Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

A big surprise at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show was the introduction of the Subaru Legacy Concept. Such striking sheetmetal from the historically conservative automaker was both welcome and timely. There was even a smattering of applause from the floor!

But would the concept translate to the production model? One is so often deflated when a warmed over version of the outgoing car finally debuts.

In this case I’m happy to say that the 2015 Subaru Legacy, while losing some of the more dramatic features of the concept, retains much of the concept’s styling and presence. It’s a handsome car – a large midsize, I guess you’d call it – with a sporty coupe-like profile that really livens up the Legacy.

So, well done Subaru! This is a smart-looking car that should elevate its stature within a category of similarly eye-catching models from Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Chrysler.

...this engine’s forté is in smoothness. Unless you’re accelerating aggressively, it’s just about silent in operation.

The new Legacy is about the same size as the outgoing model, but provides more interior room and slightly larger cargo capacity. Underneath, the chassis is stiffened, suspension ratings increased and steering is enhanced with a new quick-ratio electric power-assisted system.

Like all Subaru products except the BRZ, the 2015 Legacy arrives with standard all-wheel drive. Mated to an automatic (continuously variable) paddle-shift transmission, it’s a system that requires no driver input. Operating in the background and now supplemented with active torque vectoring (applies brake pressure to the inside front wheel to facilitate more precise cornering), the all-wheel drive system adjusts automatically to the terrain as required.

Most Legacy models arrive with the 2.5L, four-cylinder engine, but our Lapis Blue Pearl $32,721 (includes freight and fees) tester was the six-cylinder Legacy 3.6R Touring. This entry-level six-cylinder model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, power tilting and sliding sunroof, windshield wiper de-icer, leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lights and dual-zone climate control.

The Touring designation supplies a rear/side (blind spot/cross traffic) vehicle detection system, an audio/app system with 157 millimetre (6.2-inch) touch screen display, side mirror integrated turn signals, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with compass and auto-dimming side mirrors with approach lighting.

All Legacy models are now equipped with a one-touch turn signal, rear view camera, 10-way power driver’s seat, automatic on/off headlights, electric parking brake and heated front seats.

The key-differentiating feature with Legacy 3.6R, however, is the engine, which carries over from the 2014 model and makes 256 hp at 6,000 rpm and 247 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. This 3.6L, dual overhead camshaft, horizontally opposed “boxer” engine offers competitive (for an all-wheel drive, six cylinder sedan) fuel economy at a projected 11.9/8.2 L/100 km.

But while delivering a horsepower increase of 46 percent over the 175 hp four-cylinder engine, this flat-six doesn’t provide a commensurate increase in acceleration, requiring 7.5 seconds to reach 100 km/h from standstill compared with 8.8 seconds for the flat-four. Granted there is some additional punch, but this engine’s forté is in smoothness. Unless you’re accelerating aggressively, it’s just about silent in operation.

Inside, the Legacy is fully redesigned, and like the exterior its lines are clean, tidy and pleasing. Driving this car for an extended distance, I found the cloth-upholstered seats comfortable and easy to adjust for a fatigue-free driving experience. The doors, however, were stiff and the trunk-lid likewise required extra effort to open and close.

Outward visibility is excellent in the new Legacy, well supplemented by the side/rear detection system that flashes warnings in the rear-view mirrors and instrument panel. The big side mirrors were appreciated, as were their blind-spot monitors.

Speaking of the instrument panel, the controls are easy to identify and use although the tiny display for the clock at the base of the centre stack is often doubly challenged by the driver’s right hand on the steering wheel, perfectly positioned to block its view. Likewise the diminutive exterior temperature display is hard to locate at a glance.

I had some difficulty with the voice activation system, which for both my partner and myself was never able to make a phone call as requested.

The Subaru Starlink system with which the Legacy 3.6R is equipped is accessed via the central touchscreen display and uses the Aha app to access web based content (music, weather, news, podcasts, etc.) via your cell phone. With Android phones it streams, but iPhones require you to plug your device into the USB port. Either way, it’s a system that offers a lot of content but you’ll be paying for it via the cost of your cell phone service. Depending on your plan, the cost will vary.

Navigation, peculiarly not available on the Touring model, is a separate system. You’ll need to purchase the more expensive Limited model to get that, although in select markets Starlink does offer XM Traffic, a paid service.

I had no issues with the roominess of the Legacy 3.6R. Easily accommodating four adults, there’s plenty of legroom and various storage bins for your odds and ends. The trunk at 425L is average for the segment, but seemed to fill up quickly. The split-folding rear seats add more cargo space, but one of them wouldn’t respond to the release lever, located in the trunk. It took two people to release it, one pulling the lever and one dropping the seat. Likewise the fuel filler door took prying with a credit card to open.

Minor issues aside, I think Subaru has made great strides in design, standard equipment, and chassis refinement in the new Legacy. Its standard and proven all-wheel drive gives Legacy a big edge, although some of its competitors are offering this feature now (Chrysler 200C, Ford Fusion).

Our trip, close to 1,500 km of mostly highway driving, returned 8.2 L/100 km, which precisely matches the “official” projections. Regular fuel is recommended.

I think with the 2015 Legacy, Subaru has found styling that will appeal to consumers and which will endure into the future. The enhanced level of standard equipment is competitive with other brands (except for the missing navigation system) but all brands are having a tough time keeping up with the Koreans (Hyundai, Kia) as they continue to include formerly luxury features in mainstream models. That bar just keeps getting raised!

Legacy is built in Indiana, feels solid and you know it will be superb when the snow flies. Design appeal notwithstanding, however, for many Canadian midsize sedan intenders, standard all-wheel drive and Subaru reputation for toughness and reliability may tip the scales in Legacy’s favour. The main decision to make with Legacy, though, is about the engine. A very attractive alternative is the four-cylinder Limited with Technology model that includes every option Subaru offers, including leather, navigation, the desirable Subaru “Eyesight” safety system and 18-inch alloy wheels. It’s only $1,600 more than the 3.6R Touring and gives you better fuel economy, too. Personally, I think you gain much more than you lose.

But if you want silky smooth performance from your Legacy, the 3.6R Touring doesn’t disappoint.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km Powertrain; 3 years/60,000 km corrosion surface; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation
Model Tested 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Touring
Base Price $30,795
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,595
Price as Tested $32,490
Optional Equipment