MM Test-Drive: 2019 Subaru Legacy 2.5i

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MM Test-Drive: 2019 Subaru Legacy 2.5i












https://www.subaru.com/vehicles/legacy/index.html

Recently, a lady from my church, whom I have known for many years, asked me for some advice on replacing the Nissan Altima that she has leased....with the lease-term soon to expire. She actually has had several Altimas, and, this time, was thinking about an AWD (All-Wheel-Drive) version, since Nissan now offers that option on the Altima...in fact, it is Nissan's first AWD sedan in the American market, and possibly ever. The D.C. area here is not known for the kind of severe winters typically found further north and west, but we do get occasional snowstorms, and she still has to commute to work in sometimes less-than-ideal road conditions...so the AWD may be a good investment.

She mentioned to me that she is not impressed with the way she's been treated with her local Nissan dealer, so I suggested some AWD alternatives. At the D.C. Auto Show this year, the Nissan representatives, on the floor, were pushing the idea that the Altima is the only mid-sized sedan in its class, here in the U.S. market, that offers AWD. I pointed out to them that both the mid-sized Subaru Legacy sedan offers standard AWD, and some versions of the mid-sized Ford Fusion also offer it as an option, and they gave me a funny look and claimed that the Legacy and Fusion weren't in the Altima's class. As far as I'm concerned, that's B.S...they are all roughly the same size, and all three compete directly against each other....and other Front-Wheel-Drive rivals. It's true that Ford has been up and down lately on the Fusion's future in the American market, and it may be living on borrowed time. But, as of now, it's still officially offered on Ford's American market website, so they haven't shut down the plant yet.

No matter, though....she said she already looked at the Fusion, and didn't like the way it was designed, and that she found it cramped inside. Fusions have also had spotty reliability....some of them have ben quite good, others lemons. I told her I was also somewhat leery of the long-term quality and reliability of Nissan products now that Renault owns them....they don't make bulletproof vehicles like they did 20 years ago in the 1990s. Her (previous) leased Altima's have been OK and reasonably reliable, but she has only kept them a few years and not put that many miles on them.


So, that left the Subaru Legacy, which IMO, along with other Subaru products, has the best car-based AWD system on the market. I myself had an Outback for almost six years, and nothing would stop it in the winter. She didn't really want an Outback, as she prefers sedans for their lower stance. So, that gets us back to the Legacy, as it is the same platform and drivetrain as the Outback, but in a lower-stance sedan. Today, I looked at, and test-drove, a white 2019 Legacy 2.5i (base-model) with black cloth interior. I was in for a few surprises.

The first surprise was the car's very low sticker price for a mid-sized sedan.....especially with AWD. Base-model four-cylinder Legacys start at only $22,545, and the one I drove, with minimal options and basically just a shipping charge, listed for an extremely reasonable $23,780, and the dealer-asking price for it was $22,028. That's almost as low as the smaller, less-substantial, compact Impreza sedan, which doesn't have as much interior room or refinement....the base-level Legacy is substantially more car for just a few more dollars. Of course, for a price that low, nothing's a free lunch.....you give up some features you would typically get in more-expensive trim versions, like, in this case, having to start the engine with a older-type key/fob and side-column ignition-switch instead of the now-quite-common Start/Stop push-button. But, still, I can think of a lot worse things to do than having to crank my own ignition switch LOL. I don't know this for a fact, but I'm guessing, with a fairly strong guess, that the reason Subaru prices the current Legacy so low is the depressed sedan-market in the U.S. and that they just aren't selling very many Legacys. The huge number of Outback and Forester sales (and more recently, the Crosstrek) has left the Legacys sitting almost unnoticed in the corner of the lot. The Subaru shop I was at, for example, had put a nice dark red Legacy Limited (with beige leather interior) just inside the front door of the showroom, next to the sales-manager's desk, so it was the first car you saw as you walked inside.

