Competes with: Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry
Looks like: An evolution, not a revolution versus the current Legacy
Drivetrain: 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder engine or 260-hp, turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer four-cylinder; continuously variable automatic transmission; standard torque-vectoring all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Fall
Despite hard times selling cars against SUVs, Subaru is unveiling an all-new seventh-generation Legacy mid-size car at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show that aims to be one of the sedan survivors in its nearly exclusive niche as the mainstream family sedan with all-wheel drive. The 2020 Legacy will take on such recently redesigned competition as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, as well as a redone Nissan Altima that is poaching a little on the Legacy's bad-weather appeal by offering an all-wheel-drive option.
Related: More 2019 Chicago Auto Show Coverage
The styling of the new Legacy is largely passed down from its 2019 forbear, and Subaru's torque-vectoring all-wheel drive remains standard. But the new sedan sheds its legacy platform and technology to move to Subaru's new global platform and adds a flashy new 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen system that replaces many of the traditional Subaru buttons and switches. Also gone is the aging 3.6-liter flat-six engine upgrade in favor of a new 260-horsepower, turbo four-cylinder option. And notable for car shoppers still more interested in an SUV, Subaru's Outback is, at heart, a Legacy wagon and is likely to get many of the same upgrades with its expected new generation.
The Legacy's new platform also underpins the latest generation of the Impreza compact car and Crosstrek and Forester SUVs, as well as the big new Ascent three-row SUV. Subaru boasts that it is both lighter and 70 percent stiffer up front. Our experience on the road has been that each model moving to this platform shows both better handling and a much quieter cabin — not always a Subaru strength in the past.
The 2020 Legacy will go on sale in the fall, with pricing still to be announced, and will be offered in base, Premium, Sport, Limited, Limited XT (turbo) and Touring XT trim levels. In the meantime, visitors to the 2019 Chicago Auto Show can get their first up-close glimpse at the new model as it makes its debut in the Windy City.
Like the recent Forester redesign, the new Legacy has both all-new and very familiar styling. You may have to park it side by side with a 2019 to spot the new one, which is a bit curvier with softer sculpting; Subaru says the aim was a more solid and dynamic look. The front gets a more sloping hood and a less chromey version of the frameless Subaru hexagonal grill; the automaker says the grille and lower air intake were inspired by aircraft. The fenders are also more muscular, and a higher trunk lid blends into the back pillars.
Among trim-level differences, the new top Touring XT trim gets more upscale details, including gloss-black molding for the roof pillars, chrome door-handle trim and satin-finish side mirrors. Meanwhile the Sport model gets a more aggressive look with its own rear bumper and a gloss-black grille, mirrors and rear spoiler, and darkened 18-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, however, is where it is obvious you're not in Kansas anymore. The 2018 Legacy already took a step forward with more upscale interior materials and design, and center stage in most versions of the 2020 sedan is a new dashboard with a tablet-style 11.6-inch multimedia touchscreen — the biggest ever to grace a Subaru. The vertical orientation echoes screen placement seen in Volvo and Tesla vehicles, as well as the new Ram 1500 pickup trucks. The big screen is standard in the Premium, Sport and Limited models, while a version with navigation is standard in the Touring and optional for all but the base model. The screen offers the ability to move icons and configure the screen to your needs, and also can be changed to a split screen showing two types of information (say, navigation and audio) simultaneously. Thankfully, the fancy new system still includes useful physical knobs for volume and tuning.
Base-model buyers can't get the big screen, but they will get an updated multimedia and control system with dual 7-inch displays that split the multimedia and climate controls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard. Subaru Starlink subscription connectivity services are offered, with three years of the emergency assistance package free. The Legacy also will offer a Wi-Fi hot spot for the first time. There are four USB ports (two front, two rear) plus an auxiliary input jack and (in all but the base model) 12-volt sockets in the center console and glove box. Optional premium audio is a 12-speaker Harman Kardon with Clari-Fi restoration tech.
The new tech is housed in a redesigned, soft-touch dashboard that is available with double stitching that matches contrast stitching on the seats and door panels (red, of course, in the Sport model). Limited and Touring models get 10-way power front seats with adjustable driver-seat cushion length, plus front and rear seat heaters that extend up your back. Touring models add ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel, and offer Nappa leather for the first time in a Subaru. Subaru also says the cabin is measurably quieter at highway speeds thanks to the new platform, new door weather stripping, new sound-insulating glass in the windshield and front doors, and thicker glass all around.
The 2020 Legacy has 15.1 cubic feet of family cargo capacity in the slightly larger trunk, and the Legacy also has standard mounting brackets on the roof for cargo and adventure-gear systems.
Under the Hood
New for 2020 is a 260-horsepower, turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer four-cylinder that replaces the former 256-hp flat-six as the power upgrade for the XT models. It is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission that includes paddle shifters to control artificial gear steps. Subaru says the XT is good for a 6.1-second zero-to-60-mph time, as well as a manufacturer-estimated 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway gas mileage.
The base engine is a revised version of the 2019's 2.5-liter boxer four, putting out 182 hp (up 7 hp) and mated to a CVT. Zero-to-60 mph is estimated at 8.4 seconds and gas mileage is expected to be 27/35 mpg city/highway.
Both include standard torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. The new Legacy platform also brings a lower center of gravity, as well as a redesigned front and rear suspension and sway bars that Subaru says will contribute to more responsive handling and steering.
The 2020 Legacy does not have crash-test scores yet, but Subaru says the new body can absorb about 40 percent more energy in front and side crashes.
Subaru's EyeSight system of safety and driver-assistance technology is standard, and part of the package for the first time in the U.S. is a lane-centering function. The package also includes a front collision system with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and a lane departure alert.
Additional standard or available safety tech, depending on trim level, includes adaptive LED headlights (Limited and Touring), reverse automatic braking, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Optional on the Limited and standard on the Limited XT and Touring XT is a driver attention system that uses a camera and facial recognition software to spot driver fatigue or distraction and display a warning on the touchscreen. The Touring XT also includes a 180-degree front-view camera displayed on the center screen.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Feb. 11, 2019, to correctly describe the Legacy’s outgoing six-cylinder engine.
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