Even though sedan sales are sinking, certain automakers refuse to give up on this segment because there are stalwart sedan owners who demand a more efficient, agile mode of transportation.
So, what can an automaker do to ensure its sedan survives the sales shrinkage?
Add utility, versatility and interior volume.
Thus, the Subaru Legacy enters its seventh generation for the 2020 model year, and it’s poised to survive the sedan apocalypse with unique technology, roomy interior volume, 15.1 cubic feet of cargo volume and standard all-wheel drive.
The Legacy happens to be the third all-new Subaru I’ve tested in the past couple months, and it’s the third Subaru I’ve fallen in love with.
It’s comfortable, has easy driving dynamics and introduces some unique features. Plus, with things like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and all-wheel drive standard, it’s already a leg up over its competition.
In fact, since Ford Fusion is leaving the segment, Nissan Altima is the only other midsize sedan that even offers AWD.
Plus, Legacy has a solid two-engine lineup that is both peppy and fuel efficient.
The base engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Boxer that delivers 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. This engine has power for fast accelerations and highway passing maneuvers, but it won’t win any drag races.
The up-level engine, which is found in the XT trims, is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder twin-turbo Boxer that delivers 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. This powertrain is the clear winner in the “fun” category, but I did notice a slight amount of turbo lag.
Combined fuel economy for each engine is 30 mpg and 27 mpg, respectively.
Both engines come with the standard auto stop/start engine, and while you can turn it off, you must tap through three screens on the multimedia display to get there. So, thank you for letting us turn this feature off, Subaru, but we’d like a hard button that makes it easier to disengage.
Overall, I found the Legacy to be well built and have solid driving dynamics.
While we were in the XT trims, we spent a lot of time on the Maricopa Highway, which is a winding bit of road that rises about 5,000 feet. The suspension managed to handle the twists and turns well. The tires may have squawked a bit on the hairpins, but it was generally smooth and competent.
During the press preview, we spent a solid 6 hours in the Legacy. The interior design and finish is similar to what we saw in the all-new Outback, which makes sense since the two vehicles are considered “sisters.”
Every trim offered with the Legacy except the base has the new and attractive 11.6-inch multimedia display. The EyeSight safety suite is standard, and the seats are super supportive and comfortable.
We spent our time in the Limited and Touring XT trims, so we enjoyed the heated front seats, leather seating surfaces and up-level safety features, such as blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Both vehicles had the acoustic front windshield for a quiet interior, but the XT trims also add acoustic front side window glass, which rachets up the quiet even more.
I know not everyone is sold on the over-large vertical display, but I love it. I especially appreciate the fact Subaru has large “app” buttons, which make it easy for fingers of all sizes to access each function without fumbling.
Additionally, Subaru has kept both the volume and tuning knobs as well as hard buttons to deal with cabin temperature. Thus, I’m OK with the fact everything else is housed in a digital format.
Some other interesting available tech features that we also saw on Outback include the 180-degree front-facing camera, automatic reverse braking and DriverFocus.
That last item includes driver distraction monitoring as well as facial recognition software that changes seating position and HVAC setting based on who sits in the driver’s seat.
It’s interesting and creepy at the same time.
One other thing Subaru has done to increase utility and functionality is add interior and cargo volume. According to Subaru execs, the rear-seat legroom is comparable to the Lexus LS large sedan, and the trunk has a wide and deep opening that will accommodate four full-size rollerboard suitcases.
Legacy also offers standard mounting brackets on the roof for quick installation of a rack, box or tray, which allows for carrying along surfboards, canoes or additional cargo.
While the interior design is smooth and tech-forward, the exterior falls in the “fine” category. It’s nothing exceptional, but it’s not ugly or polarizing either, and I think it will stand up well against the likes of the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.
Legacy gets six trims for 2020, four of which come with the base engine and two that get the up-level turbo. The breakdown is as follows.
Legacy ($23,645): This base trim is equipped with the 2.5-liter engine and has standard features such as all-wheel drive, EyeSight, LED headlights, automatic high beams, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM satellite radio, rear-view camera, roof rack anchors and 17-inch wheels.
Premium ($25,895): This trim adds the 11.6-inch multimedia display, all-weather package, dual climate control, WiFi hotspot, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 17-inch alloy wheels and Starlink.
Sport ($27,845): This trim adds sport badging, the black-out package, 18-inch alloy wheels, 2-tone sport interior, SI-Drive mode, LED fog lights, rear spoiler, passive entry and push-button start.
Limited ($30,645): This trim adds leather-trimmed interior, LED steering-responsive headlights, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, HarmanKardon premium audio, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, reverse automatic braking and heated rear seats.
Limited XT ($35,095): At this trim, Subaru adds the up-level 2.4-liter engine, high-torque CVT, dual stainless steel exhaust tips, moonroof, navigation, sound-insulated front door glass and DriverFocus.
Touring XT ($36,795): This top tier trim adds vented front seats, Nappa leather trimmed seats, power folding side mirrors, 180-degree front monitor and a CD player.
The 2020 Legacy will start hitting dealers in September.
The Bottom Line:
In a world where SUVs reign, there is still room for a clever sedan that maintains a level of utility and flexibility. The 2020 Subaru Legacy is such a vehicle.
While I wasn’t wowed by the exterior design, I love pretty much everything else about it from the available technology to the standard safety and AWD.