Try as you might, you won’t find anything particularly sexy about the 2018 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited with Eyesight Package. And with an all-in list of $36,795, this most comprehensively equipped and most powerful Legacy sedan does not look that much different from the base $24,995 2.5i. Which is to say imminently upright, sensible, and fade-into-the-automotive-landscape innocuous.
Relaxed power is a hallmark of luxury, and the boxer six delivers.
Put it another way, at a mid-size family sedan party, the Legacy would likely stand in the corner sipping a virgin Margarita while all the other swoopy and gaping-grill offerings strutted their angular stuff. That’s until Legacy locked eyes with the upright, sensible Volkswagen Passat and sparks flew.
Passat: You look different. Have you done something with your grille?
Legacy: Yes, for 2018 it’s a bit bigger. Thanks for noticing.
Passat: And your backside… er, rear end... damn, trunk. Looks nice.
Legacy: Recontoured. And what do you think of my headlights? I had them done. LED and they respond to steering inputs.
Passat: Well, well. Shall we blow this poseur pop stand?
Indeed, the Subaru Legacy gets an array of small but meaningful upgrades for 2018. Look beneath the surface of this near-luxury 3.6R Limited and you’ll find a whole lot on offer, not least of which being its stellar symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive which will be a friend and ally whenever the weather turns nasty. Of course, AWD is standard with every Legacy, but here the sedan is motivated by a naturally aspirated 3.6L flat-six that churns out a smooth 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission with preprogrammed “steps”, actuated by shift paddles.
Relaxed power is a hallmark of luxury, and the boxer six delivers. It’s hardly class leading power, but there always seems to be a nice swell of torque under foot, and in the upper reaches the engine generates decent pace and a convincingly pleasant snarl.
Most of the expected sybaritic appointments are accounted for in this top-spec Legacy: leather, heated seats both front and back, heated steering wheel, keyless entry, sunroof, and a fine 12-speaker 576-watt Harman Kardon audio system – with a CD slot for those who appreciate something more than the squashed MP3 format. About the only omission is ventilation for the front seats.
It’s a pleasantly styled cabin that get dressed up here with subtle wood-grain trim and nice brush-look metal finishing. Ergonomics are excellent, featuring well-marked controls and a clearly backlit central gauge cluster. The 3.6R gets a new leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel for 2018 that looks and feels good.
Demerits include a cheap plastic centre console, and front seats (10-way driver with memory, four-way passenger) that are a bit hard and unsupportive.
That said, on an extended highway run they never got uncomfortable. The cabin is commendably quiet, getting reshaped mirrors, extra wheel-well sound insulation and insulating film applied to the front-side glass for 2018.
With its tall, upright green house, low belt line, and slim pillars, the Legacy offers something that is becoming a scare commodity in modern automobile – excellent outward visibility. You’ll find plenty of useful storage and cubbies within as well. Back-seat room is generous, ingress and egress is a breeze, and the trunk is cavernous. Fold the 60/40 rear seat-back flat and you’re ready for a trip to Ikea.
New for 2018 in the 3.6R is standard 8-inch infotainment touchscreen (up from 7 inches) that sports navigation, Starlink smartphone integration with aha, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Flanking the screen are touch points for menu selection. It’s a clean looking unit that operates quickly and intuitively, which is something you can’t say for many such systems – in many more expensive cars. Pairing a phone was a breeze, as was programming the navigation that gets pinch and swipe functionality.
Voice recognition has apparently been improved for this model year, but simple requests for radio bands and frequencies seemed to flummox the nice lady in the dash.
Subaru’s comprehensive EyeSight safety suite covers just about all the bases thanks to a front-facing camera and radar sensors. It includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-sway warning, lane-keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, high-beam assist, and reverse automatic braking that will prevent you from backing into stationary objects.
Also included is a back-up camera, blind-spot warning and windshield wiper de-icer.
When I picked up the car, lane-keep assist was disabled. For reasons I found out. The system is a bit of a nag, nudging the steering wheel more than you’d want when it decides you are wandering from the desired trajectory.
So let’s get to the driving part. Does an eager flat-six, all-wheel drive, active torque vectoring and paddle-shiftable CVT make this demure Subie an under-the-radar sports sedan? A backwards Porsche 911 hiding under a box? Not quite. In this case, you can judge a book by its cover. The Legacy 3.6R is a tourer that has no appetite for hooliganism.
The lesser Legacy 2.5i with its flat-four can feel lithe and eager in the bends, but the weight of the flat-six engine seems to bog the front end of the 3.6R down, and unlike most other Subarus I’ve driven, the steering in this sedan was numb on-centre and weirdly vague when tucking into a bend. Highway cruising required regular minute corrections to keep a true path.
Ride quality is generally good, but this platform is soon headed for the glue factory. The new Subaru Impreza and related Crosstrek crossover roll on Subie’s all-new platform architecture while the Legacy soldiers forward on the old chassis. Tweaks for 2018 include revised suspension and damping for better ride and body control.
So what’s going to convince someone to go for this king-of-the-hill Legacy sedan over its direct six-cylinder competitors, those of which can be counted on three fingers: the VW Passat, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord? It’s not as quick nor as sporty as these, but the Subaru is attractively priced and everything is included – buyers only have to decide on interior and exterior hues. EyeSight in an impressive comprehensive safety suite, and of course the Legacy’s ace-in-the-hole has to be its full-time AWD.
Ultimately sensible, safe and functional: it’s a Subaru thing that fans of the brand know and love. For those not in the fraternity who might consider thinking outside the box, the 2018 Legacy 3.6R is an intriguing proposition.
|Peak Horsepower||256 hp|
|Peak Torque||247 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||11.9/8.3/10.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||425 L|
|Model Tested||2018 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited with EyeSight Package|
|Price as Tested||$38,545|