By Aaron Bragman on February 6, 2014
Competes with: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Chrysler 200
Looks like: A Chevy Malibu from the front and a Hyundai Sonata from the side
Powertrains: 175-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine; optional 256-hp, 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine, CVT, standard all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Summer 2014
Subaru has taken the wraps off of its redesigned midsize 2015 Legacy sedan at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, revealing a more spacious and aerodynamic family car that retains the company's classic boxer engines and standard all-wheel drive. Four trim levels will again be offered: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited.
From the front, the new Legacy looks similar to the Chevrolet Malibu, while the profile looks similar to the Hyundai Sonata. The overall look is clean but indistinctive, yet it does feature a few new tweaks. Standard active grille shutters are featured on 2.5i models, resulting in a 10 percent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency; Subaru claims the new Legacy is more aerodynamic than a Toyota Prius.
The windshield's base is moved forward 2 inches from the 2014 model, adding to the lower and swoopier roofline — no more upright box on wheels, here. Higher spec models also feature swiveling fog lights to better illuminate roads in sweeping curves. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, with 18-inch wheels coming on Limited trim models.
An all-new interior graces the Legacy, carrying over the clean theme to interior panels and switches. Subaru has upped the soft-touch materials content, with thicker cushioning for pieces occupants will touch, and it has expanded the use of foam insulation throughout the cabin for a smoother, quieter ride. The new instrument panel features a 6.2-inch touch-screen on higher-spec models with a touch-sensitive display and multifunction controls for audio and other vehicle systems. Electroluminescent blue gauges will also appear in Premium and Limited trim levels as standard equipment, while keyless access and start will be available only on Limited models.
Of note for the new Legacy is the expanded interior space. Despite keeping dimensions the same externally, Subaru now claims that the 2015 Legacy has the largest interior in the midsize sedan category. Passengers will be treated to 104.6 cubic feet of overall interior passenger room (dropping to 100.9 cubic feet with the optional moonroof eating up some headroom), but that dimension may be a bit misleading. Where the Legacy's advantage comes is in headroom — it features 40 inches of headroom up front, more than nearly every other competitor — but it has just 38.1 inches of rear legroom. That's less than the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry or Honda Accord.
Two powertrains are offered in the new Legacy. Standard is the 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine, making 175 hp and mated to a standard continuously variable automatic transmission. The CVT features what Subaru calls a "six-speed manual mode," enabling the transmission to be shifted as if it had gears. Power goes to all four wheels in Subaru's standard all-wheel-drive system, which uses an electronically managed continuously variable clutch to control torque distribution in all driving conditions.
The top 3.6R Limited model gets Subaru's 3.6-liter six-cylinder boxer engine, making a more robust 253 hp. Fuel economy for the 2.5i models is estimated at a respectable 26/36/30 mpg city/highway/combined, which is significantly better than other all-wheel-drive sedan competitors like the Ford Fusion at 22/31/25 mpg. The fuel-economy numbers drop for the Legacy 3.6R Limited to 20/28/23 mpg because of the bigger engine's greater thirst.
Revisions to the Legacy's suspension tuning and the standard use of larger wheels have Subaru promising a more agile and entertaining Legacy. All cars now use ventilated rear discs brakes instead of the solid discs used by the 2014 four-cylinder models.
Subaru has updated the safety features of the new Legacy in an effort to maintain its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick Plus rating. New front-seat cushion airbags deploy from the seat bottoms to help keep occupants in proper position during a collision, while a new rollover sensor can deploy the side curtain airbags if it detects that the Legacy is about to roll. All models get hill start assist and hill descent control that will keep the car in place on a hill when the driver switches from brake to accelerator. A backup camera is now standard on all models; a new rear radar system incorporating blind spot warning, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert is standard on 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited and optional on 2.5i Premium. The unique EyeSight stereo camera system located on either side of the rearview mirror is available again, bringing adaptive cruise control, precollision braking and lane departure warning to the party.
Pricing for the new 2015 Legacy has not been announced, but cars are slated to hit showrooms this summer.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron