The holiday season is always an interesting time of year to test vehicles. From the climate to the frequent family outings and the hoards of gifts to cart around, December provides excellent opportunities to test a car’s aptitudes. The ideal vehicle for the season would be spacious and comfortable, feature a good equipment level, be pleasant to drive, and come with AWD, of course. This would be the best case scenario. After making a few phone calls in search of this rare pearl, the first offer I got was for the 2011 smart. Uh, thanks, but after the holidays, please!
The second offer was for the 2011 Subaru Legacy. Bingo! Since this vehicle fit the description of the perfect Christmas vehicle, I jumped at the chance to pencil it into my agenda. First off, it just underwent a major overhaul in 2010. With disappointing sales figures in the past, Subaru management decided to “Americanize” it by boosting its size. And though the Legacy’s style was also revamped to please the masses, it has kept some of its core qualities.
Increased versatility, the magic of AWD
Now that the Legacy is more competitive in many regards, it poses a threat to the segment’s leaders like the Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord. That said, it has lost some of its essential DNA. I was always a fervent fan of the Legacy, particularly the GT with its amazing handling and compact size. These qualities have been sacrificed to please larger crowds. Though I remain a little disappointed, I have to admit that the move makes sense. Niche models can be hard to justify, and automakers are obviously in the business of making money.
Since 2010, the Legacy has only been offered as a four-door sedan. If you want a wagon, go for the Outback (also redone last year to appeal to people who prefer larger vehicles). Naturally, the Subaru name is synonymous with all-wheel drive, which all Legacies come with. This is Subaru’s secret weapon, and you’ve got to admit that you feel a lot safer in one of this brand’s cars when driving conditions take a turn for the worse. AWD gives the Legacy a clear advantage over a good number of its rivals.
Three drive trains
The 2011 Legacy comes with three available drive trains. The basic version, the 2.5i, comes with a four-cylinder flat engine that produces 170 horsepower and the same amount of torque. Equipped factory-standard with a six-speed manual transmission, this version offers an appealing base price, but the power it delivers is just barely enough when the vehicle is fully loaded. It will probably be the most popular trim level, but not the most exciting to drive.
If you like sporty handling, go for the 2.5GT, which features the same four-cylinder flat engine, but this time it comes with a turbocharger and an intercooler bringing the horsepower up to 265. This is a much more suitable option for a vehicle of this size, doing the Legacy more justice – and not necessarily resulting in higher fuel consumption. And though many buyers may disagree, the manual gearbox is the better choice. It increases driving pleasure while allowing you to whip every last horse out of the engine. The CVT definitely delivers better fuel economy, but many, including myself, just can’t get used to this kind of transmission. It takes away some of the charm…
What about the six-cylinder?
The 3.6 version is frankly hard to justify. What’s strange is that this six-cylinder flat engine produces 256 horsepower, which is less than the turbocharged four-cylinder. And its fuel consumption is about the same. The only advantage in our eyes is that it is paired with a conventional automatic gearbox, a nicer choice. However, it only comes with five speeds. Subaru is most certainly trying to please the six-cylinder crowd. But considering that the majority of automakers are dropping the six-cylinder in favour of the turbo four-cylinder, Subaru should stop worrying about losing clients over this.
In terms of style, the Legacy’s design is much more versatile. Its increased size is quite noticeable, even at first glance. Despite having more serious lines, it still has a dynamic appeal, especially the GT with an air intake in its hood and sporty wheels. Overall, however, it’s pretty conservative. Some aspects take after the Impreza, which has definitely won over a lot of hearts.
Inside the vehicle, the Legacy is appreciably spacious. All passengers have good head and leg room, and the cargo space is generous. Now as roomy as its competitors, the new Legacy has made up for the previous generation’s main pitfall. Yet, the interior is nice in a Plain Jane kind of way. Not to the point of looking cheap, but it lacks that something special. They thought of everything to make it more efficient, but not more eye-catching. The ho-hum appearance is more pronounced on the basic versions, of course. Subaru, like Honda, pays little attention to sound systems or connectivity features. High-tech buffs won’t fall for a Subaru.
The Legacy stays true to the Subaru credo. It offers a terrific drive train, its AWD is a sure bet in all weather conditions and its new, more spacious interior is much more practical. However, a lot of buyers may turn to the Outback, which offers just as much, but with more SUV flavour – a recipe that still has people coming back for more!
|Test model||2011 Subaru Legacy|
|Price range||$23,995 - $38,595|
|Price as tested||$26,395|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Fuel economy (city/highway/observed)||10.6 / 7.4 / 11.2 l/100km|
|Competitive models||Chevrolet Malibu, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry|
|Value for price|