Review: Subaru Legacy is an exceptional choice for us average Americans

By Larry Printz
Tribune News Service

Amid the battle between blue states and red states, between those who wear a mask and those who refuse, it seems that our country is increasingly polarized. Heck, we can’t even decide if a beer is less filling or tastes great.

It’s hard to remember what the average American likes anymore. Yet the middle of the road endures. It’s why radio stations play “adult contemporary” music sung by Taylor Swift and Shawn Mendes for Americans who live in a 2,400-square-foot home that costs $320,000. When they eat out, it’s pizza or burgers, usually with cheese. After all, Americans love cheese.

The 2020 Subaru Legacy personifies the finest qualities of life in the middle of the road.

If this sounds like you and you’re looking for a new sedan, may I suggest the 2020 Subaru Legacy?

This car personifies the finest qualities of life in the middle of the road. Handsome and approachable in appearance, there’s nothing particularly sexy about the Subaru Legacy. But it exudes a refreshingly refined, no-nonsense level-headedness that’s increasingly rare in the world of Japanese car design. It mercifully eschews the juvenile video game flourishes that increasingly pass for tasteful car design.

Offered in six ascending trim levels, the 2020 Legacy is the seventh generation of Subaru’s all-wheel-drive midsize sedan. Built on the Subaru Global Platform that underpins other new Subarus, including the Impreza, Crosstrek, Forester and Ascent, its structure is 70 percent stiffer in both torsional and front-suspension rigidity, and 100 percent stiffer in both front lateral flex and rear subframe rigidity compared to the previous Legacy. This gives the car remarkable solidity.

It merely reinforces the Legacy’s well-built and thoughtful yet plain persona.

The test car, a top-of-the-line Touring XT, never felt overindulgent, even though it was extravagantly optioned. The seats, trimmed in leather, were soft and welcoming like a favorite recliner, yet proved supportive enough during more aggressive maneuvers. And for those living in cold climates, they were heated, but not ventilated unless you opt for the Touring XT, which also gets heated rear seats. Seating position is high and chair like, so you don’t have to stoop down excessively to get into the car as you would in other Japanese sedans.

Legroom is generous in front and accommodatingly roomy in the rear, although taller passengers might feel claustrophobic with the scooped-out headroom. The front seat cushion extends to accommodate longer legs, while the center console sports padded sides to rest your leg against. The upholstery is accented with real stitching, lending interest to the flowing shape of the instrument panel. Other niceties include two USB ports and a heated steering wheel.

The centerpiece of the instrument panel is an iPad-like 11.6-inch touchscreen that controls the audio, climate, navigation and essential functions. It large buttons work easily, but the display suffers from a lack of visual hierarchy on the radio screen, making finding the right button a daunting task until you’re accustomed to it. Voice-activated navigation is optional on the Premium, Sport and Limited and standard on the Touring. Keep in mind, however, that the base Legacy gets two 7-inch screens, which splits the infotainment display from the climate controls. Thankfully, all Legacy models get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and in-car Wi-Fi is optional for the first time.

The base engine is a revised 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine rated at 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque that Subaru says will launch the Legacy from 0 to 60 in 8.4 seconds. If you have a need for speed, you’ll want the 2.4-liter turbocharged horizontally opposed four that’s standard on the XT. With 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, it hustles you to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Both engines mate to a well-behaved continuously variable automatic transmission.

And, of course, it has all-wheel drive, but you knew that.

The turbocharged engine provides all the power you need, and the XT’s paddle shifters provide a livelier response compared to letting the CVT transmission do its own thing. There’s little turbo lag until you catch it napping at highway speed and demand more juice. This vehicle prefers smooth, steady inputs; it’s effortless to drive smoothly — until you come to a stop. That’s when the automatic stop/start shuts off the engine to save fuel, but comes back on with a jarring shudder, which is very out of character given the sophistication of the driveline.

Grip is excellent, as you might expect. The Legacy is quite agile, but not sporty. It doesn’t tempt you into indulging yourself with your right foot. It’s far too rational for that. The suspension is remarkably compliant, delivering a very comfortable ride without excess body motions or lean in corners. Steering is quick and nicely weighted, with a modicum of road feel.

Thoughtfully, driver assistance technology is more robust than ever, with lane centering assist, adaptive cruise control, distraction mitigation, reverse automatic braking, blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. And for the first time, you can get a front view monitor to reveal what’s lurking in front of the vehicle. Visibility is good in all directions, something not always true of sedans.

The interior is impressively quiet, more so than many luxury sedans, and the overall interior ambience feels premium without being showy. Even the horn has a regal sound, rather than the usual pipsqueak Japanese horn.

And wait till you see how wide the trunk opening is.

That’s because the 2020 Subaru Legacy (base price: $23,645-$36,795) is an exceptional choice for us average Americans.

It’s an easy car to grow to love. Just be sure that if you stop at the drive-thru for a burger, that you don’t drip the cheese on the new floor mats. It won’t look good on HGTV.