacy defaults into a very controllable understeering condition that can turn into a 4-wheel slide if you apply more power. It's actually quite entertaining, though I doubt your passengers will enjoy it. Brakes provide adequate stopping power, but seem to trail off a bit after a few hard stops.

Overall, the Legacy provides a comfortable if somewhat soft ride. Interior noise levels are appreciably lower than most competitors. However, the base engine complains loudly in hard acceleration.

Though you might not think Legacy is that different on the outside, there's no mistaking the new model's modern interior. Still traditional in design, the center stack is dominated by the available 11.6-inch touch screen. Even lower level models get dual 7.0-inch screens. Thankfully, the instrument cluster consists of traditional dials that surround a center information screen. Materials are class appropriate and there's an upscale flare to the design, overall.

Another Legacy attribute that does carry over is the roomy interior. Front seats are large and comfortable and there is ample head and leg room for large adults. Rear seats are also quite comfy and provide more than enough space for two adults to spread out. Entry and exit are a snap through the wide door openings and the thin roof pillars and tall build mean great outward visibility.

On the tech side of things, Subaru left no stone unturned in the 2020 redesign. In addition to Subaru's EyeSight forward collision warning system, the new Legacy also offers blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and Subaru's new DriverFocus distraction mitigation system. Also standard is Android Auto and Apple Car Play and Subaru's Starlink infotainment system. Altogether, it is an impressive array of features that mostly work well to keep passengers safe and entertained.

The DriverFocus system actually monitors the driver's eyes and beeps when the driver appears distracted. It can also detect driver fatigue and prompt for rest breaks. The system can be annoying at first because it forces drivers to keep their eyes on the road, but quickly you realize it is for your own good.

The standard twin-screen radio and climate control displays are a bit much to operate at speed, but the larger 11.6-inch screen that's available on Premium and above is a bit more intuitive to operate. Still, both systems are a slow reacting to touch input and sometimes freeze for a minute or two. That's a bit distressing, but its likely a software bug that will get ironed out over time.

With 15.1 cubic feet of capacity, the trunk is on the small side in the class. That's not to say it is small, but some others offer more than 16 cubes overall. The rear seat backs fold to increase cargo capacity if necessary. Interior storage is typical with a few open and covered bins throughout.

Bottom Line -- Subaru's new Legacy may not look new on the outside, but it is completely reworked from top to bottom. Mechanical and tech changes bring it up to class standard in most cases and the large and comfortable cabin is a huge plus. Legacy's strengths play well to midsize car buyers and that's been a key to Subaru's overall success. If you are looking for something sporty, perhaps consider an Accord, Mazda6 or Altima, but if you want a traditional smooth-riding midsize sedan, Legacy deserves a long look.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.