There’s just something about Subaru that doesn’t appeal to the general public. That’s fine for company fans, though, who appreciate the rally history, turbocharged performance and all-wheel drive. When trying to build sales, though, sometimes you have to broaden your sights.
That worked for the 2009 Impreza, whose softening drew cries of criticism from the Subaru faithful, but also drew 50 per cent more sales.
Now it’s the 2010 Legacy’s turn. It takes careful aim at the mainstream, targeting the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. In an effort to bring its size in line with its Japanese rivals, Subaru stretched the sedan in every direction. The increased space is aimed at improving cabin room while easing access to the rear seats.
The second row went from cramped to comfortable, thanks also to sculpted front seat-backs and longer rear doors that widen the gap available to climb in.
The all-wheel-drive Legacy is powered by a familiar mix of boxer engines, ranging from a 170-hp 2.5-litre SOHC through to the turbocharged 265-hp 2.5-litre DOHC version in the hot-handling GT. The mid-level six-cylinder is now 3.6 litres, and delivers 256 hp. For those concerned with protecting the environment without resorting to expensive hybrid or diesel alternatives, the Legacy PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) is still available.
The biggest news for 2010 is Subaru’s new continuously variable transmission (CVT) that replaces a traditional automatic on 2.5i and PZEV models. It uses a chain rather than a belt to deliver greater efficiency, which translates to better power delivery and increased fuel economy.
On the road, the Legacy handles all conditions with aplomb, and is probably the best handling in the class. The steering is light, but direct, the body is controlled in corners, and it feels rock-solid on highways and backroads.
Style-wise, the new Legacy blends many current styling cues floating around the market to create a handsome if slightly forgettable design. You’ll find bits of Infiniti, Lexus and Saturn in the crisp sides and arched rooflines.
Thankfully, Subaru keeps its traditional tall greenhouse that’s easy to see out of.
The cabin falls into the generic-modern segment. Cover the badges and you could be in a Mazda, Hyundai, Suzuki … The materials are a step up from before, and the equipment on hand is in line with the class. The front seats are comfortable, and every Legacy now includes tilt and telescoping steering.
Subaru’s other priority is to offer a better deal to customers, which means significant price cuts: $3,000 less on entry level models, through $2,000 on the top-of-the-line GT. The new 2.5i starts at only $23,995 with a generous level of standard equipment. The PZEV is next at $26,395 with standard CVT and 16-in aluminum wheels.
For those looking for more power, the 3.6R begins at $31,895, while the GT tops out at a cool $38,995.
Oddities? A few. The plasti-wood in the up-level Limited models is an insult to trees. The antenna for the standard Sirius satellite radio isn’t on the roof where you would expect to find it — it’s a large, black blister stuck inside the windshield.
Overall, Subaru has created a very successful update of the Legacy: it’s familiar to those who were already fans, but its increased size and reduced price will certainly appeal to those shopping the Honda/Nissan/Toyota triangle. The competition should watch its mirrors.
2010 Subaru Legacy
Type: Four-door sedan
Price: from $23,995
Engine: 170-hp 2.5L SOHC to 265-hp 2.5L turbocharged DOHC?
• Increased space
• Less expensive than before
• PZEV model available for the green driver