Inside the car, I tried to evaluate the interior in terms of what she would like (and need). It fit my (formerly) 6' 2" frame and baseball cap with no problem...though I suspect that as I have aged (I don't have one foot in the grave yet, but I'm still no Spring Chicken) I might have lost a little in height, as many older people do as their spinal-column compresses. Still, even so, that was the second-surprise.....I had adequate headroom, even with the seat-cushion not adjusted entirely all the way down (there were manually-operated seat levers, of course, in the base model Legacy). The front seat itself was comfortable for me, despite the fact that Subaru seats tend to be quite-firmly-padded....that was one of the few complaints I had with my 2006 Outback, but the firm padding in this latest version of the Legacy, for some reason, just seemed more comfortable. The third surprise (also inside) was, except for some of the cheap plastic center/stack controls/buttons and video-screen, most of the materials used were not bargain-basement...which was even more surprising at that low price. The upper-dash, most of the door-panel trim, arm rests, console, and the majority of interior trim-pieces had either actual padding or soft-touch surfaces. It was not particularly plush-looking in physical appearance, but actually felt a lot better than it looked. The stereo-sound quality sounded like something out of a more expensive vehicle. There were a couple of flaws inside, though...the worst was probably the overly-complex menu/scrolling for the Driver's Information Center...trip odometer, tire-pressures, oil-life monitor, etc.... You not only had to scroll through numerous complex pre-menus, but had to choose between Metric and English readouts for virtually every function and hand-set them. It was so complex I gave up and had a sales-rep coach me through part of it...but, once you get everything set the way you want it (or need it), you probably won't have to adjust it much any more.

On the road, it was typical Subaru four-cylinder, without a turbo, with the typical Subaru flat-four engine characteristics. That means a small amount of grating sound at idle, and under acceleration, that Subaru flat-fours are known for. Not noisy by any means, but noticeable compared to some in-line or V-engines. Power level is adequate for most normal driving (and especially since she tends to be a sedate driver), but the CVT (Continuously-Variable automatic Transmission) could use some fine-tuning. It was a little jumpy starting up from rest unless you feather-foot the throttle...but you get used to it after a few minutes and compensate. There was a faint hint of CVT motor-boating (engine-RPM slip on acceleration) characteristics, but not high or pronounced. The CVT has a manual-shift mode (if desired) with solid-feeling shift-paddles on the steering column, and five built-in "Steps" that simulate gears in a conventional automatic. I told her that she wouldn't avoid getting a CVT even if she went with a new Nissan Altima, as American-market Altimas come with a standard CVT...in fact, from the same transmission-supplier that Subaru uses.

General driving characteristics make the Legacy feel like a slightly smaller car, although it is, in fact, a mid-size sedan, not a compact. The hood line doesn't block much of the road in front of you, steering response is reasonably quick, and there is a reasonable amount of road feel for an electric power-steering unit. Ride quality, something that is VERY important in my book, and reasonably important in hers, was not bad at all (Subarus are known for good suspension engineering), and the standard 55-series tires on the base Legacy model have a decent amount of give, in the sidewalls, over bumps and pothole-impact protection for the wheel-rims. Wind-noise was well-controlled from the high-quality construction of the door-fits and window-seals, and there was only a small amount of road noise. Brakes were effective, and I noticed no problems with my big shoe (her foot is definitely smaller than mine LOL) and gas/brake pedal placement.

Past versions of the Subaru non-turbo four cylinders have had problems with, first, head-gaskets, and, later, premature oil-use from defective piston rings in the engine. From what I can tell, though, the head gasket problems more or less ended around ten years ago, and the defective rings only from 2012 to 2014 (maybe also some 2015s). The standard engine/powertrain warranty, like that of most mainstream Japanese brands (also Nissan's, of course) is 5 years/60,000 miles on the drivetrain and 3 years/36,000 miles on the rest of the vehicle. So, if she wants a new Legacy, I can definitely recommend one....especially at the base-model Legacy's bargain price.

And, as Always, Happy Car-Shopping.


MM
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I think Subaru builds a decent vehicle. I had a 2016 Legacy 2.5i Limited. It had some issues but I loved the comfort and driving characteristics, as well as the AWD. I wish Toyota would offer the Camry in AWD, that would make me much more likely to purchase. I am going to be looking at, and driving the new Legacy 2.4 Turbo when it goes on sale later this year, with it being on the new global platform, and increased power I think it will make for a good all around sedan.
 

Joaquin Ruhi

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I wish Toyota would offer the Camry in AWD, that would make me much more likely to purchase
Some rumors suggest that Toyota Camry, Avalon and Lexus ES will all gain an AWD option later this year or next year.
 

mmcartalk

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I wish Toyota would offer the Camry in AWD, that would make me much more likely to purchase.
Toyota did do a Camry All-Trac (AWD) a number of years ago, but yanked it from the American market when buyers started to shift their AWD purchases to RAV-4s and Highlanders.
 
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^I can agree Mike, however I don't think the exterior design is awful. The redesigned 2020 MY isn't much different but the rear is nicer. I feel that the amenities, overall driving characteristics, and comfort of this car at a great price point need to be considered even with its somewhat boring design.
 
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